Spring Football: D-Line Should Be Improved

Over the next several weeks we will be previewing the Oklahoma State Cowboys' upcoming spring football practice which begins on Monday, March 11, and concludes on Saturday, April 20. Normally everything in the Big 12 begins with the offense, including with the Cowboys' high-scoring offense, but we will begin this series on the other side of the ball with the defensive line.

Glenn Spencer debuts as the Cowboys new defensive coordinator, and the former defensive tackle at Georgia Tech will continue to coach the linebackers.

He is very excited about the defensive line and is excited about new defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements. Spencer did not know Clements before the hire, but the two have spent a lot of time together since.

"I know this, our defensive linemen are going to get coached up every day," said Spencer. "Coach Clements will really get after it and he is a very enthusiastic and energetic kind of personality coaching those guys. That is a position that needs to be coached that way."

Always loyal and respectful of former defensive coordinator Bill Young, Spencer has many times noted that Young is a tremendous coach and one that Spencer learned a great deal from over the last few years.

Spencer didn't say it but we will and that is the defensive line may benefit from having a position coach that is not the coordinator of the defense. Young had to be concerned with the overall defense in addition to the line, and former defensive graduate assistant Jermial Ashley did a lot of coaching of the defensive line.

Clements will be more singularly focused on the guys up front. The decibel level is likely to be higher down in the defensive line drills. Besides Clements, former Georgia Tech and Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Eric Henderson and former OSU defensive end Nathan Peterson will be helping as well. Peterson also brings the experience of serving his nation as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan.

The action this spring won't be as serious as Peterson has seen in combat but there is a serious tone about getting better defensively, and the defensive line is a good place to begin.

On the line, the return of defensive tackles Calvin Barnett and James Castleman really helps. The pair played well, played well together, and can serve as an anchor to the defensive front. Anthony Rogers returns as does Davidell Collins.

In the fall, junior college. All-American Ofa Hautau and two really talented high school defensive tackles in Vincent Taylor and Ben Hughes will arrive. One or both could help out from a depth standpoint.

At defensive end, there is a lot more uncertainty and examination ahead this spring. Tyler Johnson had a monster bowl game and may have turned the corner in becoming a dependable consistent player. He says he is determined to fill a leadership role on and off the field.

However, after Johnson it gets young and inexperienced in a hurry. I have now seen junior college standout Sam Wren of Arizona Western and he is every bit of 6-3, maybe taller, and 260 pounds. To top that off, Wren is rock solid built and that is not typically the case of incoming junior college transfers. They often need some added attention from the strength staff.

Jimmy Bean is back from a knee injury and he is bigger, but a lot needs to be determined from him as to where he is in coming back from the ACL injury of last August. The other newcomer is high school standout Naim Mustafaa, and he will need to continue to develop physically.

That brings us to the brigade of 2012 prospects, most that redshirted last season. Trace Clark played some last season and likely is the most ready to step in. Victor Irokansi, Eric Davis and Emmanuel Ogbah are redshirt freshmen who have potential but much to prove in practice.

Two possible experiments to watch for would be for Eric Davis, who is pushing 280 pounds to move inside and play some tackle, likely at the three technique. Then look for Davidell Collins to possibly try the same experiment tried with Nigel Nicholas last season. Collins was a defensive end in high school and at 6-5, 267 is very light for a defensive tackle. He is athletic and could be more productive at defensive end.

Even with the inexperience at defensive end it's possible that the Cowboys could come out of spring with a solid two-deep across the defensive front. But if they don't there are some probables and some possibles set to arrive for the summer that could finish the job. Either way, with Barnett and Castleman back at tackle after playing together for a season, and playing well, the line should be better.

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