Spring break is over and for Oklahoma State football it is time to get back to work. The Cowboys will do just that on Tuesday after a day to savor the memories and stories of a week off, but in many cases still spent together.
As all of the discussion and angst continues among the Oklahoma State family, and believe me it has continued today with various meetings trying to decide what went wrong and who is to blame for the loss of a basketball coach after just one season, Oklahoma State students are arriving back in Stillwater and that includes the Cowboy football squad. Spring football will resume on Tuesday as head coach Mike Gundy allows his players to get back into the academic and campus routine on Monday. It takes a day to get spring break out of your system. The best news is that despite a coach skiing and hunting rattlesnakes and the various other coaches and their activities and, no doubt, the players making their trips to either beaches or other exotic destinations; there has been no report of issues.
With this group I wouldn't expect any, but we are talking about 18-to-24-year old men and temptations are everywhere. That is all good, and hopefully, it stays that way.
One of the areas to watch heading back into spring football, which has another 11 practices and a spring game to run it's course, is the defensive line. Losing starting defensive tackles Vincent Taylor, Motekaia Maile, and back-up Eric Davis leaves things pretty light inside this spring on the defensive line. There is reinforcements coming in the summer with junior college transfers Fua Leilua from Snow C.C. and Enoch Smith from Butler C.C. after starting out at Michigan State. Right now the defensive tackle depth would appear to be Darrion Daniels and D.Q. Osborne to start out followed by Taaj Bakari and Ben Hughes. Defensive end Trey Carter is 295 pounds, so he will play in there as soon as practice gets back to being contact and physical. There is also walk-on Tyler Ferguson for help in practice.
It is light, but as Mike Gundy said and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer agreed, both at defensive tackle and defensive end, the Cowboys may not be as big or deep as you want, but they are, thanks to Rob Glass and staff, really strong.
"We have nine guys on the defensive line that power clean more than 315 pounds," Gundy said proudly of the weight room results. "We have nine guys that can bench press more than 350 pounds, and five of them are over 400. We have nine guys that all squat more than 450 pounds. That's what I like about them. Tehy're all somewhat mature. Their strength levels are very high and they run well. Their attitudes are good. I think we're back into that role where we can play a solid two-deep and rotate guys to keep them fresh (defensive end). In this league, that's really important to try to make it the duration and make it all the way to November. In this league your defense gets beat up in November. That's what happens to defenses in football. Everybody around the conuntry says that we don't have defense in our conference, but our guys are in a track meet every week. That's what I like about our defensive line."
The strength is excellent and now the defensive ends, including Carter and maybe Vili Leveni, who also is big enough to play inside in a three-man front and outside at end in a four-man front, can factor even more. The Cowboys are looking at playing some more odd man looks up front on defense. They have more depth at the star linebacker than they have had in some time. They have a good looking core of defensive ends that will be buoyed even greater if the now healthy Jordan Brailford at defensive end can stay healthy.
"Hopefully, (Jordan) Brailford, who has been turned loose so far this spring, will be able to develop and sustain the pounding because we really liked him in the Sugar Bowl. We thought he played as well as any of our defensive linemen in the Sugar Bowl and then we lost him to that stress fracture last year. If he's up and running then he should really give us an added lift and he has really matured as a player."
Spencer feels like he needs every one of the practices this spring to put his defensive line, his whole defense actually, in tough positions and try to develop some resistance to fatigue and adversity. You have to because it is the only way to survive defensively during the Big 12 season and all those track meets that Gundy spoke of.