While Oklahoma State’s defense should once again be a force in 2022, there are certainly questions to be answered and holes to be filled on this side of the ball. So if the Cowboys offense can put a few more points on the board and extend a few more workouts this fall, it should pay dividends for OSU. But an offense will only go as far as its quarterback can direct it.
Luckily for OSU, Spencer Sanders enters Year 4 as a starter and looks ready to take the next step, according to offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn.
“Right now he’s comfortable,” Dunn said of Sanders on Thursday. “It’s kind of a word you don’t want to use often because you want guys to feel a little uncomfortable raising their bar to higher and higher levels all the time, but it’s comfortable so he plays soft, plays fast and he knows when the formation is not right to run a certain game.
“He will put the receivers in place. He’ll make sure the offensive line is set the right way and all those little things matter because whatever ‘coach on the field’ is, he really has become for us.
While he said he always had butterflies before a game, Sanders acknowledged the benefits of five years in the system and continuing four years as “the guy.”
He said his decision making has improved as well as his ability to deal with the attack. As a seasoned leader, he also recognizes that his responsibilities extend to making things easier for his teammates, especially the cast of young playmakers around him.
“Obviously it’s probably very comfortable,” Sanders said. “You know, it’s not really about the comfort level, it’s about the guys around me. I want them to feel as comfortable as possible because the more I can help them feel comfortable, the better they play. The more comfortable you are, the better you play, the looser you play.
He has said all good things. Now he must do all good things.
Mike Gundy could take the No. 150 career win Thursday against Central Michigan, but Sanders — who leads all offensive Cowboys with 32 starts and is second on the team — will seek the No. 24 career win as a starter. Just eight more Ws and he’ll be OSU’s all-time winningest QB.
Sanders has provided OSU fans with many oooo and ah during his time as QB1, but he also gave them a lot of heartburn. Throughout his career, he has shown a propensity for forcing the issue at times and subsequently committing stunning turnovers.
To be fair, Sanders seemed to have turned a corner in that department last season – until he threw four interceptions in the Big 12 Championship.
He was still inches away from leading the Cowboys to a win from behind and their second Big 12 title. He also followed that heartbreak in Arlington with perhaps his best career performance in a win over Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl. The 2022 Pokes tied a program record with 12 wins.
Along the way, Sanders joined Brandon Weeden as one of only two Cowboys to be voted all-conference first-team quarterback. And despite a slew of big-name newcomers to the Big 12 — like Quinn Ewers at Texas, Dillon Gabriel at OU and JT Daniels at West Virginia — Sanders was named the preseason pick to be the first Cowboy to repeat. this honor.
Along the way, he also became one hell of a leader.
“Spencer did a great job,” Dunn said. “He took over as a guy and is our leader without a doubt, and he knows it. So he comes out and breaks huddle, brings everyone in. After practice, he’s always the guy who collects everyone. And it shows in the way he acts on the pitch. He’s the guy who gets everyone moving, gelling and playing fast and that’s what we want to do.
Playing quarterback in college is so dependent on that experience and understanding of the offense. He has both.
Now, with potentially two years remaining at the helm thanks to COVID, Sanders has the rare opportunity to continue to emerge as a Cowboy figurehead with an ever rarer blend of experience and dynamic playing potential – probably like never before. ‘OSU, if he stays healthy. Sanders and OSU fans could have a fun year. Maybe two.