Looking Ahead To 2016: Defense

Robert Allen takes a look at what Oklahoma State fans can expect on the defensive side of the ball in 2016.

The season really just ended and players have gone home for a short break, while coaches will take a few days and be back in the office next week to start reviewing and continue plotting answers in recruiting and other areas where this team can improve for next season.

For continued success in the program the number one priority has to be improving all aspects that contribute to having a productive conventional run game to go along with all other schemes in the offensive system. You have to be able to run the ball as it is a major aspect of having balance and being able to protect a lead and, at times for the offense, to assist in helping the defense.

We will be reviewing and analyzing this for the next two months in addition to covering recruiting as the current class closes out and the 2017 class really cranks up.

Here is a cursory look at the turnover of the depth chart from the 2015 season to the spring and upcoming season of 2016.

Defense

Defensive End
This team will really miss Emmanuel Ogbah, who will declare for the NFL Draft in the next day or so. He is ready and will be a first-round selection. It's good that he goes out with injured teammate Jimmy Bean as they have both been good for the Cowboys and each other. Trace Clark departs as well as a senior. But I'm excited about this position with the rapid emergence of Jordan Brailford, Jarrell Owens and Cole Walterscheid. All are in the same recruiting class and all have huge potential. Trey Carter is another bigger and thicker DE with potential and watch as redshirt freshman Louis Brown (6-5, 220) continues working in the weight room with Rob Glass and Co. It's a young group but a talented one. 

Defensive Tackle
The strength up front shifts, at least to proven performance and experience, from defensive end to defensive tackle. Look for Vincent Taylor to become the unquestioned leader up front. He has learned from Ogbah and Bean and I think he is ready. He played well and fought hard in the Sugar Bowl loss. Motekiai Maile has also progressed, and remember one of the major early losses this past season with the summer injury to Vili Leveni. Leveni is back and he too will provide leadership and lots of production inside, while also being capable of floating and playing some outside because of his athleticism. Young Darrion Daniels showed promise in his true freshman season and redshirt Taaj Bakari is ready to play. There is also veteran Eric Davis, who defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said was much improved. This is a great position to have a lot of potential and depth.

Linebacker
It looked like all three starters would return after Chad Whitener took over at the middle for the injured and stalwart senior Ryan Simmons but junior Seth Jacobs has graduated and his shoulder is worn out from all the hitting. He will take his diploma and move on to a productive life post football. Whitener does return and so does star linebacker Jordan Burton. The backups are all back including versatile and physical Devante Averette at the weak side and also capable of playing middle and even some star. Josh Mabin is back to play middle and Justin Phillips, who is such a big hitter, returns too. There are two young backups at the star with Gyasi Akem and Kirk Tucker. Most are young and all should improve. Redshirt freshman Kevin Henry is eager to impress this spring. He is a good-looking player. 

Cornerback
The Cowboys lose Kevin PetersonMichael Hunter Jr. and Miketavius Jones as all are seniors. That could be devastating but you return some talent in Ashton Lampkin, Ramon Richards, Darius CurryChris Hardeman and redshirt freshman safety Bryce Balous, who has cross-trained as a corner with his brilliant speed. Work to be done here but there appears to be solid players and there are four cornerbacks in the recruiting class. 

Safety
All of the top four in the depth chart return in leading tackler Jordan SternsTre Flowers, and backups in Jerel Morrow and Kenneth McGruder.  There is also Dylan Harding, Deric Robertson and redshirt freshman Za'Carrius Green. Again, the Cowboys have a number of young players that should get better.

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