Gary Playing With A Chip On His Shoulder

Shamiel Gary knew there was a reason the Oklahoma State coaching staff moved Lyndell Johnson for linebacker to strong safety prior to spring practice. He knew that despite starting every game at strong safety during the 2012 season there were those who weren't pleased with his performance. Gary knew he needed to do something about it or he would lose his job.

The fifth-year senior not only kept his starting position during fall drills but he showed the Cowboys coaches that he had the position locked up. They eventually moved Johnson to a backup role at free safety during practice in August.

Then he backed up his strong performance throughout August with his best performance at OSU on Saturday since transferring from the University of Wyoming three years ago. Gary had 10 tackles – all unassisted – and a team-best three pass break-ups in the season-opening victory over Mississippi State (surpassing his previous Cowboys high of eight tackles against Arizona a year ago, although it's not close to his 17-tackle performance against Boise State in 2010 at Wyoming).

"I could have played better. I had some little mistakes that I need to fix. I had an OK game but I can play better," said Gary.

But the 23-year-old Cowboys does admit that he feels more at home than he ever was a year ago, when he was often the target of criticism from OSU fans.

"I'm more comfortable, period. I'm playing the same defense with just a couple of little wrinkles, that's a little different. But I'm just more comfortable this year. I feel like the whole team is. We've got a lot of seniors on the team," said Gary.

"I feel like it was an up and down type season (a year ago). Some games I did really good and some games I didn't do as good. It was just a roller coaster-type season for me. I could have done better."

One area that Gary admits he could have done better against the Bulldogs is in the turnover category. The Cowboys intercepted two passes (Justin Gilbert and Zack Craig) in the season opener but there should have been more.

"We should have had four. I dropped one and then Justin (Gilbert) dropped one too. We can't allow that to happen. We can't allow turnovers to be wasted. I saw (the play Mississippi State was running) on film, the play-action, and I knew he was running a post so I tried to undercut him, and I got my eyes down field before I event caught the ball, so I dropped it. Not again."

Gary was the District Player of the Year in helping lead Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa to a state championship as a senior. He signed with Wyoming and became the school's first ever Freshman All-American, intercepting three passes in his first collegiate game.

But he decided to move closer to home to be closer to his family following his sophomore season. He redshirted in 2011 and started all 13 games for the Cowboys a year ago.

"It was a big adjustment," he said of playing in the Big 12. "I didn't think it was going to be but it was (a little difficult) getting acclimated to the playing speed, and the Big 12 is a faster pace as well so I had to get acclimated to it."

He knew he had to play better this season, and got the message when Johnson was moved to strong safety prior to spring practice.

"I think competition always pushes people but at the same time I already had a chip on my shoulder from the year before, so I had a lot of self motivation. Going into the spring I knew I had to get better at different stuff, and be more confident. Then when they said (Johnson) was moving to safety, I said I need to step up even more," said Gary.

He believes what Cowboys fans saw on Saturday is what they should expect throughout the 2013 season, both from his play and that of the entire defense.

"I just think everybody has a chip on their shoulder. We know how we can play. I think every game is a stepping stone for how we're going to play the rest of the year," he said. "(I'm) more confident in my ability and being more confident in where everybody else is going to be and their adjustments to the defense."

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