One-on-One With Bill Young

Last season Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young and his staff of Joe DeForest, Glenn Spencer and Jason Jones (along with graduate assistant Vinson Reynolds) and the Cowboy players made a major climb in defensive performance. It was truly one of the best defensive seasons in years as the Cowboys held opponents to 95.8 yards per game, good enough to be ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

Opponents averaged 21.7 points and 332.6 yards per game. The Cowboys improved their sacks to 29 on the season for 203 yards in losses. They forced 30 turnovers including picking off 18 passes. The opposition converted only 34 percent of third-down situations meaning the defense got off the field beeter than they had in several seasons.

Young is losing eight starters off the defensive starting line-up in the Cotton Bowl. But because of rotations there is a lot of experience returning in the form of second teamers that got a lot of snaps - veterans like defensive tackles Shane Jarka, Chris Donaldson, and Nigel Nicholas.

At linebacker, Orie Lemon (coming off his season-ending knee injury), Tolu Moala, Justin Gent, and James Thomas all return. The safeties were young and the OSU corners will be green. However, Young is ready to go again and improve again on the defensive side of the ball.

We talked to the former Cowboy player and veteran coach as he heads into spring practice with high expectations, inside and outside the football offices.

GP: We haven't talked to you since the Cotton Bowl. I know you don't like to relish in games that aren't wins but that was one heckuva defensive effort in the game with Ole Miss.
Young: I appreciate that and we were really proud of them. I wish we could have played just a little bit better and given our offense just a little bit better field position and that could have been a difference maker.

GP: Let's jump into spring and talk about positions and combine it with the Cotton Bowl. Brodrick Brown had to jump in at cornerback because of a suspension. He had played very little because of a shoulde injury but boy did he play good. Cornerback is a depth concern, even with the new guys coming in, isn't it?
Young: Brodrick did a tremendous job and he hadn't tackled anybody in eight weeks because he had a broken arm and was just coming back off it. Even in our bowl practices he had a green jersey on to keep anybody from having contact with him, so we were extremely proud for him and that was great experience heading into spring ball. You talk about our corner position, we couldn't have been any more thin than we were. We have Brodrick and Andrae May coming back at that positon and bringing in Malcolm Murray (Mt. San Antonio J.C.) and Devin Hedgepeth (Derby H.S. in Kansas) at midterm made us two deep otherwise we would have had a difficult time practicing in the spring.

GP: There also is not a lot of depth at the safety position with Victor Johnson being out due to a late season knee injury.
Young: We'll have three guys that have done a great job there at safety in Markelle Martin, Johnny Thomas and Daytawion Lowe. But, obviously, missing Victor, you'd like to have a two deep but we'll have to find somebody to give us depth. We'll get someone the opportunity to step in there and get reps. We'll miss Victor, (and) Orie Lemon (linebacker) also won't participate fully because of his rehab (knee injury).

GP: At the time, before the Georgia game, when Orie injured his knee that looked bad but because of the way things shook out with Donald Booker filling in at middle linebacker it now looks like a blessing to get Orie back for this season.
Young: No question about it and we've talked about it. If we had to lose one guy, the depth was there at "mike" linebacker because of Booker and he stepped up and did a fabulous job for us. We were able to redshirt Orie and we think he will come back and we feel will have a chance to be as good a linebacker as there is in the country. So we are excited to have him back.

GP: Caleb Lavey is a young linebacker that comes in early this spring with a chance to get his feet wet. Joe Mitchell also comes in, a little late as he was part of the 2009 class, and he is pointed to the "star" linebacker position. That is another opportunity waiting to happen, isn't it? There are some guys like Tolu Moala and Justin Gent that can lead those guys a little bit.
Young: No question and just like you said, Joe Mitchell shows up and he is automatically second team. It is a great opportunity for him, a special situation and he needs to take advantage of it. By playing Justin Gent a lot last season I think he improved as much as any linebacker on the team. Glenn Spencer did such a good job of coaching those guys last season. He is really, really high on Justin.

GP: Now we get to the defensive line. If there is a mother lode on the team anywhere depth-wise it is at defensive end where you have experienced guys returning like Ugo Chinasa and Jamie Blatnick, but now you've added former tight ends Cooper Bassett, who I saw play defensive end very well in high school at Tuttle and Wilson Youman. You also have Jared Glover back after a year off due to a back injury. I know Bassett is looking forward to the change to defense.
Young: I'm not an expert ... I was coaching at another school in the Big 12 (Kansas) and we were the first ones to offer (Bassett) as a defensive end. I really liked him in high school and I have been re-recruiting him (to come over to defense) ever since I got here.

GP: Speaking of that, I sat in on a discussion recently and I can tell there may be a tug-of-war over freshman speedster Justin Gilbert of Huntsville, Texas. Offense wants him as a wide receiver and I know you guys want him to play corner.
Young: We really do and a lot of that is going to come down to how things unfold. We have Murray and Hedgepeth here now and we are bringing in a few other guys in the fall. We want to do whatever is best for the football team, just like the offensive coaches, and I'm sure what ever side of the ball he winds up on that he will help out tremendously.

GP: How about Jared Glover? I know how much he loves football and now he is back at defensive end. You add up all those guys at defensive end and you could have one heckuva rotation at that position.
Young: Last year we played 10 defensive linemen and our whole philosophy was to keep people fresh, running them in and running them out and then outwork the other team in the fourth quarter because we were so much fresher. Hopefully we will have that same scenario this season. If there is a position we are going to be short at it will be defensive tackle. We will need to have somebody step up at one of those positions (one and three technique). We have Donaldson, Jarka, and Nigel Nicholas, and we need Anthony Rogers or (Horace) Hubbard to step up at one of those positions.

GP: In the bowl practices some younger players stepped up. I was impressed with Anthony Rogers and linebacker LeRon Furr, who was making plays and being very physical.
Young: It is fantastic for us to be able to redshirt those guys and see them get stronger, faster, bigger and mature. When you will really see the difference is four years from now when they will be back for a fifth year as a senior.

GP: You mentioned Shane Jarka. He is back as a fifth-year senior and he plays with pain and sacrifices every day with his foot. He is one of those guys you have the utmost respect for. I know I do.
Young: I do too, Robert. Shane has done a tremendous job and we look for him to have a great senior year. He is working extremely hard in the off season. He had a good season last year and, at times, was playing as well as anybody that we had.

GP: I know you are excited about Dana Holgorsen as the new offensive coordinator but with that open spread, and we've seen it at other schools like Texas Tech, the defense doesn't get the looks in good on good, first team units going head to head. There are still conventional offenses in this league that will line up with a tight end and a fullback and run the football. With the change in offense are you concerned about that?
Young: There are pluses and minuses in playing against this offense. The pluses are you are going to see some of the best routes, spread offenses, vertical stretch and horizontal stretch of your passing game. Your secondary, linebackers, and defensive line are going to get better and better playing against the pass and that is going to have a carry over into the games for us.

The negative side of that is just what you said. We are going to line up (in the opener) against Washington State and they are going to be in 21 and 22 personnel and run the power, run the counter, the lead play. So what we have to do, and we visited with Ruffin McNeal (former Texas Tech defensive coordinator and now East Carolina head coach) and other coaches at Texas Tech, Houston, and Rice, schools that run this offense, and tried to get a gauge on what to do. Ruffin was a big help and so was Dana. He knows the limitations it would put on the defense.

We don't want to lose our toughness. We want to get in there nose to nose and be able to play the run and our philosophy is to stop the run, get them in long yardage situations and pin our ears back and rush the passer. What we'll do is that we'll take about 10 plays a day in camp, in spring ball and in the fall, and our offense is going to be our scout team and they will run 10 plays of anything we want to see whether it is the counter, the power, the lead, toss sweep, power pass ... plays we won't see out of our offense but we will see out of Nebraska and Kansas State and people on our schedule next fall.

That is the way we are going to go and Coach (Mike) Gundy is adamant that he wants us to keep getting better on defense. We will do the same thing for our offense. Anything they need to see we will do that for them. It is all a team effort and we need to be able to play the run, play the pass and be a real strong football team.

GP: Thanks Coach.
Young: Thank you Robert.

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