Position by Position: Defensive Ends

The staff of Go Pokes Magazine recently completed work on the Football Preview issue of Go Pokes Magazine and we are tremendously excited about the outcome. This may be one of the best issues in the history of our magazine. However, that is for you to decide.

A challenge that I have taken on each year is how to make what is a football preview staple, the position by position preview, more exciting and fresh other than what you see in most football preview magazines. In the past we have compared the Oklahoma State position groups to the best in the Big 12, the best all-time at OSU, and others.

This year we are comparing the 2008 team to the 2005 team, Mike Gundy's first squad, the one he mostly inherited. I am often asked, and I have heard Mike Gundy and his coaches often asked, how much better the program is talent-wise since Gundy took over? It is unscientific. Here is a preview of what we did. To protect the magazine it is edited down somewhat and is missing the final scores we assigned to each group, both 2008 and 2005.

We started with the offense, first with the offensive line and then the wide receivers and tight ends, and finished with the offensive backs. Now we move on to the defense.

2008 versus 2005
Leo 91 Ugo Chinasa, 6-6, 250, So. LE 81 Jerry Don Bray, 6-5, 260, Sr.
99 Richetti Jones, 6-4, 240, RS-Fr. 42 Trumain Carroll, 6-3, 250, Sr.

DE 98 Derek Burton, 6-5, 265, Jr. RE 51 Victor DeGrate, 6-3, 250, So.
50 Jamie Blatnick, 6-3, 255, RS-Fr. 56 Maurice Cummings, 6-4, 265, So.

If the production in the spring was any indication then the defensive end position has a chance to be good at the beginning of the 2008 season, and in time could be spectacular. The two deep at both defensive end positions are young. Derek Burton is a junior, but he has just one year of significant experience. Burton and Ugo Chinasa, who came in the same recruiting class as Burton but red-shirted because of injury, will likely be the starters, but the talented red-shirt freshmen duo of Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick are ready to get on the field too.

Tim Beckman expects the defensive ends to be the catalyst to the OSU defense, especially when it comes to mounting a serious pass rush, something the Cowboys did not do a year ago. They aren't the only ones counting on the defensive ends creating havoc for opposing quarterbacks. The guys on the back end of the defense are expecting the defensive ends to serve as a short timer.

"That makes a big difference back there on the back end," said cornerback Jacob Lacey. "The shorter time we've got to cover, the better the results I like to say. That pass rush really helps back there."

"They are improving. Two things that I wanted to see them do is I wanted to see them use their hands," said Gundy. "I don't pretend to be a defensive coach. I just know that when they sack the quarterback it's good. I want to see them use their hands and I wanted to see them bat passes down. I think they have been considerably better in both areas."

That is a really simple approach, but it is a really simple game when it comes to rushing the quarterback. During the spring the defensive ends as a whole played well. Blatnick proved he was ready to help and had a strong performance in the spring game. But it is Jones who has a chance to be spectacular. Before spring started Gundy challenged Jones and his recovery from a hip injury saying it was a very serious injury and there wasn't any certainty he would be the same player he was when he dominated opposing offenses at Dallas Lincoln High School. Jones heard the challenge.

"Richetti was really good for the first 10 practices and then he went through a period where he may have been feeling sorry for himself, getting blocked more than he's used to," started Gundy. "He actually competed better in a number of practices, more than I thought this spring. He only complained about his hip one time. He may have complained more, but I only heard about it one time. I think that is part of it. He is healthy but he has to fight through that pain, He had a very serious injury, but in order to play at this level he's got to push himself. He has the skill and he has the savvy. He is farther ahead that I thought he would be."

As a group the defensive ends may all be farther along than many thought they would be. There is no doubt this is a group that has been paying attention. They are determined to be better and from Jones, the ultra talkative star of ESPN's Summer House, to the very quiet Derek Burton they are together on having pride in what they are doing.

"Everybody is talking about how good our offense is, but people don't know how good our defense is," said Chinasa. "Our motto this season is finish."

Comparison: The 2005 group with Jerry Don Bray and Vicor DeGrate was more experienced. Bray was a highly respected player that gave great effort. DeGrate was a very talented player that with maybe a little more effort might have played in the NFL. Backup Maurice Cummings was a solid player for the Cowboys. Since this group of defensive ends has little experience it is tough to make a direct comparison. On accomplishments the edge has to go to 2005, but on potential you would take the current group. This past spring should have proven they are worth gambling on.

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