The heart of the defense is the defensive tackle position. Oklahoma State is losing both of the starters but has solid candidates to replace them, but who will replace those guys as back-ups is a key question heading to the 2017 season.
One of the experiments in the spring that played the best was at defensive tackle as former defensive end Trey Carter, beefed up to 295 pounds moved inside and adapted and played well. That was a welcome development as Vincent Taylor's departure to the NFL Draft after his junior season and losing senior Mote Maile leaves a position that last season was as deep as it has been during the Mike Gundy era and produced that way with a total of 112 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks, just a little slight. Those were good numbers for the inside members of the defensive line last season. Some new faces will have to show up and help the numbers and provide that depth that made the defensive tackles so explosive in 2016.
DeQuinton Osborne returns after proving he could be extremely disruptive last season. Osborne coming out of junior college at Kilgore finished with 12 total tackles, but 5.5 of them were for losses and he had 3.5 sacks. Not to mention he picked off a pass and returned it to the one-yard-line to set up an easy touchdown at Kansas.
The leader of the defensive tackles is Darrion Daniels, who has played since his true freshman season and last fall had 15 tackles with a tackle for loss, a pass deflection, and a blocked kick. A smart player with a "high motor" Daniels really assumed a leadership role in the spring and pushed his teammates to pick it up.
"As a unit we are very confident," Daniels said of the defensive tackles. "Athletically, we are very balanced. We have guys that are faster than the others, we have guys that are stronger than the others, but as a unit we are very balanced. I feel like us in a three-man front or us in a four-man front are very balanced and we are going to get after the ball no matter what."
In the spring there was Daniels, Osborne, and that pleasant surprise in the former end in Carter. The tackle position also had sophomore Taaj Bakari and red-shirt freshman Cameron Murray. The question is will either of them be ready to assume a major role in the rotation or, more likely, will incoming transfers Enoch Smith and Fua Leilua be the answers. It takes five.
"I feel like everybody has the potential to help," Daniels said of the depth and incoming players. "I can't wait til the fall so everybody can find their role, but I'm not that worried about the depth because practice gets us ready for the games and playing a lot of snaps. High intensity practice has us ready to play as much as we need to."
Daniels is confident as he knows that he along with Osborne and Carter have the high motors that coaches always talk glowingly of. Daniels believes he can play effectively at around 65 snaps a game. Remember the average number of snaps that Oklahoma State defended last season was 75 plays a game, closer to 85 plays in conference games.
Carter said he thinks he can be effectively playing as many as 60 snaps a game. If that were true with both and throw Osborne in for at least 40-50 and now a couple of guys going 10 or so plays completes the needs. That really isn't feasible, 40-50 plays is at the high end and a valuable reserve like Eric Davis last season may have played a dozen plays a game, but that was critical. You need at least five guys, two-to-three on the high end and the others to get anywhere from 10-20 plays a game.
Four candidates in two very young players and two transfers and you will need some combination to give this defense 35-45 solid plays a game.
Can't wait until August to find out who it will be.