Top Emerging Players: No. 1 Alex Elkins

This list includes some players that Oklahoma State fans are looking forward to seeing for the first time this season, including defensive tackles Christian Littlehead, James Castleman and Mike Mustafa, and wide receiver Kevin Johnson. But Cowboy fans are anticipating the debut of Alex Elkins more than any other newcomer and that's why he's No. 1 on the list of Top 10 Emerging Players for 2011.

Part of the selection of Alex Elkins is need, but that need was communicated to Elkins throughout the spring.

The Cowboys defensive staff had to address two vacancies at linebacker. The loss of senior and leading tackle Orie Lemon at middle linebacker led to competition between Tyler Johnson and Caleb Lavey, and that battle has drawn plenty of media attention.

However, the loss of Justin Gent at weakside linebacker has become more urgent. In the spring, co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer tried everyone that fit the requirements at that position and while there was some success nobody nailed the position down. Spencer kept communicating that to Elkins.

There is nothing an incoming junior college transfer loves more than a help wanted sign for the position they fit best. Elkins is a tackler deluxe. Why shouldn't he be? In high school he did not play football, he played rugby. As an athlete he was also a good baseball player.

Toughness is not a question as he went to Blinn Junior College and earned his way on the team in a walk-on tryout prior to their national championship season, quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner and NFL top draft choice Cam Newton.

His freshman season he backed up and played a lot at linebacker. But he made his reputation with special teams, leading the team in special teams tackles by double digits. He did the same as a sophomore on special teams while becoming the starting middle linebacker.

Elkins took his efforts back home this spring to finish his academics at Tarrent County Community College and to allow him to work at a gym close to home. He got his degree and apparently spent as much time on their weights and working out as he did the books because he came in June to Stillwater showing up in great shape. That allowed him this summer to spend more time on learning the defense than having to play catch up physically with Rob Glass and his staff.

Elkins is number one on this list because he fits a huge need and he took care of his business to come in ready to take advantage of that great opportunity in front of him. Oh and yes, special teams coordinator Joe DeForest plans on using Elkins all he can on those critical cover units. That should make Elkins feel right at home.

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