No one knows who will be Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback Friday night when the Cowboys kick off the 2019 season in Corvallis, Oregon.
It’s been a two-player race for months, but nothing has changed with their status.
However, the men blocking for the next – or both – quarterback have been chosen. Their group has also changed a bit, with one new starter and a new position coach.
Charlie Dickey was hired as the OSU offensive line coach after spending the previous 10 years working for legendary coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State. He’s coached this year’s group of linemen for many months, and thus far, it’s been a good relationship.
“They bought in right from the start,” Dickey said. “They were great. They understand we’re all in this together and they just want to get better and win. They want to be great. They know that they need to buy in, and they’ve been awesome. I’ve got a great group of guys.”
Junior Tevin Jenkins has enjoyed Dickey’s coaching.
“It’s very intense,” Jenkins said. “A lot of great work and very hard work. He’s making us better, so it’s all for good. I like it.”
Jenkins is one of the four returning starters. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound native of Topeka, Kansas, started all 13 games a year ago.
The first five were at right tackle – where is he slated to start Friday night at Oregon State – before an injury to Arlington Hambright forced him to move to left tackle for three games. He played the final five games back at right tackle.
Opposite Jenkins is junior Dylan Galloway, who is a 6-5, 297-pound left tackle from Dallas, Texas. Galloway took over as the starting left tackle in week nine of the 2018 campaign, and stayed there for the remainder of the season.
Inside of Galloway is redshirt senior Marcus Keyes, who has started in 37 of the 39 games he’s played through three years. The 6-3, 309-pound left guard from Port Allen, Louisiana, has been a staple at left guard since his redshirt freshman season of 2016.
“I feel old,” Keyes said. “It’s my last year and I feel like I’m watching the future grow right in front of me. It’s good seeing the young guys get some reps, so they can get ready for next year.”
Keyes, who has been an Academic All-Big 12 second-team honoree twice, is trying to become a better leader during his final year on campus.
“I’m trying to be more outspoken and letting guys know how I feel,” Keyes said. “If I see someone slacking, I have to get on them. I have to carry more weight and lead by example.”
Opposite Keyes is the one newcomer to the line. Redshirt freshman Bryce Bray – a 6-5, 300-pound Bixby product, was projected to possibly start at left tackle. He’s since been moved to right guard, but he’s thrilled to be starting his first game as a Cowboy on Friday.
“I never thought this could potentially happen,” Bray said. “It’s awesome being in this position.”
Bray came to OSU as a highly-touted recruit from the Class 6A-II powerhouse Bixby a year ago. He was one of many players in his class to redshirt.
While it was an adjustment going from being a star high school player to no longer playing in games, Bray has taken it in stride and used the year to learn and grow as an athlete.
“Obviously, I got bigger working out with Coach Glass,” Bray said. “I think I grew most in the film room and studying. That was the biggest part of growing last year. It’s crazy how much time you have to spend studying.
“It was pretty difficult coming out of high school where I’m playing all the time. I took a step back and realized this is good, because I couldn’t imagine going out there week one barely knowing five plays. So, I was appreciative of it, rather than being upset about it.”
Now, Bray is the youngest of the starting linemen. Inside of him is a staple at center in senior Johnny Wilson. The 6-4, 304-pound Midland, Texas, native broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore to fill in for the injured senior Brad Lundblade.
A year ago, Wilson started in all but one game at center for the Cowboys. This year, he’s one of the veterans and leaders on an experienced offensive line that plans to protect and block for another potent OSU offense.
“I feel old all the time,” Wilson said. “Me and Marcus have been here forever. This is our fifth year and we’re having fun with it. We finally get to be the older guys. It’s kind of fun.
“Being one of the older guys, you have a lot of pressure to bring these young guys along with you. I’m trying to lead throughout and push these younger guys.”
Dickey has relied upon his older, experienced linemen as he transitions into coaching at OSU, which sports a much different offense than what KSU ran under Snyder.
“Johnny, Marcus and Tevin have done a great job of helping teach the younger guys the offense,” Dickey said. “And, they’ve been a great resource for me. I’ve been able to ask them some questions on certain things, and it’s been really good.”
While the KSU and OSU offenses are vastly different, Dickey has admitted his goal remains the same with his group. He even said the two head coaches have similar approaches to what they want from their offensive linemen.
“I want us to be really fundamental,” Dickey said. “I want us to be fundamentally sound. I want us to be tough. I want us to be physical. Those are the things we stressed at Kansas State – same things that Coach Gundy is stressing here.
“In my first meeting here, those are the things Coach Gundy was talking about. … It’s hard to be disciplined if you don’t have the mental toughness to have that mindset to be disciplined, and it’s not just on the field – it’s off the field, too. You have to do things right off the field and on a daily basis to create those habits, so when you get on the field, it’s second nature.”
Dickey expanded, explaining how he tries to instill mental toughness on his players, without yelling and cursing – something he doesn’t believe in.
“Just being demanding on them, and talking about it day to day,” Dickey said. “I think there is a great correlation in what you do off the field to what you do on the field. If you’re not going to class and you’re taking shortcuts in the weight room, that will affect you. It starts with just getting those kids to buy into that. There is a great culture here, so that part has been established. We’re trying to re-establish it and hammer it, and put a larger emphasis on it.”