2014 Season Review: Defensive Line

If OSU Cowboys fans want a clear indicator of how good the Oklahoma State defensive line was in 2014 then go back to the very beginning of the season in the same AT&T Stadium where it all ended with the CFP National Championship Game. The Cowboys opened up against top-ranked and defending national champion Florida State in a game that most people expected to be a thrashing for the young Cowboys.

The most veteran group on the field that day was the Cowboys defensive line with two senior defensive tackles in James Castleman and Ofa Hautau. Starting that day at defensive end was a talented underclassman ready to break out in Emmanuel Ogbah and junior Jimmy Bean. Ogbah would end up sacking defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston twice in the contest and the Cowboys held Florida State and a veteran offensive line to just 106 yards rushing.

Ogbah was signaling the start to a season that would see him lead the Big 12 in sacks and be backed up by super senior star linebacker Josh Furman, who finished in the top 10 in the conference with seven sacks while Ogbah finished with 11.

During the five-game losing streak in the season when the offense was really struggling the defense did its best to keep the Cowboys in games, and that had a lot to do with the defensive line.

In that opening game defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer pointed to two plays. One involved special teams, an extra point where Castleman gave herculean effort to block a PAT. The other play he pointed out was the touchdown scramble 28-yard run by Winston where Hautau never gave up on the play and nearly forced a fumble before Winston scored.

It was effort like that which kept opposing offenses in the losses to West Virginia, Texas, and Baylor from just naming their score while enjoying lots of field position and opportunity.

By the time Mason Rudolph moved in at quarterback and the offense had some bite back the defense was ready with a strong second half and overtime in the Bedlam win over Oklahoma and a strong first half to allow the lead to build up over Washington in the bowl game.

The defensive tackles are gone, but Castleman and Hautau imparted much wisdom on Vincent Taylor and Vili Leveni. Both sophomores-to-be look ready to jump in, and there is more help arriving at the position.

At end, Ogbah is back and should be one of the top sack masters in the country entering the 2015 season. He will get the support of Bean and Trace Clark. Sam Wren, who made several key plays throughout the season including in Bedlam and the Cactus Bowl, moves on but there are a number of young pups eager to jump into the rotation.

Defensive line was a strong suit for the Cowboys in 2014 and should remain that way into the future. You can thank Castleman and Hautau for being about as good examples for the younger players as you could ever find. Their imprint on the program will live on for many years. Those are the kind of players with character that you'd like to bring in with every class.

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