By Sam Agnitsch, @SABedlamBrother
In part one, we looked at the offensive side of the ball, this time, we sight our sets on the D. After a decent beginning of the 2015 season, the Pokes stumbled hard to finish the year defensively giving up at least 45 points in each of the final three losses. We’ll examine how OSU looks to bounce back and retool, as well as make some predictions on the year.
There’s no doubt defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will have his work cut out for him. Replacing a top 35 NFL draft pick in Emanuel Ogbah and defensive anchor Jimmy Bean will be a challenge, especially for a defense that hangs its hat on being aggressive. The good news, however, is the talent level won’t drop off too much; the bad news is the experience level will. How the Pokes adapt to the next generation of defensive youngsters, especially with several high-pressure games on the road, will really define the ceiling on this season.
Perhaps the area with the most turnover from last season, the boys up front will need to adjust quickly. Junior defensive tackle and 6’3 310 pound building of a man Vincent Taylor looks to be the new anchor on the line that features only one senior in its depth chart. He will be most likely be starting alongside said Senior Motekiai Maile who, coming in above 300 pounds as well, should provide a solid gap-filling tandem. Replacing Ogbah will be the most daunting task, OSU needs pass rushers like Thayer Evans needs a new job but who’s next up? It’s increasing looking like the edge responsibilities will go to sophomore pair Jordan Brailford and Jarrell Owens. Owens will bring more of a power rush to compliment Barailford’s speed on the edge, either way, someone needs to consistently get to the QB by any means necessary. Don’t be surprised to see a deep rotation with this bunch as the Cowboy coaching staff has alluded to recently.
One of the most underrated losses in the entire conference last year was losing MLB Ryan Simmons last year to a knee injury. The senior quarterbacked the defense and it was no coincidence things went off the rails after he went down, his replacement, however, is a good one in junior Chad Whitener who got much-needed prep work after Simmons went down last year finishing 3rd highest on the team in tackles with 93. On his sides will be Seniors Jordan Burton and Devante Averette both of whom have breakout potential this season. Having an older group behind the kids up front should help stabilize the defense and lead to some valuable turnover opportunities.
The strongest group of the defense, if the Pokes want to compete for the title this unit will have to lead the way. Returning maybe the best safety duo in the conference, Senior Jordan Sterns, and Junior Tre Flowers look to continue their success. Sterns is an absolute stud, leading the team in tackles with 108 last season and providing many key plays throughout the year. Flanking him at the CB slots will be Senior Ashton Lampkin and Junior Ramon Richards. With every member of the secondary (including the backups) being 5’11” or taller the Cowboys have size in the secondary not usually seen in Stillwater. Fans will be banking on that helping in the interceptions department, especially with so much experience in the linebackers and secondary units.
The Pokes will start the season with a manageable nonconference schedule and six out of the first eight games at home, the bad news is matchups with conference juggernauts Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor and Kansas State will all be on the road making for a brutal test on an inexperienced defense. They will need to ride that initial home momentum wave early and carry it into the latter half of the season when the schedule gets downright ridiculous. In kind of an odd twist from last year, Cowboys could actually lose four games and be a better team than last year with the way the schedule works. Be sure to rub a mullet for good luck Saturday.
The Cowboys finish the year similar to last season dropping the final two games on the road at TCU and at Oklahoma going a respectable 10-2, booking themselves yet another Cotton Bowl appearance. Mike Gundy will try to provide a spark midseason by frosting his mullet tips but to no avail, some years the schedule is just too much.
Part 1: https://bedlambrother.com/2016/08/03/osu-football-preview-12/