The scrimmage reinforced the fact that this Oklahoma State defense is very fast. It starts up front with the defensive ends off the edge in Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean. Ogbah is 6-4, 275 pounds and quick, while Bean is 6-5, 250 pounds and also really quick.
In the scrimmage, redshirt freshman defensive end Jordan Brailford, who is making great strides in developing as a player, came in so quick he was unnoticed by quarterback J.W. Walsh, and Brailford took the ball right off of Walsh's throwing hand and ran it in the end zone. That is an example of the speed Mike Gundy thinks makes this the fastest defense since he has been head coach.
"I think so, and again it could just be me getting old, but they move pretty fast out there," Gundy said on Thursday after the scrimmage. "One, I think they are pretty fast and, two, there's a lot of depth. They're not getting as much work so it allows them to stay fresh. I think they run pretty well."
The starting linebackers – Seth Jacobs on the weak side, Ryan Simmons in the middle, and Jordan Burton at the star – are all fast. Since his freshman season as a weak side backer, Simmons has been a sideline to sideline player. Now backups like Devante Averette, Gyasi Akem, Kris Catlin, Chad Whitener, Justin Phillips, and more have a lot of speed.
Then you have the secondary where Kevin Peterson, Ashton Lampkin, Ramon Richards, Kenneth McGruder, Dylan Harding, Jerel Morrow, and Bryce Balous are all guys with 4.5 or faster times in the forty. Some are sub 4.4 in the forty.
Speed really helps a defense, but defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer believes there is much more to it.
"I've been asked that before," Spencer said when asked if this is his fastest defense. "We've had fast defenses here before. It doesn't matter how fast you are if your eyes come off a receiver or they motion and you get mixed up in man coverage which receiver you have and allow this big play or there is a quarterback run and you don't take your responsibility, it doesn't matter how fast you are it is going to be a big play.
"The key, though, is some speed with knowledge. I think an offensive player can be really fast, so it is speed along with experience when you can really start seeing it on defense. We are making some strides there and combine that with guys that have some experience and you don't have the missed assignments and you know the right leverage to play in certain situations."
The best people to ask my be the offense. In practices the defense has had more success, but like a lot of coaches I've always believed that should be the case in fall camp and preseason practice. Now understand the offense has speed too and while they understand completely how good the defense is and that they also have some inherent knowledge working in defending the Oklahoma State offense in practice, they are also competitive.
"We don't want to make excuses and we want to execute every play the way it is supposed to be executed," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. "We want to get better and compete every day, so we're not making any excuses. We have a very good defense."
"They've got some studs on that defensive line with Ogbah and Bean and the linebackers and the secondary with all those corners," quarterback Mason Rudolph added. "Every position is high energy guys that like to compete.
"There are a lot of good defenses in the Big 12 but our defense is very good. We are extremely competitive as players and the (coaching) staff is competitive and we go out every day against the defense and we want to win. Anytime you come up short you get disappointed. It does make us better every time we go against our defense it does make us better."
My opinion is the defense is very fast, very good, and very smart. However, I will be the first one to say that an opinion, in this case mine, can be clouded in fall camp as you see the same matchups over and over. I'm with Glenn Spencer in that this defense will have 12 regular season opportunities to prove they are fast and one of the best defenses in Oklahoma State history.
Now, on the other side of the ball Oklahoma State fans are hoping for not the best. A major improvement in the offensive line and I think the combination of a new player in former UAB starting left tackle Victor Salako, a new offensive line coach Greg Adkins coming in fresh from the NFL and the Buffalo Bills, and added maturity for the rest of the pertinent offensive lineman from experiencing last season will make it better. It started in the spring under Adkins.
"I think we've seen the things we preached in the spring," Adkins said of what he has seen in development in fall camp. "Things are really starting to carry over, and we’re getting a little bit better. We’ve had a consistent lineup for all of camp, which is good. Over the last three of four days, we’ve been able to mix and match some people and work on some guys from guard to tackle and tackle to guard. Those things are a still a work in progress."
If the Cowboys kicked off at Central Michigan tonight then you would see Salako at left tackle, Michael Wilson at left guard, Brad Lundblade at center, Paul Lewis at right guard, and Zach Crabtree at right tackle. Adkins makes it sound like the remaining competition is for spots directly behind those guys.
"For the most part, I think I know who is going to be out there for the first game. There are still a couple of ongoing battles, particularly for those backup roles," Adkins said.
Practices have now taken on a dual purpose and for Adkins, both are really important. Develop the linemen, starters and back-ups while also getting them ready to beat Central Michigan.
"I think it’s a combination of both. We’re still trying to get ourselves better," he said. "We’re taking a portion of our day, obviously, to look at Central Michigan. Still, the main focus right now is Oklahoma State. We’re looking at what we can do to make ourselves better as an offensive line and as an offense."