Coming into the 2017 season, the Cowboys have what might be their most talented roster ever, and it’s almost completely on the offensive side of the ball. With only two starters from last year graduating, (left tackle Victor Salako, and cowboy back Blake Jarwin) they’re returning the heart of their offense. The only hole on the offense is at cowboy back, while every other major position is returning a star. Despite the quantity they’re returning, it’s the quality that matters. In December, junior stars Mason Rudolph and James Washington announced they’d be returning for their senior season.
Leading the Attack
Rudolph, after an incredible junior season, is a top three returning quarterback in college football. In 2016 he passed for 4,091 yards, 28 TD’s and only four(!!!) interceptions on a 158.9 QBR. That’s good for the sixth most yards in the power five conferences, fourth in yards per attempt, first in interceptions (the lowest of any quarterback with 275+ attempts, he had 448) and fifth in rating.
He is projected by almost all draft services to be a top two quarterback taken next year. If those stats aren’t impressive enough, it was also recently revealed that he broke a rib in the Texas game and played over half the season injured. Add to that the reports that he’s slimmed down and will run more this year, a whole new element to his game. It seems likely he will be in New York for the Heisman ceremony when it’s all said in done.
Back for More
The receivers are truly an embarrassment of riches. Returning at the top is star receiver James Washington, who is the overwhelming Biletnikoff favorite. Last year he finished third in the power five in yards, fifth in yards per catch (min. 30 receptions) and 15th in touchdowns. As the premier deep threat in college football, it’s just unfair that he’s catching passes from the most accurate deep passer in football. We then move on to Jalen McClesky. McClesky is quietly emerging as one of the best slot receivers in the game. Entering his junior season it’s time he starts looking to make name for himself among NFL scouts.
Marcell Ateman will return as a super (super?) senior after being granted a medical redshirt last year. The 6’4 220 pound deep threat provides one of the largest catch radius’ in the Big 12. He looked to be an extremely solid number two option last year before his injury. Now he’ll likely see second string reps solely because of the options.
The do it all sophomore Dillion Stoner will also command reps out of the slot this year. Extremely shifty and shockingly strong hands, he looks like the second coming of Ryan Switzer, but with even more versatility.
Then we get to the only five-star on the roster, former LSU Tiger and now eligible outside receiver Tyron Johnson. It’s not just the stars that get us seeing stars, even the ever cautious Mike Gundy can’t help but laud his new weapon “It’s early,” said Gundy, “and my coach told me a long time ago to be careful about drinking the Kool-Aid too early, but to this point, he’s been pretty impressive in practice with some of the plays he’s made.” From Gundy, that is the highest of praise.
It only keeps coming from there. Senior Chris Lacy, spring game star extraordinaire, could start on almost any team in football. That’s not hyperbole. At 6’3 he has track star speed, great hands, and uncanny body control. This kid is an absolute freak who might be hidden despite his immense talent.
After that, we get a couple of second year players who could catch 40+ balls on any other team but might struggle to get five here. Obi Obialo is much in the model of Chris Lacy and if he can add another 20-25 pounds, and you should hear his name called on the second day of a draft someday soon. Tyrell Alexander adds a new dimension with his raw, but undeniable talent. After taking a redshirt last year, he could be looking to break out, if he could ever see the field.
Ground Game to Match
If that didn’t convince you, you might be interested in freshmen All-American Justice Hill toting the rock. Hill was unquestionably the best freshmen running back in the country, beating out seniors Rennie Childs and seventh round NFL draft pick Chris Carson for the starting job last year. In his debut season he ran for 1,142 yards, on 5.5 yards per carry. After apparently adding 20+ lbs since the start of last season, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
The only major question mark on the offense after the season was who would step in at left tackle for Victor Salako. That was quickly dismissed after graduate transfer Aaron Cochran committed to play out his final season in Stillwater. Cochran was a massive get, literally. At 6’8″, 350 pounds, he immediately becomes the largest Cowboy on the roster. Some might assume since he transferred it was because he couldn’t cut it at Cal, but it’s actually the opposite. After the graduation of Davis Webb, Cal won’t be a contender this year. Cochran’s transfer was so that he could boost his draft stock playing for a contender. Returning starters at every single other position after last years offensive line rejuvenation, Rudolph should have as much time as he’s ever had to find his receivers.
While the defense may have a couple of holes in need of filling, this offense is ready to break records. Barring any big injuries (knock on wood), the Cowboys should be just about unstoppable this year.