At linebacker, the most experienced is returning starter Ryan Simmons. He will have to help some lightly experienced older players and raw newcomers as they will all need to play. Kevin Peterson leads the secondary at corner, and I truly think he will be one of the best, if not the very best, cornerback in the Big 12. That will help but the other starters in the secondary will be young and new.
Last season, Glenn Spencer and a more veteran group of players delivered exactly what Cowboys fans were demanding, better play on defense. That defensive crew delivered the turnover the defense at OSU had become know for but they also delivered more negative plays for opposing offenses, better run stopping and pass defense, and most important, more third down stops.
Now the defense is starting over in many spots with personnel and Spencer is asking the fans for some help. Before he asks, he offers compliments.
"One of the first things I do with a young man that is on campus in recruiting is I take him outside my office and look over the stadium," Spencer said. "We're getting recruits that are being recruited by schools with stadiums of over 90,000 to 100,000.
I'm always saying take all those extra seats out of it because these 55,000 to 60,000 people are going to create an unbelievable game day atmosphere. You guys will love it. You are going to love playing here. It is loud. It is rowdy. The paddle people, the environment ... you won't have anywhere else that it is better.
"Every year our opponents are saying it is one of the most intimidating places they play."
Spencer says often recruits already know about the atmosphere inside Boone PIckens Stadium, and that recruits tell him the size of he stadium is not a factor and that it is in essence quality over quantity.
"It (quality) does matter, because out players feed off that energy," Spencer contributed. "For sure it effects the opposing team's offense."
That is where the Cowboys defensive coordinator is asking for a little more help for a defense that will likely need it because of youth and inexperience. Spencer really respects and enjoys the Cowboys fans and the way they support the team but he's looking at an area that the fans once looked at and directed at him. Third downs!
"I hear our players talk on the road," Spencer said. "In the business this is what we call the conversion down, either you're going to convert or you're going to give us the ball back. It's the money down. Is it different? Every down is important but that is a down that as a defensive guy, you love to have total pandemonium. You want to make it difficult for an offense to operate."
Having grown up in the south, played at Georgia Tech and played and coached in SEC stadiums he has seen how some fan bases target third down and take their game to a whole other level on third downs. He's seen it across the Big 12 in recent seasons.
There should be some help coming from video and audio inside the stadium but Spencer is asking for the fans to really go crazy when it is third down for the opponent.
"I've done this (coaching) for 26 years and I know it can be a factor," Spencer explained. "They (opposing players and coaches) will say they have hand signals and the noise doesn't matter. They have to say the right things, but our fans are great and I know it bothers the offense. I had a fan ask me, 'coach, why don't we do more things on third down?' I said, 'I don't know, I'm just trying to figure out a way to stop somebody.'
"I have had some talks with Larry Reece (PA voice) when we were on a plane together and I think we're going to do some more things," Spencer continued. "I had another guy say that our crowd used to do more on third downs, but then the other team would convert, so they stopped doing it. I told the guy, 'what's your point?' We are going to give up some first downs on third downs but I promise you those kids are not going to stop playing until the last snap.
"Can it be a bigger factor this season because we are going to have so much youth? Absolutely and we've got to get an advantage every way we can get into it," Spencer continued, almost preaching. "Hopefully, we will get into it in more ways than anywhere else. I hope we can start doing some things here at OSU that nobody else is doing."
Third downs are the money down. The defensive coordinator knows his defense has its work cut out for it, especially early in the season with so many young players steeping into key roles as starters and special package players.
The first game in Arlington, Texas against defending national champion Florida State will be tough to control that environment. But the next four games (Missouri State, UTSA, Texas Tech, and Iowa State) are all in Boone Pickens Stadium and Spencer is looking for his young defenders to get more support from the orange sea than ever before, especially on third downs.
He's looking for the same waves the sea of orange has always made, just makes those waves crash even louder.