Opposing players to watch

Steve Helwick

  • Justice Hill
  • Running back

Hill burst onto the scene for the Cowboys during their week four loss to No. 13 Baylor. The freshman served as a bright spot in the defeat, accruing a career high 122 yards on 20 attempts.

Hill’s breakout performance may suggest his production will increase, but the explosive tailback will continue splitting carries with senior Rennie Childs.
The primary concern regarding the freshman’s play is his ability to secure the football. Oklahoma State’s four-turnover performance, including two of Hill’s fumbles, plagued them in the 35-24 loss in the conference opener.

If ball security is remedied, Hill could serve as the team’s feature back for the foreseeable future.

  • James Washington
  • Wide receiver

Nine receptions, 296 yards, two touchdowns. Those serve as decent statistics for any wide receiver through the first four weeks of the season, but Washington posted the incredible statline in one game against Pittsburgh.

His single-game yardage mark of 296 serves as college football’s best since 2013. The junior deep-threat wideout ranks fifth in the nation with 488 yards on the season and often connects with quarterback Mason Rudolph far from the line of scrimmage. Washington averaged 20.5 yards per catch in 2015 and averages 19.5 in 2016.

Facing a Texas defense that recently allowed 196 yards to California’s Chad Hansen, Washington could benefit from secondary lapses if the Longhorns fail to issue adjustments.

  • Chad Whitener
  • Middle linebacker

After the departure of NFL second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah, the Cowboys required a new anchor for the defense. Whitener has stepped up in 2016, recording 22 tackles in four contests from the middle linebacker position. The 2015 First Team Big 12 Honorable Mention escalated his defense following the Texas game last year, recording a career-high 19 tackles versus Baylor.

To follow-up his stellar performance to finish last season, the transfer from California awaits another breakout game as Big 12 play enters full swing.

  • Ramon Richards
  • Cornerback

Injuries provided the opportunity for Richards to enter the field during his first two years in Stillwater, but the junior cornerback has cemented his place as the team’s top shutdown corner.

In addition to setting a career-best eight tackles in a game this season, Richards ranks tops on the team with two interceptions. He picked off quarterbacks of the caliber of Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush and Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman, and faces a true freshman in Shane Buechele at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Buechele has only been intercepted twice  this season, but Richards is renowned for causing turnovers at the most opportune times.
His 59-yard pick six sealed a victory over Texas Tech last season and his interception with 15 ticks remaining ultimately concluded the Pittsburgh game.