We've analyzed last season, we've reviewed each position, and now you've seen all but one remaining video with Anna-Marie Ahrberg and I naming and discussing the 15 most interesting players coming into spring football at Oklahoma State.
For a few minutes let's get serious. The Oklahoma State Cowboys have 15 allotted spring practice days from the NCAA. The first two days are acclimatization days and then there are only a few days where they can really set the ball down and go full speed. Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy would likely enjoy seeing the full package working more often than what is allowed, but his team can accomplish plenty working in smaller parts.
Here are the areas that we see on the defensive side of the football that will get plenty of attention from Gundy and his staff.
Yes, there is a reason that there will be a number of scouts, coaches, and even some administrators from NFL teams in Stillwater on Tuesday for the Pokes Pro Day. Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean were a very talented duo for the Cowboys at defensive end that together did a lot to disrupt the powerful offenses in the Big 12. Both players are athletic and besides being strong pass rushers they were able to get loose for lots of negative plays in tackles for losses and turnovers. My opinion is that a lot of that prowess came from speed and Ogbah's 40 time at the NFL Combine confirms that along with the knowledge that Bean too, when healthy, can run well.
Because of that Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements have continued to load the defensive end position with athletic and speedy candidates, incljuding the two prime candidates to replace Ogbah and Bean. We saw plenty of them last season and even more after Bean's injury as Tulsa Booker T. Washington product Jordan Brailford and Palestine, Texas native Jarrell Owens prepare to take over.
There will be growing pains as the pair grow up but both are sophomores and give every indication that they will be there for awhile and will only get better. Add to that pair Cole Walterscheid, who while not as quick is 6-6 and close to 250 pounds. He can block out the sun and can be very disruptive. The need is for Trey Carter, a little bigger end at 6-4, 275 pounds, to also improve and be ready to play. It should help that the tackle position is loaded with experience and will provide some added stability up front defensively.
This may be the biggest bonus of all on defense. It was a major setback last season when a couple of weeks before the end of the summer and the start of fall camp that expected starting defensive tackle Vili Leveni tore his Achilles tendon. The 6-3, 290-pound Leveni is athletic enough to line up at defensive end but at 290 pounds and with significant strength he is a load at the three or five technique on the line of scrimmage.
He can stand up blockers or go around them. He is very good with his hands to go with those quick feet. He carries a warrior work ethic and now is really hungry and eager to get going. The key this spring is working him back in, getting his comfort level back and have him working with the likes of Vincent Taylor and Darrion Daniels, who he will be out there with quite a bit. There is no need to overdue it as the junior out of L.D. Bell in the Dallas area is a valuable component to the defense for next season.
Chad Whitener got lots of experience after the season-ending knee injury to Ryan Simmons, so Whitener's education as the player in the most thinking and pressure packed spot in a Glenn Spencer defense was extensive last season. It will be even more so this spring as Whitener will be counted on even more, both mentally and physically, with the early end to weak-side linebacker Seth Jacobs career.
The star is in veteran hands with Jordan Burton and he took to that role like a fish to water, but Devante Averette and Justin Phillips, who is returning after a red-shirt season last fall, will both need directions at times. Whitener is the quarterback out there and Spencer requires a lot out of his on-the-field director.
It's a little like the defensive end situation in that you hate to see Kevin Peterson, Michael Hunter and Miketavius Jones go. However, you know that Ashton Lampkin and Ramon Richards have experience, and Darius Curry has shown he can bow up and body up with the bigger wide receivers.
There is also an eagerness to see younger players like speedster Bryce Balous develop and play. At the safety position, all of the starters and backups return. As good as Jordan Sterns is, watch out for Kenneth Edison-McGruder as he shows all the signs of developing into a Markelle Martin-type of player in the back end of the defense.
There are concerns but there are also clear cut answers at every concern providing players open up and get the job done.