Pat Kinnison

Who Are The Contenders To Start On Defense?

Robert Allen provides a glimpse at the position battles as Oklahoma State prepares to start fall practice.

This is not a two-deep but it's more of a position contending depth chart. Almost every Oklahoma State fan knows that Vincent Taylor has a lock on a starting spot at defensive tackle. However, Motekiai Maile, Vili Leveni and Baylor transfer DeQuinton Osborne are also competing for playing time at defensive tackle. It is that way at other positions and then at some, like offensive line and defensive end, where there is more competition and even the chance that a contender could move ahead of an expected or returning starter.

That said, here is our contenders depth chart to open camp. Most of this is assembled from our summer series that went position by position.

Defensive Tackles

96 Vincent Taylor, DT, 6-3, 310, RS-Jr.
San Antonio (Madison), Texas
Taylor is just the kind of guy you want anchoring your defensive line. He is big, strong, prideful, and has an engine that always runs at a high RPM. Taylor was a little bit of a surprise last season as the coaching staff was wondering if he could step in for the injured Vili Leveni and be the leader and have the production needed to make sure offensive lines played honest with blocking inside and potentially adding extra help outside aimed at Ogbah and Bean. Taylor more than carried his share of the load. He plays so hard all of the time that he makes teammates feel guilty if they take a single play off. He had a good spring and showed enthusiasm every practice and scrimmage which can be hard to do sometimes for a veteran player. But like Mike Gundy preaches, you have to love football and Taylor does.

90 Motekiai Maile, DT, 6-3, 315, Sr.
Euless (Trinity), Texas/Pittsburgh, Calf./Tyler C.C., Texas
Maile played well last season as he earned the starting position after Leveni was ruled out for the season. He was good but it was all a learning experience. Maile has the opportunity of being one of those junior college transfers who takes a giant leap in his second season. Maile was better in spring football with more explosive plays and turnovers forced and recovered than he had been last season. He is also bigger and stronger. He used to weight 305 and look 260 pounds. Now he weighs 315 and looks like he weighs 280 pounds.

95 Vili Leveni, DT, 6-4, 290, RS-Jr.
Hurst (L.D. Bell), Texas
Leveni went down late July with an achilles tear and that was it for the season. He is fully rehabbed but was only out in shorts for spring ball. No reason to risk him for some spring football. Leveni will bring back an experienced defensive end moving down to tackle. He is a multiple player when you factor in a three-man front as well. Big and strong enough to play inside, he is athletic and quick enough to play outside. He can play all three spots on a three-man front.

91 DeQuinton Osborne, DT, 6-0, 315
Kilgore C.C./Missouri/Grand Prairie (South Grand Prairie), Texas
He signed with Baylor out of Kilgore and earning Defensive Player of the Year honors and 1st-Team All-American honors with the NJCAA. He is a two-gap defender that not only stops the run, but is a very productive pass rusher for an inside player. He will tell you he openly dislikes running backs and quarterbacks. A strong late pick-up that strengthens the defensive front.

97 Eric Davis, DT, 6-3, 305, RS-Sr.
Tyler (John Tyler), Texas
Davis has made steady improvement and impressed defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer last season with his ability to contribute. Davis pays attention, knows his technique, and has worked hard enough in the weight room and on the field to be in position to make plays.

79 Darrion Daniels, DT, 6-3, 305, So.
Dallas (Bishop Dunne), Texas
A highly touted freshman that lived up to the tout and played last season. He is strong, physical, and seemingly not afraid of anyone or any situation. He had a good spring and a really strong spring game (tackle for loss and interception). He understands that he can have a good play without making the tackle or some other accomplishment. His attitude is also way ahead of the game as he is kind of an "old soul" when it comes to football.

98 Taaj Bakari, DT, 6-1, 305, RS-Fr.
Mansfield, Texas
Bakari redshirted last season and then this spring demonstrated how eager he is to have the chance to play this season. He was good in practice, but the issue is how many guys are ahead of him.

70 Ben Hughes, DT, 6-1, 320, RS-Jr.
Waco (University), Texas
Hughes will play some as he did last season. He is improved but he needs to continue to improve on his athleticism, quickness, and ability to get off blocks.

Defensive Ends

93 Jarrell Owens, DE, 6-3, 270, RS-So.
Palestine, Texas
Owens has a great attitude and wants to make plays. He is strong and may be the pack leader for the younger defensive ends as his strength and physical maturity have put him on the field more. You can see it on tape and if you are watching high up on Saturdays as he bulls through blockers and when he gets a chance he will. He had some really good days in the spring highlighted by the final scrimmage, not the spring game but a scrimmage. He was almost in on every play he was out there. He does need to be reminded to play within the defensive scheme. When he does and he can manhandle the OL in front of him, than he will really good.

94 Jordan Brailford, DE, 6-3, 245, RS-So.
Tulsa (Booker T. Washington), Okla.
Brailford is not as big or physically strong as Owens and that is fine because Brailford still has strong play-making ability with his speed and quickness. Brailford is as fast off the edge as anybody you will find in the Big 12. The problem is if he gets tied up then he has trouble sometimes getting loose. He is fun to watch as he will be 20 yards away and then all of a sudden he's put the quarterback down. The next couple of years could create a binge situation at defensive end with several of us trying to decide who is fastest.

82 Cole Walterscheid, DE, 6-5, 260, RS-So.
Muenster, Texas
He can block out the sun as I think he is at least 6-6, maybe bigger. He was playing in the opener last season when he was showing the ability to play every game and suffered an injury that put him out until the middle of November. He was back to help when the depth was depleted with Jimmy Bean going down. He does a good job versus both the run and the pass.You can tell he likes to pass rush, who doesn't?

99 Trey Carter, DE, 6-3, 285, RS-So.
Dallas (Pinkston), Texas
Carter is big enough to play tackle, but defensive coaches say he will stay at defensive end. It might be something to look at in November as he is playing in a band that makes some noise in and around here. He had a monster spring game with four sacks, three tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery. The spring for him may have been his figurative turning the corner.


20 Jordan Burton, Star, 6-2, 215, RS-Sr.
Longview, Texas/Stephen F. Austin Univ./Kilgore C.C.
He had postseason surgery and sat out the spring but he is the unquestioned starter at the "star" and had a strong season in 2015. An All-Big 12 caliber player, Burton is as complete a “star” linebacker as OSU has had. He can cover, plays the run well, and is also an accomplished pass rusher.

23 Kenneth Edison-McGruder, Star, 6-0, 215, So.
Alief (Taylor), Texas
During the spring the move was made to put Edison-McGruder at the "star" linebacker position after he had played well last season as a true freshman at safety. He is a big, physical safety and with the addition of senior Derrick Moncrief at safety it gave the coaching staff the opportunity to see what Edison-McGruder would look like at the "star." Along with fellow young player Kevin Henry the duo held down the position quite well. He is also a really smart player, ahead of his years, and that is important at the star position. The spot is loaded for next year but should stay that way even after the graduation of Burton.

26 Kevin Henry, Star, 6-0, 225, RS-Fr.
Baton Rouge (Central), La.
Henry was a redshirt as a freshman but his play on the scout team and in practices during the bowl season identified him as a player that was going to show up quickly and he did. Henry might have earned the award for most improved linebacker in the spring if such an award was given. Count on Henry to have a heavy role on special teams and see some duty on defense.

40 Devante Averette, WLB, 5-11, 230, RS-Sr.
Detroit (Melvindale), Mich./Ellsworth C.C., Iowa
Averette is a determined player who has fought hard to get where he is starting with delaying his college for a year of working a double shift at UPS in Detroit. He followed that with his All-American honors at junior college. He is sometimes doing his own thing and still has times where he needs to make better reads but physically he is very active and is a good player. He will be an important player this fall but he needs to continue to strive to recognize more on the practice field and have it translate to the games.

19 Justin Phillips, WLB, 6-0, 235
RS-So., Pearland, Texas
Phillips decided to take a redshirt last fall after playing as a true freshman and had a starring role on defense with 10 tackles in the Bedlam win over Oklahoma. He got bigger in the weight room as a redshirt and made a strong return on the field this spring. He is a player that loves the physicality of the sport.

9 Gyasi Akem, WLB, 6-2, 230, Jr.
Broken Arrow, Okla.
Once a "star" linebacker, Akem is now weighing 230 pounds and has moved to the weak-side position. He had a solid spring and is progressing toward being trusted with the responsibilities there. Akem is an edgy player and that shows sometimes even in practice. He is very athletic and if he can avoid taking false steps and poor reads he could be a very productive player.

45 Chad Whitener, MLB, 6-0, 248, Jr.
Mansfield, Texas/California
Whitener proved to be a good backup for starter Ryan Simmons and then last year in the Kansas State game when Simmons went down for the rest of the season with a knee injury he stepped in and there was little drop off, if any. However, he had to play a lot of snaps. The goal this season is to build more depth so he won’t have to be on the field as much. He is extremely dependable, so finding the backup won’t be easy.

50 Josh Mabin, MLB, 6-1, 240, RS-So
Houston (Klein Oak), Texas
Mabin missed his freshman season due to an injury but played last season and is now looking more and more like the compliment to Chad Whitener at middle linebacker. Mabin is a talented player who was able to get a lot of reps in the spring and because of that improved.


6 Ashton Lampkin, CB, 6-0, 190, RS-Sr.
Fort Worth (Dunbar), Texas
Lampkin is a leader in the secondary and was having a good spring when he suffered a foot injury that required surgery and kept him out the remainder of spring. The veteran is expected back for the start of fall camp. Lampkin is very fast and tough and needs to stay healthy as he is the most experienced corner on the team.

7 Ramon Richards, CB, 5-11, 185, Jr.
San Antonio (Brackenridge), Texas 
Richards came up with a new attitude of being the best he could be and really thinking he is one of the best corners in the country. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer won't go that far, but he admits that Richards had a very strong spring, took on a leadership role, and was improved and played with a new confidence. Richards has size and is very smart. His teammates believe in him and I think he has a chance to be as good as there is in the Big 12. His spring was a strong statement.

2 Darius Curry, CB, 6-1, 205, RS-Jr.
Flowery Branch, Ga.
Curry has the best size at the position and he also made improvements and showed more confidence in covering receivers even in straight man. In the spring game he smothered Marcell Ateman on a fade route and looked as good as you can look doing it. He is better playing a boundary corner with less space for the receiver to take advantage of but I think you can trust him on the field side some. He is excellent in press man thanks to his size. 

14 Bryce Balous, CB, 5-11, 190, RS-Fr.
McKinney (North), Texas
Balous is the fastest player on the team and during spring started learning the corner position after converting from safety and began playing as fast as he is capable of. He is not the finished product but he has a chance to be really good with his speed and skills. The thing you like seeing is he seemed to improve each practice and scrimmage. 

4 Lenzy Pipkins, CB, 6-0, 194, Sr.
Mansfield, Texas/University of Louisiana-Monroe
Pipkins is a graduate senior transfer who was a two-year starter at ULM and actually got a late start in football as he did not play until his senior year at Mansfield, but he improved in a hurry. At ULM he was a steady performer that continued to improve. He reported to OSU in the summer in good shape and should have an immediate impact with the depth at cornerback.

24 Malik Kearse, CB, 6-0, 160, Jr.-TR
Miami (Pace), Fla./Fort Scott C.C., Kan.
He needs the summer and the weight room to go with what he picked up in offseason. He showed skills at corner in the spring, but there is more work to do. He is not ready yet but should be in the fall. 

25 Madre Harper, CB, 6-1, 175, Fr.
Arlington (Lamar), Texas
Early enrollee that got a lot of reps in the spring and looks like he will play some likely on special teams. It helped him being in the program early. He also needs more time in the weight room this summer adding muscle. 


13 Jordan Sterns, 6-0, 200, Sr.
Cibolo (Steele), Texas
One of the top safeties in the Big 12 and really in the country. Sterns is a smart physical player who makes everybody in the secondary around him better. He is also an outstanding leader. He shows every day that he is the kind of player you crave to have on your squad. Phil Steele told me in a conversation that he is one of his favorite players in the Big 12. All you can really do is brag about him. He's not perfect, but he's not far from it.

31 Tre Flowers, 6-3, 198, RS-Jr.
Converse (Judson), Texas
Flowers played well last season and kept his position in the spring although he dealt with some injuries. He is getting more physical and the coaches love his length and what it does in covering receivers. He's had lots of time to really learn more and become a stronger player mentally.

25 Derrick Moncrief, 6-2, 220, RS-Sr.
Prattville, Ala./Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C./Auburn
Sat out last season after transferring from Auburn where he played a lot. This spring he showed he is more than capable of helping out. He is a true SEC-type safety, but the defensive staff was happy to find that his cover skills were better than they thought for such a big safety. He should be a major assist in games like Texas, K-State, Baylor, and OU where stopping the run comes into added play. He proved his speed when he ran down Jalen McCleskey (4.34) from behind in one practice.

5 Jerel Morrow, 5-10, 200, RS-Jr.,
Emporia, Kan.
Another safety with experience that the coaching staff felt made strides in the spring. He is so athletic and actually came back to safety from corner but is capable like cornerback Ramon Richards of playing several spots such as nickel back.

36 Za'Carrius Green, Saf, 5-11, 205, RS-Fr.
Duncanville, Texas
It is Green showing what he is capable of doing that helped ease the pain of losing Dylan Harding and may have caused the departure of Tre Roberts, who it appears is gone for good. He may have also allowed for the move of Kenneth Edison-McGruder to the star linebacker. Expect Green to be a backup this fall and play a big role on special teams.



19 Ben Grogan, 6-1, 190, Sr.
Arlington (Martin), Texas
Grogan missed all of the spring following the same hip surgery on his plant side as he had on his kicking side before last season. It should help. Grogan has been really good – a combined 49-of-66 on field goals over the past three seasons, including 16-of-20 last season including two game winners at Texas and at home against Kansas State. His range is really 50 yards and in but I believe he is hoping that range increases with the latest hip surgery. The only knock on Grogan is he has experienced short funks during each of his seasons, maybe a game or two where he struggles.

45 Matt Ammendola, 5-9, 195, RS-Fr.
Lansdale (North Penn), Pa.
Ammendola stepped up in the spring and got better every day. In the spring game he was a star hitting the 50-, 40-, and 32-yard field goals and going right down the middle. The 50-yard kick would have been good from 65 yards as it was drilled. He also put his kickoff deep in the end zone, nine yards back. Mike Gundy may have found his kickoff specialist and Ben Grogan has competition. Ammendola may set the Cowboys up well at kicker for the next four years.


29 Zach Sinor, 5-10, 215, RS-So.
Castroville (Medina Valley), Texas
Last season, his first as a starter, he had 75 punts for a 40.1-yard average. That's okay, but then you see he put 31 of those punts down inside the 20, and that is spectacular. He also only kicked three touchbacks and as opposed to kickoffs, that is a good thing with punts. He has some good competition and that will push him. He is very solid.

59 Matt Hockett, 6-2, 215, RS-So.
Norman, Okla.
Extra valuable as he is both a kicker and a punter. Hockett is dependable and is getting better all the time at punter. In the spring and the spring game he matched Sinor punt for punt. He is also in contention for the kickoff specialist job that Gundy is searching for.

Long Snapper

61 Kaleb Smith, 6-2, 260, RS-Jr.
Fort Worth (All Saints Episcopal), Texas
He has experience with both snaps and was the starter on short snaps (PAT/FG) until last season when Josh Elias took that over. He needs to get back his consistency and he likely could handle one or both of the snapping duties.

63 Sam Walkingstick, 5-11, 200, RS-Fr.
Sallisaw, Okla.
Excellent talent that walked on and worked on his craft all last season. He just needs to prove he can be consistent in the games at this level. He is plenty strong and quick enough on both snapping chores, punts and PAT/FG.   

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