So much of the preseason and pre-camp talk with Oklahoma State football centers around the offensive line. Can the Cowboys get better in that area and produce a more successful run game and protect the trigger in the offense in returning starting quarterback and talented passer in Mason Rudolph?
How about the other side of the ball and the defensive line that lost the 32nd selection in the NFL Draft in defensive end/outside linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah and his partner on the other side of the line in defensive end Jimmy Bean? That defensive line from last season lost the two outside starters on a crew that was prolific in sacks with 40 – 18.5 by Ogbah and Bean – and tackles for loss with 95.0, 28.0 by Ogbah and Bean. It was also a defensive line that contributed to 186.9 rushing yards per game.
Here's some news. Neither defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer nor defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements is pounding their chest but the defensive line could be better than last season. It could produce more pressure on passers, and it should, that's right, be better against the run.
It is not all the defensive line. That group has to be backed up by a good corps of linebackers and the secondary. Those areas appear to be in good order going into camp and both seem to have some depth, although you wouldn't get a great feel for that from Spencer.
"It's a new season. Have you seen any of these guys produce on the field when they are keeping score yet this season? I didn't think so, we need to see what these guys know and how they can go out and apply it," Spencer explained to the media on Wednesday at the OSU Football and Media Day Golf Event.
Spencer is pure old school when it comes to passing out credit and compliments. Last season is last season, even spring is spring, and you have to show up every day in practice and in games and prove what you know, show you can use it, and then prove it with your play.
It is after good games by the defense and certain defenders that Spencer hands out credit. Then by Monday it is on to the next opponent and the process of proving it all over again. However, he did admit the strength in numbers with four returning defensive tackles that had solid play throughout last season and the addition of Vili Leveni, an expected starter last season that missed the year with an achilles injury, and D.G. Osborne, a Baylor signee that switched to OSU after the issues in Waco and is coming off an All-American season and being Defensive Player of the Year in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
At defensive end, there are talented young players that have shown that promise on the field in Jarrell Owens, Jordan Brailford, Cole Walterscheid, spring game hero and jumbo defensive end (6-3, 285) Trey Carter, and junior college standout Tralund Webber.
Clements said he sees the opportunity to constantly have fresh legs and bodies on the field battling tired and beat up offensive linemen on the other side. The number of plays defended skyrocketed late in the season. In the last five games opposing offenses averaged 85 plays a game. Overall, opponents on the season averaged running 77.4 plays per game.
If you are a defensive tackle and you have to be in for two-thirds of those snaps then you will be worn down, but if only have to defend 30 snaps a game because of a three-deep rotation then you are pretty fresh with those snaps being spread out over three and a half hours. You can go mach speed for a defensive linemen.
"I'm looking forward to being able to get guys out after they go hard for five or six plays and getting a fresh player in there to stop the run or rush the passer," Clements expressed.
Talent (maybe some left to be proven), depth, size, and ability makes the defensive line situation heading into preseason camp a pretty optimistic area – one Oklahoma State fans should be excited about. The coaches will wait until they see a little more.