Former Oklahoma State linebacker/safety and special teams standout Deion Imade has contributed the past couple of seasons to the Cowboy Radio Network from Learfield. He is a promising football commentator but also an outstanding student as a three-time All-Academic Big 12 selection, Imade is working for an oil company in Tulsa. We have enlisted him to help us out and contribute here at Go Pokes.
We start with the Rowlett, Texas native that is a passionate observer of his former team on something we used to do quite frequently here at Go Pokes, "Five Questions About the Cowboys." Deion and Robert Allen tackle five questions regarding fall camp as it gets underway on Monday with report day and the first day of practice is on Tuesday.
1. What is your biggest concern about the Cowboys going into fall camp?
Deion: Of course, everyone in the Cowboy family has concerns about the offense line and it is to be expected they did not perform the way everyone is used to seeing an Oklahoma State O-line perform. But for me being a defensive minded guy I’m worried about the other side of the ball. I am concerned about the secondary, specifically the cornerback position. In the Big 12 we play a lot of explosive offenses with strong, fast, and athlete receivers, not to mention their impressive counterparts that will be throwing them the ball about 40 to 50 times a game that are some of best around the country. With the Pokes defense not being as deep at the cornerback position as they were last year and returning some unproven guys, not to mention our returning starter Ashton Lampkin is coming back from injury, it is just a little concerning to me in this up-tempo, pass-happy league.
Robert: It's been discussed all the time since last season. In fall camp, offensive line coach Greg Adkins is counting on improvement and some new competition developing to continue the job that was started in the spring and continued with Rob Glass and his strength and conditioning staff all summer. The offensive line and the running backs and all the contributions from the rest of the offense to make sure that Oklahoma State has a credible conventional rushing attack. It doesn't matter if it is between the tackles, off tackle or option oriented, but the Cowboys have to have a rushing attack and threat to balance the passing game with quarterback Mason Rudolph and the receiver corps. Each game will be a test, but if Oklahoma State can run the ball effectively in the final nonconference game with Pittsburgh then I think we all can believe that the run game will be there when it is needed all season.
2. What area of the team gives you the most confidence in the preseason?
Deion: The position I am most confident about is our receiving corps, although we suffered a key loss this summer with Marcell Ateman going down to a foot injury. I still feel that if there was any position on this Cowboy squad that could afford to lose someone then it is the wide receiver room. If any of those newcomers come out and contribute early we will be even deeper at that position. There are star players all over the depth chart like James Washington, players on the rise like Jalen McCleskey and Chris Lacy, and veteran wideouts like Austin Hays and Jhajuan Seales bring plenty of playing experience. These guys, as a group, should fare well. The only question now is who is going to catch those jump balls in the red zone early in the season with Ateman out until October?
Robert: The slam dunk answer is quarterback Mason Rudolph and the receiver corps led by James Washington. They proved themselves time and time again last season with big plays that put Oklahoma State in position to either win games or stay competitive in the body of games. Rudolph and the receivers are back and will be better than last season. If they get a rushing attack to balance the offense then those performances and numbers will jump even more from last season. However, my answer is the defensive line. I know that Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean are gone, but I see all the talent, experience, and potential of players at defensive tackle. That is a position that I hold dear to the success of a football team. Give me four or five really good defensive tackles and I will go to war with old mother Russia or any other past or present world power. Defensive tackles are the backbone of a good defense and with Vincent Taylor, Motekiai Maile, the return of Vili Leveni, Darrion Daniels, Eric Davis, and transfer junior college All-American D.Q. Osborne I think there are easily six defensive tackles that can play and play well. If Ben Hughes and Taaj Bakari pick up their game they could make it a really solid four deep inside. As for the defensive ends I love the young enthusiasm and athleticism of Jarrell Owens, Jordan Brailford, and Cole Walterscheid. They will be aided by the strength inside and they are talented. You also have another standout junior college transfer in Tralund Webber coming from Blinn College.
3. You have to go against Zach Crabtree and Barry J. Sanders in a Cowboy drill. Who do you want in front of you to take on the block?
Deion: I know I’m probably going with the obvious answer here, but there is a reason this guy is a preseason All-Big 12 defensive selection, so I’m going with Vincent Taylor. With a lot of players you can tell early in their career, just in practice, if they are going to be a special players and Vincent was definitely one of those guys. I use to love sitting back there in the run hole where it was 9-on-9 and the offense can only run the ball, watching him, and his freshman partner in destruction Ben Hughes, destroy the third-team offensive line and make plays in the backfield. I remember Shaun Lewis and I looking at each other thinking the same thing, those guys are pups now but they are going to be some dogs in the middle when they get older. It looks like Shaun and I were right. Plus, it’s fall camp so I know I’m going to be hot and tired so why wouldn’t I choose Vincent, who just seems to have a knack for finding the ball. I know he is not going to just leave it up to me to make the tackle by myself, surely he will do his best to get off the block and make a play. When he does, I will be right there to cheer him on with a clean jersey.
Robert: There is no question here on my answer. I watched a lot of defensive line tape last season and Vincent Taylor does a great job of taking on blocks, squaring up and getting push on the offensive player. He plays a majority of the time at a good pad level, low to make it hard on the blocker. He has great lower body and core strength to keep from being put off balance or being out muscled and pushed back into the linebackers. Vincent Taylor is tough and proud and those are great qualities of an inside technique lineman that so much of the time is required to give of himself so that a teammate can be free to make the play.
4. You have to go against Vincent Taylor and Jordan Sterns in a Cowboy drill. Who do you want blocking for you?
Deion: As the movie "The Blindside" taught us, the second most expensive player on an NFL roster is the offensive left tackle. Therefore, he must be the best player on the offense of line. Our left tackle is Victor Salako. I mean if he's good enough to protect Mason Rudolph's blindside he's definitely good enough to protect my backside in this drill. Last year, Victor looked pretty good but he was also a little sluggish at some points. I thought he just wasn't used to the speed of the up-tempo Big 12 game, but I've heard he has been doing good in the coach Glass program (#BodyByGlass) causing him to slim down a bit to his natural playing weight. This year it should help him move around a lot quicker, and protect the blindside a lot better. Now that Vincent Taylor is taken care of, if only I had someone to block the hard-hitting Jordan Sterns because I don’t like my chances against him. Maybe they will let me have one of those Cowboy backs that everyone loves so much, that would be great.
Robert: I'm going to go with Victor Salako because even with him losing weight this spring and summer and down to a more svelte 315 pounds, he is still massive and has those long arms. You can somewhat hide behind him or take advantage if he doesn't get good solid contact with the front defender that you go the other way and he is still a lot of man to have to work around. Then you still have to deal with the tackling violence of Jordan Sterns.
5. What is your worse memory of fall camp?
Deion: I'll never forget my worst memory of fall camp, mainly, because it was also my first memory of fall camp. For most players it's normally getting use to that dry Oklahoma heat or the running around constantly trying to get your body back in football shape, or even those dreaded ice bathes after every practice. But for me it was just an embarrassing moment of being welcomed to Division I football. I remember it was my first camp and I was just a young freshman out there trying to prove myself and earn some playing time. The horn signaling that it was time to go on to another drill, I looked up from the water I was chugging to see all the defensive backs and wide receivers heading to the one-on-one drills. Now, I hadn't been properly introduced to Division I football yet but one of the receivers took it upon themselves to do so that morning. We're going against some of our receivers, it was late into the drill, and I step up against this older receiver, y’all might know him as Josh Cooper but they called him Coop. For the first couple of practices the freshman defensive backs were only going against the freshman receivers, but like I said earlier, I wanted to prove myself. Throughout the summer in the locker room I had heard some people mention he was this very quick and explosive receiver but me being the young dumb freshman that I was, I had the mindset that Coop was just another slow white boy like the many I’d seen in high school and throughout my life of playing football. The kind that I was not going to let beat me. Cooper was not one of those white boys and he very quickly changed my mind about that. I remember we were in the red zone and he came off the ball so fast to use a defensive back phrase that he got on my toes really quickly. Then he did one of those fast pivot routes with a 360 spin that I had never seen in my young career that left me in the dust. He might as well have been the road runner saying “BEEP BEEP” as he just ran by me. The next thing I knew I was on one knee in the end zone from falling down and he was at the other pylon with the ball in hand and all I heard was the strength and conditioning coaches yelling “touchdown” and all the older guys looked at me and laughed while Markelle Martin smiled and said, “yeah that's Coop."
Robert: We had a practice the second or third of the day that because of sloppy play in team period the coaching staff became so frustrated that they threatened with one more mistake that the practice would start over. We were two and a half hours into a nearly three-hour practice and there was a fumbled snap and the coaches made good on the promise. Practice started over with stretch. I will say this, there was some pity at work and some periods were shortened, but it was easily a four-hour plus practice. No fun at all. Then again, camp is not designed for fun but to get a team ready to have some fun.