Is The Cowboy Defense Better?

Mike Gundy is just an anxious as every other Oklahoma State fan to see how much better the Cowboy defense will be in 2008. The Cowboy head coach knows the defense must be improved over last season – when it ranked 79th in scoring defense, 101st in total defense and 112th in pass defense – if Oklahoma State hopes to win Saturday against Washington State, and have a successful season.

Gundy talked about the Cowboy defense – which includes four junior college transfers who are expected to see significant playing time in Saturday's nationally televised season opener (Fox Sports Net) – during his weekly news conference Monday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

But just how much better will Cowboys be in the second year under defensive coordinator Tim Beckman?

"It's hard to say," said Gundy. "We have a pretty good feel for where we think the new players will fit in, and the maturity ... Jeray Chatham's better, Derek Burton's better, Junior Tea's better, (Jacob) Lacey's better, Pat Lavine is now going into his third year, (and) he's matured. Orie Lemon has showed up and is making plays.

"But it's hard to say how much better. I think a true test obviously comes at game time, and then how they stay together and how they progress as the season goes on. They're not going to all of a sudden become a Steel Curtain in Seattle. But they're better, (and) they're more mature, they're faster and I think our team chemistry on that side of the ball is better."

The depth chart lists 11 defensive players who started at least one game a year ago, including Chatham (at defensive tackle), Lavine (at linebacker), Andre Sexton, Ricky Price and Jacob Lacey (in the secondary). Sexton has been moved to the STAR linebacker position this season. But the addition of junior college transfers like defensive tackle Swanson Miller, defensive end Jeremiah Price, cornerback Maurice Gray and free safety Lucien Antoine give Beckman more depth – and options – than the Cowboys have had in a number of years.

Gundy believes the Cowboys are faster and more physical on defense than they've been in any of his previous three seasons as head coach.

"We'll be better on defense from a depth and a speed standpoint. It's hard to say you're going to go from a hundred and whatever you were to 50. Statistics can be misleading and I've never really gotten into them that much. We're better now on defense than we were because they understand the system, we have more depth, and we have more maturity there just from he age factor," Gundy says.

"The junior college players aren't going to step in and play 50 plays in a game. That's not going to happen. But if they can step in and play 12 to 15 (plays), it will be a lot better than what some of the guys had to go through last year. I think we'll see more results through the middle and latter part of the season."

Gundy also said Monday that he will be calling plays for the high-powered Cowboy offense. He took over the play-calling duties in last December's 49-33 victory over Indiana in the Insight Bowl when offensive coordinator Larry Fedora left to become head coach at Southern Mississippi. Gundy said that he will work closely with co-offensive coordinators Gunter Brewer and Trooper Taylor and the rest of the offensive staff to call plays.

"I don't want to go into a lot of details about it but I've said this before, the way our system is run it's really over-rated (who is calling the plays)," Gundy said. Our offense is at the line and we've got a play called, the adjustments are made while the 40-second play clock is running. We'll have coaches in the box looking at things that the play caller can't see (from the sideline), and those adjustments are made. I haven't talked much about it because being inside our system and seeing what happens, it can be somewhat over-rated.

"The system that Larry (Fedora) brought in here is a very good system, and we believe in it. Larry is a very good football coach, and a good play caller. I'm not taking anything away from him or the way it was. But a lot of what we do is based on reaction and what happens on game day," Gundy continued.

"I believe in the staff in that offensive room. I believe in (Curtis) Luper, and Trooper (Taylor), and (Joe) Wickline, and (Doug) Meacham. They all bring something different to the table. It's enjoyable for me to be in there in the room with them during the week. Just the strategy that goes into it is the funest part of being a coach. Being in my office and dealing with all the other issues is not fun, but going in there and coaching offense is fun. So that's why I'm back involved.

"We just feel like this is the best way to start. And it can change, maybe in a game or can change maybe after a game. It doesn't have to be permanent. As I've said before, I believe there are several guys in that room that can call plays but it starts with one person. It's already done any way. It's already scripted and finished for the first game, and it will be every week on Thursday morning prior to that week's game."

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