Cowboys Depth In Focus: Defensive Line

The NFL Draft was completed over the weekend and there is some disappointment from Oklahoma State fans that neither James Castleman or Ofa Hautau were drafted. Castleman, the hero in the Cactus Bowl win, is heading to Green Bay as a rookie free agent and it looks like Hautau will be in Philadelphia for a rookie minicamp. The question this spring was who's next at defensive tackle for the Cowboys.

Come on, the defensive end position is taken care of as Emmanuel Ogbah is back and the 6-4, 275-pound All-Big 12 defensive end that led the Big 12 in sacks with 11 last season and revealed himself early in the year with two sacks of defending Heisman Trophy winner and first NFL Draft choice Jameis Winston is a beast. He is a beast and will be a load for opposing offensive lines to deal with.

Opposite Ogbah is senior Jimmy Bean (No. 92, shown above), who is also a load. There is another veteran in Trace Clark and then four young pup defensive ends, all eager to get in and make plays and all very athletic.

Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer knew all this, knew he had strength at defensive end, knew he had one returning tackle in Vili Leveni that would jump in and be fine, but he needed more inside and he wanted more out of Vincent Taylor. This spring all the way through with his five tackles, three tackles for loss and his fumble caused in the spring game he gave Spencer the solid signs he was looking for.

"He’s the guy we really needed to come on," Spencer said after the spring game. "If I had to give a most improved from the guys that were here last year it would be Vincent Taylor.

"That was a guy that we had to have come on to get in that rotation and show that he was a better player than he was last year. He might not have to play 40 or 50 snaps, but those 20 or 30 need to be legitimate snaps and Vincent did that. I told the whole team that, and I challenged him in the spring."

He probably didn't need to challenge Taylor as the sophomore from San Antonio Madison High School is a prideful person and he was challenging himself this spring. Taylor knew what Spencer and the defensive staff was looking for.

"I would not say it was pressure just knowing that we had two defensive tackles from James and Ofa last year and I always said if coach would give me a chance I would take advantage of it," Taylor said in response to a question on whether he felt the pressure.

Taylor said he went about improving. He started with weaknesses and little things knowing from his experience of watching Castleman that those things added up.

"My steps and using my hands better and I can tell you today that I use my hands and my steps are better than they've ever been and my coach is telling me that," Taylor added.

Part of the reason for improvements in both may be attributed to a new technique of training for Taylor and a few other brave defensive linemen. Taylor knows when he really started improving in a lot of areas.

"Probably when I started going to yoga class and I started learning what my body could do," he said.

The classes are in the Colvin Center for Physical Education on campus, and yes it is a little unique to see the defensive line filing in for yoga class.

"Coach (Eric) Henderson, one of our GAs (graduate assistant coaches), told me to go, give it a try and once I did I got a schedule and I go every chance I can now. My flexibility is what has been helped. I give all the credit on my strength to Rob Glass and what he does with me in the weight room."

Taylor has discovered yoga makes him more explosive and you can count on his staying with it through the summer and into next season. Who knows? Maybe they will talk the offensive linemen into going with them.

The bottom line is that for now Taylor has helped solidify the defensive tackle position and the defensive line as a whole is looking very good and not just at defensive end.

Here's my take on the depth chart for the defensive line heading into fall camp:

Leo (End)
38 Emmanuel Ogbah, 6-4, 275, Jr., Houston (George Bush), Texas
90 Trace Clark, 6-4, 257, Sr., Wichita (Collegiate), Kan.
99 Trey Carter, 6-4, 270, RS-Fr., Dallas (Pinkston), Texas (or)
93 Jarrell Owens, 6-3, 265, RS-Fr., Palestine, Texas

Defensive End
92 Jimmy Bean, 6-5, 250, Sr., Denton (Guyer), Texas
94 Jordan Brailford, 6-3, 240, RS-Fr., Tulsa (Washington), Okla. (or)
82 Cole Walterscheid, 6-6, 242, RS-Fr., Muenster, Texas (or)
87 Victor Irokansi, 6-3, 240, Jr., Pflugerville (Hendrickson), Texas

Defensive Tackle
95 Vili Leveni, 6-3, 290, So., Hurst (L.D. Bell), Texas
56 Motekiai Maile, 6-4, 305, Jr.-Tr., Pittsburgh, Calf./Tyler J.C., Texas
97 Eric Davis, 6-3, 295, Jr., Tyler (John Tyler), Texas
62 Tyler Ferguson, 6-1, 270, RS-Fr., McKinney (Boyd), Texas

Defensive (Nose) Tackle
96 Vincent Taylor, 6-3, 300, So., San Antonio (Madison), Texas
56 Motekiai Maile, 6-4, 305, Jr.-Tr., Pittsburgh, Calf./Tyler J.C., Texas
70 Ben Hughes, 6-3, 310, So., Waco (University), Texas

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