Oklahoma State in flux after stars depart

Thursday, August 19th 2004, 3:06 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Coming off its first January bowl game in more than a half-century, Oklahoma State had plenty to celebrate. Now, the Cowboys find themselves searching for a new set of offensive stars to get them to the next level in the Big 12.

Entering last season, the Cowboys had no questions on offense. They had playmakers Josh Fields at quarterback, Tatum Bell at running back and Rashaun Woods at wide receiver. Now, all three are gone and the heir-apparent to Fields may be out of the picture as well.

It will be up to two of Woods' younger brothers _ Donovan at quarterback and D'Juan at receiver _ and running backs Vernand Morency and Seymore Shaw to pick up where their record-setting predecessors left off.

The summer had hardly begun when the Cowboys got a dose of bad news. Bobby Reid, the prize recruit in the Cowboys' incoming freshman class and the favorite to start at quarterback, needed surgery to repair torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder.

Reid ``has had a real good summer even though he is slowed somewhat,'' coach Les Miles said. ``There will be some competition from Donovan Woods for that position.''

Either would bring the added threat of being able to run, something the stationary Fields didn't have.

``I think we'll do the same things you've seen us do in the past offensively, but I think you're going to see another dimension,'' Miles said. ``If the quarterback pulls the ball down, it's liable to go downfield pretty fast.''

Morency, a junior who finished last season with back-to-back 200-yard performances, could be asked to carry the load early until the Woods brothers settle in.

He provides needed experience in a starting lineup projected to include three redshirt freshmen and three sophomores.

``I think our veterans on the offensive side have to play solid while we give our younger players some time to grow and learn, and certainly that includes the quarterback,'' Miles said.

What the Cowboys might lack on offense early, they should make up for with a veteran defense. Starting linebackers Paul Duren and Lawrence Pinson and all five defensive backs return. Darrent Williams led the Cowboys with six interceptions last season, returning two for touchdowns.

The defensive line will be young with nose guard Clay Coe the only starter returning.

``We're looking for some new guys on the defensive line, but the secondary is as good as it's been since I've been here, and I've been playing since my freshman year,'' Williams said.

``We think we have the ability to go out there and dominate.''

Williams can also have a major impact on special teams. He had only 13 punt returns last season but turned two of them into touchdowns.

Miles is also looking for a way to get to the top of the Big 12. The Cowboys have shown steady improvement under his leadership but want to get past back-to-back third-place finishes in the South division.

The Cowboys beat the eventual league champions in 2002 and 2003. Now, they're looking to challenge for a league title of their own.

``We've beaten the last two Big 12 champions nose-to-nose,'' Miles said. ``The opportunity for that to be our championship is where we're going and what we're after.''