2013 Oklahoma State Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Oklahoma State Cowboy Defense
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Get ready for the new and improved Oklahoma State defense. It hasn't been as bad as the stats, but it's time for the secondary to stop being a punching bag. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has put the call out to start bringing the heat from all sides, and that means more blitzing and a lot more attacking. Fortunately, there's enough speed, quickness and experience to do just that. However, the stars could be at tackle, where Calvin Barnett and James Castleman should be rocks. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey are two excellent linebackers to work around, while the safety tandem of Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary should be among the best in the Big 12. With the pass rush, the corners have to be able to handle themselves, and Justin Gilbert and the speedy Kevin Peterson need to make big plays.
Star of the defense: Senior DT Calvin Barnett
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe, 75
Sacks: Tyler Johnson, 4
Interceptions: Shamiel Gary, Daytawion Lowe, 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Tyler Johnson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Kevin Peterson
Best pro prospect: Senior FS Daytawion Lowe
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Barnett, 2) Lowe, 3) LB Shaun Lewis
Strength of the defense: Experience, Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Veteran Ends
The defensive front had no problems getting behind the line, but now it has to start finding its way to the quarterback a bit more starting with Tyler Johnson, a pass rushing specialist who tied for the team lead with four sacks with 27 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Now the senior is getting a starting end job, and while he's not built for the rigors at 6-1 and 245 pounds, he's feisty. The former prospect in the Anaheim Angel farm system is always working.
The other side isn't as clear cut with the combination of sophomores Jimmy Bean and Trance Clark seeing time. The 6-5, 245-pound Bean was supposed to be a big part of the rotation last season before getting hurt, but he's ready to go and should be a pass rushing terror with a little bit of time. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, Clark is a little bit bulkier and can do a little of everything. After seeing a little time as a true freshman, making five tackles, he's getting the chance to be a big part of the mix.
Anchoring the front four is First Team All-Big 12 star Calvin Barnett, a 6-2, 300-pound former JUCO transfer stepped on the field and did everything right making 30 tackles with a sack and eight tackles for loss. A superstar recruit for Arkansas, he was a huge get for the Cowboys and paid off right away as the exact tackle the line needed. While he's quick off the ball, he's at his best using his strength to occupy blockers on the inside – stats don't tell the whole story of what he does. He'll be backed up by senior Davidell Collins, an undersized 6-5, 275-pounder who has worked as an energetic reserve over the last few years including nine tackles with two broken up passes last season.
6-2, 296-pound James Castleman turned into one of the bigger surprises last year, taking over a starting job on the inside to go from being a great prospect to a strong defender. Quick, he came up with 30 tackles with a sack, 6.5 tackles for loss and a pick before getting knocked out late in the season hurt. A terrific athlete, he should be perfect for the next system, backed up by 6-3, 293-pound senior Anthony Rogers, who stepped in and started over the final two games. A strong part of the rotation, he made ten tackles with three tackles for loss after making 21 stops two years ago. He has pass rushing skills, but he's not the athlete Castleman is.
Watch Out For … Naim Mustafaa. A pair of JUCO transfers, end Sam Wren and tackle Ofa Hautau will likely make more of an immediate impact, but Mustafaa is the best prospect. The true freshman has 6-4, 235-pound size with tremendous athleticism and speed. Always working and always fighting, he could be an instant pass rushing specialist.
Strength: The tackles. Barnett is one of the best in college football and Castleman should be a terror at times into the backfield. Rogers is a veteran backup who can keep everyone fresh and start when needed. The interior should be a rock.
Weakness: Consistent run defense. It improved after a rocky 2011, but it was inconsistent. The stats were helped by facing Texas Tech and Savannah State, but for the most part the run D did its job. When it didn't, the results were rough. Arizona was able to rumble without a problem and Kansas State pounded away, but it was Baylor that went nuts tearing off 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Outlook: After making some key replacements, the front four turned in a strong season helped by the emergence of Barnett. The ends might be a bit of a question mark, but they'll put up big numbers with the emphasis on being more aggressive up front.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Senior Shaun Lewis followed up a nice sophomore campaign by earning all-star honors on the strongside making 58 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. The 5-11, 225-pounder is quick, active, and good in pass protection, and now he's going to be asked to do even more to get to the quarterback. A rock, he's as dependable as any OSU defender, and he has been among the most consistent performers. With his timing and burst, he should be a statistical superstar. Backing him up is senior Joe Mitchell, a 6-3, 225-pound former safety who was fantastic in the rotation coming up with 26 tackles and three sacks as a reserve. He moves well and doesn't miss a stop.
Returning to his spot in the middle is senior Caleb Lavey, sure-hitting 6-3, 235-pound veteran who has established himself as the quarterback of the D making 53 tackles with 1.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. A former top recruit got a little lighter and a little quicker, and while he didn't put up huge numbers, he did everything right on the inside with great smarts and instincts. Working as the understudy is Demarcus Sherod, a 6-0, 225-pound sophomore who made seven tackles and two tackles for loss in his limited time. While he's undersized, he's extremely athletic with great range.
6-0, 242-pound sophomore Ryan Simmons has the look of a future star after coming up with 23 tackles and five tackles for loss in his first year after getting hurt. A great recruit for the middle, he's big, quick and physical with big-hitting ability, but he has the athleticism to handle himself well on the weakside. Adding even more quickness is 6-1, 225-pound sophomore Kris Catlin, who spent most of last year as a special teamer finishing with nine tackles. A sure tackler, he'll put up big numbers when he gets his chances.
Watch Out For … the hounds to be released. Glenn Spencer has put the call out to get everyone into the backfield on a regular basis, and the outside linebackers will attack, attack to get to the passer. The pressure will come from the secondary, too, but the linebackers will do most of the blitzing.
Strength: Experience. This was a veteran group coming into last season, and now it's full of experience playmakers with Lewis a big-time factor on the outside and Lavey a terrific veteran inside. The reserves have just enough time to be fine when needed.
Weakness: Quick option teams. Arizona and Baylor were able to crank up big numbers with their speed, and Kansas State used its power and spread attack to riddle the linebacking corps. This is a good group of tacklers, but it's not the most physical crew against the power teams.
Outlook: The linebackers were excellent at times last year and should be a major strength this year. The pressure will start coming from the outside a bit more, and more plays will be funneled in to Lavey. A little more consistency would be nice, but overall the production will come.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Once again, the star of the secondary and the defense was senior Daytawion Lowe, a big-hitting free safety who came back from a shoulder injury to lead the team with 97 tackles two years ago, and he followed it up with 75 stops with a sack, two picks and four broken up passes. The 5-11, 205-pounder is a terrific athlete with all the tools showing off great speed and range – he's one of the team's fastest players – and he doesn't miss a play in the open field. Senior Larry Stephens is another athletic veteran who can step in and produce. At 5-10 and 185 pounds, he's a bit smallish, but the former corner can hit making 16 tackles with a tackle for loss.
Senior Shamiel Gary started out his career at Wyoming before transferring over. A fantastic tackler for two years for the Cowboys, made 98 stops as a true freshman and followed it up with 94 more. After sitting out a year, he came out roaring for OSU, starting every game at strong safety making 72 tackles with two picks and four broken up passes, doing a great job against the run. At 6-0 and 210 pounds, he's like a smallish linebacker.
Senior Lyndell Johnson turned into a key backup in a variety of roles finishing with 28 tackles, two picks, two sacks and seven tackles for loss. The 6-3, 215-pounder will be a pass rusher in the new system and could be a dangerous statistical force. He'll combine with Zack Craig, a 6-1, 200-pound senior who worked his way on the field making 14 tackles with a sack and a pick. A big-time special teamer, he blocked two kicks.
Senior Justin Gilbert is the team's best corner, finishing fourth with 63 tackles with two tackles for loss. He didn't pick off any passes, but he was a ball-hawker breaking up nine passes. Big and versatile, the 6-0, 200-pounder finds a way to get to the ball. On the other side will be sophomore Kevin Peterson, one of the team's fastest players with Oklahoma state champion-level track speed and good tackling ability making 20 stops with two broken up passes. A high-character leader, the 5-11, 185-pounder handles himself well and should make a big difference against Big 12 speed receivers – no one he matches up with will be faster.
Watch Out For … Jordan Sterns. The Cowboys loaded up with prospects for the secondary, but Sterns is the best on the lot with 6-1, 195-pound size and uncanny instincts when the ball is in the air. A natural leader and playmaker, he'll eventually put up big numbers at either safety spot.
Strength: Veterans. Lowe is a Big 12 warrior and Gary showed what he could do last season, and Gilbert has shown he can be a rock at one corner. It's not a bad thing that the one new starter – Peterson – is one of the Big 12's fastest players.
Weakness: Lots of yards. It's the Big 12 so almost everyone likes to bomb away, but the secondary still gave up too many yards. There weren't many big plays allowed, but quarterbacks had few problems dinking and dunking on the secondary.
Outlook: The Cowboys weren't bad in pass efficiency defense, but it allowed way too many yards. After giving up 3,534 passing yards two years ago, the OSU defense allowed 3,640 last season with 20 scores. Oklahoma bombed away for 512 yards, West Virginia threw for 401, and everyone but Savannah State threw for more than 200 yards. The talent is there, and now the production has to follow.
Unit Rating: 7
Gone is Quinn Sharp, the do-it-all kicker who blasted away as a kicker and was brilliant as a punter. It'll be a fight for both jobs with sophomore Bobby Stonebraker trying to step in and be as consistent a placekicker. The former walk-on can bomb away, but he has to show he can be consistent like Sharp. Junior Michael Reichenstein has been waiting in the wings for the punting job, and he should be more than fine. He has a big leg and should blast away on a regular basis.
Justin Gilbert turned in a huge year as a kickoff returner, averaging 25.8 yards per try with a touchdown. He can fly with excellent straight-line speed, while receiver Josh Stewart will handle the punt return job after cranking out a 64-yarder on one of his two attempts. Charlie Moore will also get another shot after averaging 7.2 yards per try.
Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Kip Smith. Call him the X factor for both kicking jobs. He has the leg to battle for time, and he'll get the chance to try being another Sharp to do everything.
Strength: Gilbert. The Cowboys were amazing on kickoff returns, and it was all because of Gilbert, leading the way. The team finished 11th in the nation netting just under 25 yards per try.
Weakness: Quinn Sharp. The coverage teams are the biggest issue after getting torched for 12.3 yards per punt return and 24.7 yards per kickoff return, but replacing Sharp is almost as rough. He averaged 46.3 yards per punt and nailed 28-of-34 field goals with three of his misses coming from beyond 50.
Outlook: The special teams has to hope for the new kickers to come close to matching Sharp's production, while the coverage teams have to be night-and-day better. The returners should be a major plus.
Unit Rating: 5
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2013 Oklahoma State Defense |
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