Camp Cowboy: Seniors Lead On Defense

With the start of classes Monday, the Cowboys had the second day off in a row. This is an old tradition that dates back to Pat Jones, who was Mike Gundy's head coach when he was playing quarterback for Oklahoma State. It really works well as players aren't focusing really well on football the first day of classes. It also gives us another day to finish our two-part review of fall camp.

Thanks to the new Sherman Smith Training Center and the adjacent Astroturf practice field next to it, the Cowboys more than ever had a good degree of privacy from both the mainstream media and any prying eyes trying to discover what was going on during fall camp.

Mike Gundy and his staff, more than any camp in his nine years as head coach at OSU, controlled the information going in and out of camp. We use the comments from players and coaches and what went on the public record to review fall camp, particularly the defensive side and special teams.

Defensive Tackles
When asked, neither Mike Gundy nor Glenn Spencer were ready to say there's a good chance that with no injuries that James Castleman and Calvin Barnett could be the best pair of defensive tackles in the conference. Our feeling is that they will be.

All of the coaches and many of the teammates say that Barnett and Castleman really are stout and had a good camp even though Castleman had to build up some speed from a late season and spring nagging injury.

At times, Anthony Rogers and Davidell Collins have started. Now those two are backing up in the rotation, and that just shows how the position has improved depth-wise. Add in junior college transfer Ofa Hautau, who defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements has said will definitely help and is proving to be a tough guy to knock back.

Defensive Ends
This was the most examined position in camp as even the head coach said he was going to go watch the defensive ends on the first day in pads. In the span of a week, Gundy and Spencer started talking about the ends like they were a strength.

Senior Tyler Johnson inspires confidence and is showing the ability and the leadership that the staff had hoped for since he arrived from playing minor league baseball. Gundy really was impressed with Sam Wren's development late in the spring as the Arizona Western J.C. standout hit his stride. That continued in fall camp.

Jimmy Bean had some little injury issues in camp but finished strong, according to Clements. That allowed young players like Trace Clark, Emmanuel Ogbah and Victor Irokansi to make some positive impressions. Taylor May has also shown up and may show up some on special teams.

It's not like the Cowboys are seeing All-Big 12 prospects at the defensive end position but it has solidified and the staff sees some depth there as well.

Spencer has not been shy about dishing out some compliments and telling me that the linebackers as a whole had a really good camp. There are some assignment issues that need to be sharpened, but Spencer is really high on Shaun Lewis and excited to see what kind of season he will have as a senior.

Caleb Lavey is in the best shape of his career and is like having a coach on the field. Ryan Simmons is extremely athletic and has a better working football knowledge than Alex Elkins did with his limited playing experience. The starting trio is really good.

The bonus is how well the backups are playing. Joe Mitchell at the "star" would be pressing to start if that guy named Lewis wasn't in front of him. Kris Catlin and Demarcus Sherod have really come along and are both playing well. Add to that crew redshirt freshman Seth Jacobs and there is some really good depth at linebacker.

Depth is the great development at corner with Justin Gilbert the starter on one side and it would appear that ultra-gifted athlete Kevin Peterson is on the other side. It was a given that fellow sophomore Ashton Lampkin would be backing up and is really solid.

The big addition has been former Kansas Jayhawks starter Tyler Patmon, who has come in and played really well. Patmon also was a nickel back for the Jayhawks, and that could come into play for the Cowboys. To have a solid foursome at corner is good, and having Miketavius Jones plus some talented freshmen means the depth could allow some redshirting to go on.

The big move at safety was Lyndell Johnson moving to free safety which would obviously signal that Shamiel Gary has got the strong safety position nailed down.

With Daytawion Lowe so experienced and talented, Johnson can learn that position for next season when Lowe is gone and still be plugged into different personnel groups on defense.

Zack Craig also lends plenty of experience. Deion Imade is now playing linebacker, so safety is also solid. There are some talented newcomers as well with freshmen Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson showing up in camp the first time around.

Special Teams
Special teams was a major concern in camp. According to Gundy, the decision on a punter between Kip Smith and Michael Reichenstein has yet to be made. Smith will kick off and Reichenstein will hold on PAT and field goals, so both will be at home and on road trips, so if a quick change has to be made then it can be.

Smith should be good on kickoffs. He is not a driver like Quinn Sharp, but instead he puts his kickoffs up in the air and gets some hang time and they tend to fall anywhere between the 5-ayrd line and the back of the end zone. He'll give the cover unit a chance to get down to make a play. That showed up in the spring game on the one live kickoff he kicked.

The first special teams decision made was freshman Ben Grogan being selected to handle field goal and extra points. Grogan is a guy that gets better every day. He also seems to have a very calm demeanor and that comes in handy.

Returns could be really exciting as Justin Gilbert is back. Josh Stewart wants to handle punt returns, and there are others like David Glidden and freshman receiver Ra'Shaad Samples who would like to get some opportunities with the return game.

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