With that in mind, and our determination to bring a fresh approach to an age old preseason football magazine chore of previewing a team position by position, we are going to preview the 2009 Cowboys by presenting two scenarios at each position. There will be the best-case scenario in which the team deals with no injuries and no drop-off in production from last season at each position, and what that position can contribute to the season. Then we will follow the best case scenario with what we call the fire-drill scenario. This will present potential catastrophic problems and what can be done and which players could step up to keep the team going and the excitement from the preseason prognostications of an epic campaign alive.
Obviously, we are rooting for the best case scenario but head coach Mike Gundy will be the first one to tell you that in the course of a college football season – especially one where a team plays a schedule with six likely opponents in the Top 25, seven teams that went to bowl games in 2008, and the ultra-rugged Big 12 South – there are always pitfalls and adversity, most in the form of injuries. You have to have a team that is ready to execute a fire drill and get it right.
31-Lucien Antoine, 6-1, 208, Sr., Coral Springs, Fla./Fort Scott C.C., Kan.
12-Johnny Thomas, 6-0, 185, So., Texas City, Texas
10-Markelle Martin, 6-1, 185, So., Wichita Falls (Rider), Texas
10-Walker Smith, 5-11, 190, Jr., Nichols Hills, Okla./Wheaton College, Ill.
35-Mathies Long, 6-1, 202, Jr., Desoto (Bishop Dunne), Texas
17-Joe Mitchell, 6-3, 215, Fr., Katy (Morton Ranch), Texas
23-Terrance Anderson, 5-11, 175, Sr., Aldine, Texas
7-Maurice Gray, 5-9, 178, Sr., Kathleen, Ga., Butler Co. C.C., Kan.
6-Andrew McGee, 6-0, 190, Jr., Magee, Miss./Copiah-Lincoln C.C., Miss.
19-Broderick Brown, 5-8, 166, R-Fr., Houston (Westfield), Texas
8-Daytawion Lowe, 6-1, 185, Fr., Midwest City (Carl Albert), Okla.
18-Andrae May, 6-1, 180, Fr., Galena Park (North Shore), Texas
You have to go back a few years to find this kind of overall talent and depth in Oklahoma State's secondary. It's young at the safety position, but all three of those sophomores got a taste of it last season playing as true freshmen, and they have ability. They also have an older player to lead them, if by nothing else than example. Lucien Antoine is also known as "The Punisher" for his love of hitting on the football field. You also have one of the best tacklers on the team in Victor Johnson. The corner position is experienced with three seniors there including four-year starter Perrish Cox and reliable Terrance Anderson.
Best Case: Everybody stays healthy especially Antoine, who was lost for the season to a knee injury in the first quarter of the second game of last season. The other safeties are young, and they have to continue to develop and eliminate mistakes. The positive is that when Victor Johnson, Johnny Thomas, and Markelle Martin make mistakes they do so going 100 mph. The Cowboys even found a walk-on during the spring in Walker Smith that they feel can play and certainly can help out on special teams.
The cornerbacks need to play up to their potential, and there is enough depth that if a player gets run deep a few times downfield then there is somebody capable ready to come in and take some reps. Cox and Anderson could both be shut-down type guys in the passing game.
"That's all we want to do, is get the ball," said Cox of their role in the defense. "We could care less, we want to see turnovers. We want to go get the ball, and we want everybody talking about the defense.
"We have nine seniors on the starting defense, and it is kind of easy since we are running the same plays," added the senior cornerback. "We are on the same page, doing what we have to do, and working together."
Gray is a physical player and McGee did not look like a newcomer after about the first week of the spring. Another pleasant surprise was Broderick Brown. At 5-8 he is short, but he plays much taller and is very physical as well.
Fire Drill: The good news is there is depth, but you hate to see injuries in the secondary. One aspect of good play in the secondary is an awareness and a comfort with the other players back there. The Cowboys need to keep the continuity back there, and they need to have the ability to rotate. Offenses like Texas Tech and Houston can cause you stress with the 50 to 60 passes they will throw in a game. The ability to rotate and give the corners a breather is a luxury that can help win games. Losing Cox and/or Anderson could cause some instability in the back end of the defense.