Spring Edition: Bill Young Q&A

With eight starters returning on the Oklahoma State defense there is some significant carry over on that side of the ball. Everybody on the defense, including defensive ends Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson, played a lot of snaps during the record-setting 2011 season. However, don't think that defensive coordinator Bill Young and the defensive staff don't have a lot of teaching to do.

Behind those starters are some very young but talented players eager to pick up the nuances of the defense. Not to mention the fact that defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas and linebacker Tyler Johnson have moved to defensive end where they have some things to learn.

Young and his staff loved seeing the players running around during the first week of spring practice. It is just where they ran to at times that had them scratching their heads.

"We have a lot of teaching to do," Young said after watching video of one early practice.

There is a lot of physical talent and speed out there and you can get a lot done when you have those attributes.

GP: The first thing that I notice in practice are Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, you can do a lot when you have corners like that.
Young: We'll have two of the better cornerbacks in the country. Brodrick has really played well for us and Gilebert is one of the better athletes in college football, (there's) no question about that!

GP: The safety position is interesting. Daytawion Lowe returns to start there, but there are lots of possibilities there. Are you intrigued by the transfer, Shamiel Gary?
Young: We're expecting big things out of him. We're going to give him every opportunity this spring to show us that he can be a starter. Isaac Maselera and Deion Imade are young but have played. It should be a fairly strong position for us because we have a lot of guys that have played.

Zack Craig started the second half of the year in our speed package as our nickel star and he also played a lot of special teams. He also played some safety. We think Shamiel Gary will push to start. Isaac Maselera has had a really tremendous offseason, and Deion is coming off an injury and he will be getting some reps later on in spring but right now is hampered a little bit. Daytawion Lowe really came on strong the second half of the season and played about as well as anybody we had on our football team.

GP: How is first-year assistant coach Van Malone doing so far?
Young: Van Malone is putting his finger prints on that safety position, and he is really having an impact on our meetings and has had a lot of input. We think he is going to be a super addition for us.

GP: I know you have said before while Joe DeForest was here, and I believe you feel the same way now, that your staff on defense is a strength.
Young: I tell you what it is really unbelievable, not just the kind of coaches we have, but the caliber of men we have on the staff. It really makes it fun to come to work and have interactions with them. It is just a great situation.

GP: Your thoughts on the linebackers?
Young: In talking about the linebackers, that is going to be a strong part of our defense. Shaun Lewis really had a great year and this next year will be better. This will be his third year to start. Joe Mitchell played a lot and Lyndell Johnson played a little and will play a lot more.

Caleb Lavey and Ryan Simmons, who got injured during the season is back 100 percent, will be in the middle. Demarcus Sherod has really had a great offseason and we have a freshman, Jeremiah Tshimanga, that is here early that really could be back in high school right now. Alex Elkins and we have Nico Ornelas and he is really doing good. Kris Catlin is in that spot as well on the weakside. We are really doing good at linebacker with very talented guys. All of them our young guys and Alex will be the only senior next year.

GP: We know it is still early but we are all curious about the development of Nigel Nicholas and Tyler Johnson at defensive end.
Young: In the spring you do some experimenting and try to figure out what's what. We have moved Nigel Nicholas there, and we have Cooper (Bassett) there which should give us two very good college football players at the end position.

We have Anthony Rogers and Christian Littlehead who rotated there at the nose guard. Davidell Collins and James Castleman are back, and we added Calvin Barnett at that position from junior college and he has really looked good in the spring and he will look even better when we get pads on him.

Then we moved Tyler Johnson from "Mike" linebacker to a defensive end position, and we can't wait to see him with his hand on the ground as he gets more reps there. He is a big, physical, strong guy that should bring a lot to the table there. He has done fine so far. Then we also have Jimmy Bean there.

We're excited about the line, excited about Nigel and we initially recruited him to be a defensive end but when he got here we had the need inside so much. The addition of Calvin gives us the opportunity to do that in the fall and we'll get to see how well it works then.

GP: Head coach Mike Gundy said he will stick with his plan from last year for this spring where there will be little tackling to the ground, thud scrimmages. Is that okay with preparing a defense to be physical in the Big 12?
Young: I know you have added a flag at practice that is waved after the second whistle. I was told that was a Clemson idea that allows you to keep judging the effort to create turnovers after the first whistle. You and your staff are always working on causing those turnovers. You were probably sought out to lecture on causing turnovers after last season.
Young: I think you can be physical and not necessarily tackle and put people on the ground. Pileups is where you have a chance of stacking people up and getting injuries. If we can come out of spring ball with just some bumps and bruises and no serious injuries then that would be incredibly good. The individual drills, then we'll have inside and we'll have team versus the offense and there will be some banging going on but we are trying to keep people off the ground as much as possible.

I heard from a few folks and our defense is making a name for itself. This is a deal where what have you done for me lately. We can't sit back and talk about what we did, we have to focus on that we are going to do. That is definitely going to be our goal. We want to lead the nation again in forced turnovers. We are really going to be working hard this spring to get what we can in the turnover department.

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