Position by Position: Secondary

The Go Pokes Magazine Football Preview issue has been published. Subscribers to the magazine have already received the issue in the mail but for those who don't subscribe they can purchase it at your favorite newsstand or convenience store.

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.

We started with the offense, and have now moved on to the defense.

BCB 17 Jacob Lacey, 5-11, 175, Sr. LCB 7 Martel Van Zant, 6-2, 205, So.
28 Al'Darius Thompson, 5-11, 180, Jr. or 30 Grant Jones, 5-10, 195, Jr. 7 Maurice Gray, 5-9, 180, Jr.

FCB 23 Terrance Anderson, 6-0, 180, Jr. RCB 4 Daniel McLemore, 5-7, 165, Sr.
16 Perrish Cox, 6-1, 190, Jr. 6 T.J. Bell, 5-11, 180, Fr.

SS 6 Ricky Price, 6-1, 195, Sr. SS 23 Jamie Thompson, 6-0, 190, Sr.
11 T.J. Bell, 6-0, 195, Sr. 14 Chase Holland, 6-0, 215, Sr.

FS 26 Quinton Moore, 5-11, 185, Sr. FS 10 Thomas Wright, 5-11, 185, Sr.
31 Lucien Antoine, 6-1, 205, Jr. 30 Grant Jones, 5-10, 195, Jr.

After spring football it seems all anybody wants to talk about when you mention the secondary is the safeties and junior college newcomer Lucien Antoine. Antoine has brought a physicality that has certainly been missing in the Cowboys secondary for the past several seasons. However, in this and any other defense excellence in back end had better start with corners. If your corners can't defend the pass then you are in trouble.

That is why Mike Gundy and Tim Beckman have to be happy as the corners have improved and as a group may be the best position on the team. Seriously, the Cowboy corners are pretty good.

"Jacob Lacey had a really nice spring and he has turned the corner as a top notch college student-athlete," said Gundy when asked for leaders on the defensive side of the ball. "He has done really good in school, and he is on time to everything. He has turned the corner, and he has played well."

"The secondary are all back and they have all played in a bunch of football games," said Beckman. "They have experience and they are aggressive and ready to play the way we need them to in pass defense."

Besides Lacey, cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Terrance Anderson also are returning. In addition Al'Darius Thompson has looked good and two newcomers – junior college transfer Maurice Gray and Texas high school All-State performer Markelle Martin – have come in and done well. Martin made some plays in spring at a time he should have been using to decide who to ask to prom.

"He's done a great job of doing what we want and he has made some plays, but he is still learning," said Beckman. "Mo Gray has stepped in and he is competing and is a two right now. They continue to learn and you get excited because of how much they have advanced."

At safety you have an experienced duo in Ricky Price at strong safety and Quinton Moore at free safety. The pair has played four consecutive years. Price started off as a wide receiver but answered the call when help was needed in the secondary and he seems to be more comfortable on defense. He and Sexton were playing very well as the season ended. Moore started his career with a huge hit against Arkansas State as a freshman and has been dependable.

There is some competition as the team gets ready for preseason camp in August. At strong safety a name that appeared on the depth chart at cornerback in 2005 is making a surge. T.J. Bell had his best spring of his Cowboys career hoping it's not too little too late to get him some quality playing time.

"I believe so, me and Defo have a five-year relationship and I've been coming up here before with Tatum playing here," said Bell of being comfortable in having Joe DeForest as his coach. "He understands me and knows how to coach me and makes everything easier. It is crunch time and I need to show them I can make plays and get on the field."

"T.J. has done the best job of anybody in my group of coming along," said DeForest. "He has been moved around his entire time here. He has gone from cornerback to safety and really done a great job of making the transition."

Another player, at free safety, that has shown he wants to get on the field is Antoine. "When I first saw him I thought that is a pretty big guy, I thought he was a linebacker and he is a big guy but he has speed and he will bring it to you," said Sexton.

He is big and he is physical and he started drawing attention from everybody as soon as the pads went on in the spring and he started leveling anybody with the ball that he could get to. In actuality, Antoine, who has a great story coming from Haiti during his high school days and having played only four years of organized football, loves playing the game. He is 6-1 and 205 pounds but plays much bigger as evidenced by his nickname.

"The nickname The Punisher came about before his arrival here," said Gundy, who calls him almost exclusively by that nickname. "Somebody told me they nicknamed him that and I told him we would carry that on as long as he kept making big hits. He made a big hit early on here so we've been calling him The Punisher. I told him I call him that because it is hard to pronounce his first name, so I just go with The Punisher. He has done a great job in all areas. Obviously, if you run across the middle at any time he can hit you, and receivers are aware of that. We hope that becomes contagious with our secondary.

"I'll tell you where he really has impressed me is in handling his everyday activity," continued Gundy. "I always worry about mid-term guys getting out of bed and getting to class and staying out of trouble. If they can't do that then they can't perform out here and he is a guy that has stayed in a straight line and really handled everything. He never shows up on any lists, works hard in practice, and makes some plays. He makes nice hits and seems to be in decent position most of the time and I see him show up in drills, which is a good sign."

Beckman and his defensive teammates like him because in a short span he has done a lot toward changing the personality of the defense.

"I like those guys that will bring the wood, bring those pads and that is what the game of defense is all about," said Beckman. "He does have a huge work ethic and it is rubbing off on the other junior college players because he has become somewhat the leader of that group. He just continues to get better."

"Big Lu, that's what we call him Big Lu, he came in and gave us a whole bunch of hitting energy and made it look so fun back there attacking guys like he does," said Lacey.

"It seems like since Lucien got here everybody in the secondary is playing more physical and making big hits," said Sexton. "T.J. Bell is making big hits. Markelle (Martin) came out of high school and you've even seen little A.D. (Al'Darius Thompson) making hits. You're going to see everybody making big hits and forcing turnovers and giving our offense more chances."

Comparison: The 2005 secondary was good with some favorite Cowboy performers like Martel Van Zant and tiny Daniel McLemore. But the 2005 group was not as explosive, strong or as fast as the secondary the Cowboys will put on the field this season. T.J. Bell, Jacob Lacey and Quinton Moore are common denominators. Lacey and Moore are proof that this year's group is better than 2005. Moore made the biggest hit by any defensive back in the 2005 season when he nearly took off the head of an Arkansas State receiver. Jacob Lacey had the best game by any defensive back that season with his sensational effort in the nickel back role in the upset win over Texas Tech.

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