2008 Oklahoma State Preview - Defense

Posted May 9, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Oklahoma State Cowboy Defense

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Oklahoma State Preview | 2008 OSU Offense

- 2008 OSU Defense | 2008 OSU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN OSU Preview | 2006 CFN OSU Preview 

What you need to know:
Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman is on a bit of a hot seat. He has the athletes to work with, and now he hast o come up with some production. The Cowboys will use a combination of a 4-3 and a 4-2-5 as Andre Sexton moves around in the Star position, but the real key will be the play against the run. There has to be better toughness up front against the stronger teams, and more of a pass rush would be nice with an average, but fast secondary returning several good players like CB Jacob Lacey and S Rickey Price. In influx of JUCO talent could make a night and day difference with Swanson Miller and Jeremiah Price for the line, Donald Booker for the linebacking corps, and Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine for the secondary.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Patrick Levine, 81
Sacks: Derek Burton, 3.5
Interceptions: Jacob Lacey, 5

Star of the defense: Junior LB/S Andre Sexton
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Jeray Chatham
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Lucien Antoine
Best pro prospect: Sexton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sexton, 2) LB Patrick Lavine, 3) CB Jacob Lacey
Strength of the defense: Experience, athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Production, interceptions

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Both defensive ends, Marque Fountain and Nathan Peterson, have to be replaced, but they didn't produce enough. Sophomore Ugo Chinasa will get a long look at one spot after making 13 tackles as a reserve. At 6-6 and 250 pounds, he's a tall, rangy player who was a top recruit and a great get for the Cowboys. He hasn't been able to break out after getting hurt early in his career, but with his size and speed, he should grow into a major pass rushing terror in a hurry.

On the other side will be junior Derek Burton, who at 6-5 and 265 pounds brings good size and nice athleticism. A good pass rusher who made 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks in a limited role, he'll be the main man offensive coordinators have to worry about. Now he has to prove he can be consistent.

Back at his starting spot on the nose is senior Jeray Chatham, a 6-3, 280-pound former offensive lineman who made 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but didn't do nearly enough to anchor the line. He was durable and proved to be strong at holding up against the bigger, stronger interior linemen, but he needs to do more against the run.

6-3, 275-pound sophomore Quencey Patrick is a Georgia native who got away from the SEC and looks promising on the inside after making eight tackles in a limited role. While he's undersized, he's a quick interior defender with the potential to get into the backfield on a regular basis. He'll have to show right away that he's strong enough to make plays against the power running teams.

Projected Top Reserves: Top JUCO transfer Swanson Miller will eventually be a starter on the inside. At 6-4 and 300 pounds, he provides the raw bulk needed at tackle, and he's productive. While it was at the lowest level, he still made 79 tackles and 5.5 sacks last season for Butler County CC, and he'll be counted on to play a big role from day one.

While Burton is an almost certain starter, he'll have to fight off hard charging redshirt freshman Jamie Blatnick, a potential break out star who dominated throughout spring bal. The 6-3, 255-pounder could be too strong a pass rusher to keep off the field.

Ready to make a huge impact on the end is 6-2, 245-pound JUCO transfer Jeremiah Price after coming up with 10 sacks and 42 tackles for Jones County JC. He's a pass rushing specialist who's expected to push for time on both sides. He's too athletic to keep off the field.

Working on the inside again will be 6-0, 300-pound senior Tonga Tea after making 13 tackles as a spot starter. The former JUCO All-American has to do a better of clogging the middle. The Anchorage, Alaska native did a good job of slimming down after coming to OSU at 320 pounds, but he needs to play bigger against the run. 
Watch Out For ... Miller. No job is safe on a defensive front that struggled so much last year, and Miller, a JUCO all-star, could take over a tackle spot on day one.
Strength: Size. The line beefed up with all the newcomers with decent size compared to past Cowboy lines. It's hardly a huge front four, but there are enough big bodies to do more against the run and be more physical.
Weakness: Production. The line didn't do enough to get into the backfield and it struggled against the better rushing teams. The key will be to get to the quarterback on a regular basis, but there can't be so many big plays allowed against the top backs.
Outlook: There's decent promise and a lot of hope for several young players to come through, but this could be a year of transition before a big 2009. This doesn't have to be a spectacular group, but it has to be more than just serviceable. While the final stats against the run weren't that bad, the line gave up big yards to Texas and Oklahoma and allowed the secondary to get bombed on after not getting into the backfield enough. Generating consistent pressure is a must.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters
6-3, 225-pound junior Patrick Lavine has been a producer from day one making 70 tackles as a freshman and following it up with an 81-tackle sophomore campaign with 4.5 tackles for loss and six broken up passes. A high school safety, he's a natural on the weakside with great range and good pass coverage abilities. One of the team's most versatile defenders, he's able to be moved around where needed and is able to produce.

Junior Andre Sexton was fourth on the team with 69 tackles at strong safety, and now he'll move to the Star position, the combination linebacker/safety position, where he should be able to use his tackling ability and toughness as more of a playmaker near the line. He's only 6-1 and 210 pounds, but he's smart, hits like a bigger player, and is tough enough to handle the workload.

Junior Orie Lemon finally found a position. After being considered for several difference spots, the former high school quarterback will get the first look in the middle after making three tackles in a limited special teams role. At 6-1 and 240 pounds, he has excellent size and great range, but he's unproven.

Projected Top Reserves: On the way is JUCO star Donald Booker after earning All-America honors at Navarro JC. At 6-0 and 225 pounds, he's a bit undersized, but he's a fantastic hitter, a sure tackler, and good against the pass. He can play either outside position and could even see a little time inside if needed.

Wile Lemon will get the first shot at the starting job in the middle, 6-2, 235-pound sophomore Justin Gent is the rising star of the linebacking corps after a huge spring. He made nine tackles as a reserve, and now he's going to be a regular in the rotation in the middle with great range and good tackling skills.

Watch Out For ... plenty of movement and lots of changing up of the formations. There aren't any sure-thing defenders outside of Lavine, so the coaching staff will have to play around with the personnel to find the right fit. This is a different corps than last year, and it'll require some time.
Strength: Lavine. He's a rock-solid defender with the type of versatility needed to play several different spots. He's a good talent who gets lost in the all-conference shuffle, but he's as good in pass coverage as any linebacker in the Big 12.
Weakness: Proven production. Lemon has to be healthy all year long and consistent in the middle, and Booker has to make a quick transition from the JUCO ranks. Lavine is the only sure things, while Sexton might serve more as a safety at times than a linebacker.
Outlook: Can the group start to make plays against the run. A big time disappointment last season considering all the returning talent, now the linebacking corps is a question mark with several unproven players needing to shine through early on. Assume Sexton is a linebacker at the star position to add a veteran presence to the group, but there will be stretches when the defense is in a 4-2-5 alignment.
Rating: 6.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
With Andre Sexton playing the combination linebacker/safety spot, senior Rickey Price will step in at strong safety after spending last year at free safety. The 6-1, 195-pound veteran is a former wide receiver who's far better suited for free safety, but he proved last year he could hit making 78 tackles with a sack. He needs to do more when the ball is in the air, but he should be a good last line of defense against the run.

It'll be a battle for the free safety job, but senior Quinton Moore is a good veteran who's ready for a bigger role. At 5-11 and 185 pounds, he's a bit small for the job, but he's a veteran making 58 tackles and an interception. With a little bit of starting experience and great range, he's ready to be a consistent starter and could move to corner from time to time.

Back at the Boundary Corner is ball-hawking senior Jacob Lacey, the team's best pickoff man took away five with nine broken up passes and 63 tackles. At 5-11 and 175 pounds, he's a big small and has problems with bigger, more physical receivers, but he's extremely fast.

Working at the Field Corner spot will be 6-0, 180-pound junior Terrance Washington after making 26 tackles in a backup role. He worked his way into the starting role this offseason with good wheels and emerging ball skills, but he has to get healthy after suffering an ankle injury.

Projected Top Reserves: Can Moore hold off The Punisher? Star JUCO transfer Lucien Antoine could take over the free safety job early on and become one of the team's top tacklers. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, he has good size and lights-out hitting ability. He earned All-America honors at Fort Scott CC as a top pass defender and dangerous factor behind the line. He's a sure tackler.

Junior Perrish Cox isn't really a reserve. He started for more than half the season at corner making 42 tackles with two interceptions and eight broken up passes, and at 6-1, 190 pounds he has excellent size and coverage skills. He's also a tremendous kick returner with three career touchdowns and gaudy averages. He'll work behind Anderson on the field side and will come in for nickel situations.
Watch Out For ... The Punisher. Antoine proved throughout the off-season that he'll be a difference maker at safety. He might not cover like a corner at all times, but he's good in coverage and likes to pack a wallop.
Strength: Tackling ability. It's not a plus when the defensive backs have to make so many stops against the run, and while they're able to tackle, they need to spend more time working on making plays on the ball.
Weakness: Interceptions. After picking off a mere 15 in the previous two seasons, the Cowboys got 12 last year with Lacey picking off five of them. This group didn't get much help from the pass rush, but they didn't accomplish much when it had the chance. Three of the interceptions came in a losing cause to Texas.
Outlook: The secondary has tremendous athleticism and several good players, but they didn't do nearly enough against the pass. Texas Tech bombed away for 646 yards and five scores. Kansas State threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, OSU finished dead last in the Big 12 in pass defense and didn't do much of anything to slow down anyone who could throw. With some good players like Price and Lacey to work around, there's no excuse for the secondary to not be better.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters
The placekicking was a disappointment last year, but sophomore Dan Bailey hopes to steady the ship. He only hit two of four field goal chances with the long from 28 yards out, but he has a decent leg that tops out just inside 50 yards.

The star of the kicking game is senior Matt Fodge, a rock-solid kicker with a big leg averaging 42.4 yards per try last season and with a gaudy 42.2 average on 166 kicks. He could do more to put it inside the 20 and he didn't work well with the coverage team, but he's a good one who needs to use his experience to pin teams deep.

Cornerback Perrish Cox is a fantastic returner averaging 22.6 yards per kickoff returns over the course of his career and 11.9 yards per punt return. He'll earn plenty of all-star honors and will take at least one kick back for a score.
Watch Out For ... Bailey to be an issue. The kicking game was supposed to be a major strength, and is wasn't. Bailey hasn't shown anything yet to suggest he can be a clutch performer. Jason Ricks, the star placekicker going into last year, isn't with the program any more.
Strength: Cox. He's a weapon for the return game who forces teams to come up with a plan B. He's too good to see the ball in his hands in space; everyone will try to stay away from him.
Weakness: The coverage units. Actually, the kickoff coverage improved, but the punt team couldn't seem to come up with a stop. Fodge is an all-star, but he has to do a better job of putting some air under the ball to let his coverage team do its thing.
Outlook: The special teams were supposed to be a major strength last year, and they weren't. Fodge is an all-star who'll be a key weapon, but Bailey has to show something early on to inspire confidence. Cox is special.