2009 Oklahoma State Preview - Defense
Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
Posted Jun 16, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Oklahoma State Cowboy Defense

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Oklahoma State Preview | 2009 OSU Offense
- 2009 OSU Defense | 2009 OSU Depth Chart
- 2008 OSU Preview | 2007 OSU Preview | 2006 OSU Preview

What you need to know:
With defensive coordinator taking off to take over the Toledo job, it'll be up to Bill Young to take all the athleticism and all the potential and improve on the situation. The first step is to generate some sort of a pass rush, especially from the ends, and while there are some good options to work with, it remains to be seen if there's any one play for quarterbacks to worry about. The linebackers will be the strength of the defense by far with starters Andre Sexton, Orie Lemon, and Patrick Lavine forming a sure-tackling trio that should be able to do more if the line is a bit better. The secondary can hit but coverage is a problem. The return of safety Lucien Antoine from a knee injury will be a plus, but the corners have to be more consistent.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Andre Sexton, 100
Sacks: Jeremiah Price, 3
Interceptions: Perrish Cox, Patrick Levine, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Andre Sexton
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DE Jamie Blatnick
Unsung star on the rise: Senior FS Lucien Antoine
Best pro prospect: Sexton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sexton, 2) LB Patrick Lavine, 3) LB Orie Lemon
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Pass Defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Back at his starting spot on the end, and needing to do more to get to the quarterback, is Ugo Chinasa, a 6-5, 253-pound junior who started every game and was the top tackler on the line making 24 stops, However, he only came up with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. A star recruit a few years ago, he hasn't lived up to his potential quite yet, but one of the big goals of new defensive coordinator Bill Young is to get him into the backfield more. He's going to be turned loose.

Taking over on the other side is Jamie Blatnick after making 13 tackles and a sack in his first season. The 6-3, 252-pound sophomore is a smart player who has made himself into a bigger, stronger option on the line, and he has the type of burst and quickness to become a major pass rusher in a full-time role.

6-3, 285-pound senior Derek Burton played most of last year at end but is far better suited for the inside. He got a start at both tackle spots and ended up making 23 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. However, he didn't progress as a pass rusher like he was supposed to. He should be better in a rotation at tackle where he should use his experience and athleticism to grow into an all-star.

Junior Shane Jarka has had problems with a leg injury, but he'll get the first look at a tackle spot after making ten stops last year. At 6-3 and 285 pounds, he's a decent-sized inside presence who can play end if needed. He'd make for a great 3-4 end and needs to use his quickness to generate pressure from the interior.

Projected Top Reserves: Swanson Miller was a star JUCO transfer who was supposed to make a huge impact right away. At 6-4 and 300 pounds, he brings a bigger, true-tackle body to the line, and he wasn't bad in his first season making 17 tackles. However, he didn't make the splash he was originally expected to after making 79 tackles with 5.5 sacks in his final year for Butler County CC. The senior will combined with Jarka at one tackle spot.

Senior Jeremiah Price might solve the teams pass rushing woes. The former JUCO transfer made three sacks in his first year, and while that might not seem like much, it led the team. He also made 22 tackles in his spot-starting role. The coaching staff thinks he could special after a dominant offseason, and while he'll start out behind Blatnick, he could be an all-star as a pass rushing specialist.

Richetti Jones was considered one of the nation's top end prospects a few years ago, but he suffered a hip injury in high school and hasn't been quite right yet. He made just five tackles last year, but now he appears to be ready to become a factor on the outside in a rotation with Chinasa. The 6-3, 255-pound sophomore is getting his groove back and appears ready to be the player the Cowboys were so excited to pick up.

Junior Chris Donaldson hadn't done much in the first part of his career and only made nine tackles last season, but he had a great spring and appears to be ready to be a nice cog in the system. He'll work in a rotation with Burton at one tackle spot, but the 6-2, 290-pounder could shake things up by taking over the job and allowing Burton to move around.
Watch Out For ... more of a pass rush. The call has gone out to Young to get his defense to get into the backfield on a more regular basis. It should happen. There's good experience and nice potential on the outside, and out of all the options, one star pass rusher should emerge. Will it be Price? Jones? Chinasa? It'll be worth keeping an eye on.
Strength: Size. This is a good-sized front at all four spots with ends pushing around 260 pounds and big backups at tackle to step in when needed for the starters. Good offenses were able to do what they wanted to against this line, but few pushed around the OSU front four. They won't be able to this year, either.
Weakness: Pass rush. There's a reason this was an area of work throughout the offseason after finishing with just 15 sacks and 67 tackles for loss. While there's hope for an immediate improvement, there isn't a sure-thing pass rusher to count on from day one.
Outlook: The line doesn't have to be special, but it has to be stronger when it comes to getting into the backfield from all four spots. The team's leading sacker can't have just three sacks again, but it wouldn't be a bad thing if there was a push from all the positions. The tackles are beefed up ends who have the potential to be disruptive, but if there isn't more from the ends, the high-octane Big 12 offenses will still go ballistic.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters
Senior Andre Sexton has been a tackling machine over the course of his career, working at strong safety early on, making 69 tackles last year, before moving to linebacker where he made a team-leading 100 stops on the strongside. While not huge at 6-0 and 217 pounds, the second-team All-Big 12 performer has limitless range and can be used as a pass rusher as well as an extra defensive back in pass coverage. He's smart, hits like a ton of bricks, and will be the tone-setter for the front seven.

6-2, 222-pound senior Patrick Lavine has been a career producer making 221 tackles in his first three years with 19 tackles for loss and 13 broken up passes. The main man on the weakside made 70 tackles last season with two interceptions and 5.5 tackles for loss, and now he really knows what he's doing. A high-school safety, he was great from the start, but last year he looked more than ever like a star linebacker and not a bulked up defensive back. Able to play any of the three linebacking spots, he'll move around it needed.

Senior Orie Lemon finished second on the team with 90 tackles after finally finding a home. He was considered for several different positions over the course of his career, but the former high school quarterback appears to be set in the middle. At 6-1 and 250 pounds, he's a big defender with good range. Now that he has a year under his belt, he's expected to be even better.

Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO All-American Donald Booker has to see more time. The 5-11, 235-pound senior isn't as big in the middle as Lemon, but he's arguably the team's biggest hitter and has fantastic speed. He was great on special teams and was a strong reserve linebacker finishing with 32 tackles. Now he could do far more no matter where he's put. He could work on the outside if needed.

Junior Justin Gent made 27 tackles last year as a key reserve working on the weakside. While he's more natural for the middle, he can work anywhere in the linebacking corps with great tackling skills and nice upside. At 6-2 and 235 pounds, he's a little bit bigger than Lavine.

Sophomore James Thomas is more like a defensive back at 6-0 and 205 pounds, but he's strong enough to work on the strongside. He made ten tackles and has star potential as a special teamer. He's a safety playing linebacker and will move around where needed.

Watch Out For ... the starting trio to be even better. Last year was about finding the right combination and cleaning up everything the line couldn't handle. Now with an expected improvement up front, the linebackers should be able to do more as pass rushers and against the pass.
Strength: Veterans and versatility. Three of the team's top four tacklers are in the linebacking corps with Sexton (first), Lemon (second), and Lavine (tied for fourth) and all three started every game. The backups can all move around between spots; they're almost interchangeable.
Weakness: Stops. There are ton of tackles and plenty of excitement surrounding the returning starters, but too many tackles were made down the field and there weren't enough plays made in the backfield. The linebackers have to do more on third downs.
Outlook: The linebackers were far, far better against the run than in the past, but it's not like they had to go against too many power running teams. Oklahoma showed how shaky the OSU run defense was, and Oregon obliterated it. The potential is there to be great, but the linebackers have to hold up against the better running teams.
Rating: 7

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Senior Perrish Cox is a special kickoff returner and isn't awful on defense. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he has decent size and fantastic speed, and now he has a two years of experience going from a spot starter in 2007 to working every game on the field corner last year making 32 tackles with two interceptions and eight broken up passes. He's not the soundest of lock-down corners, but he can hold his own against most Big 12 receivers.

Taking over at the boundary corner will be Terrance Anderson after making 27 tackles as a nickel and dime defender. Ready to play a bigger role after seeing plenty of time over the last few years, the 5-11, 185-pound senior should be fine with most teams trying to stay away from Cox. However, he has to prove he can make things happen when the ball is in the air.

Stepping in for Rickey Price at strong safety is Victor Johnson after making 19 tackles. With a world of upside after a good true freshman season, the 6-1, 190-pounder is a sure-thing tackler who has the speed and quickness to be used in a variety of roles on special teams. A potential all-star, he'll grow into the job over the next three seasons and will be one to keep an eye out for.

Senior Lucien Antoine got knocked out with a knee injury early last year. "The Punisher" will be ready to go and should be a fan-favorite at free safety with his next-level hitting skills and great range. He earned All-America honors at Fort Scott CC as a top pass defender and dangerous factor behind the line, and now the 6-1, 215-pounder should do a little of everything for the secondary.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Maurice Gray came over from Butler County Junior College and was a key special teamer finishing with 13 tackles with two broken up passes. The 5-9, 180-pounder will be a nickel and dime back while also serving as a backup behind Cox. A state-champion level sprinter as a Georgia prepster, speed isn't an issue.

Markelle Martin worked mostly on special teams as a true freshman finishing with four tackles, but he also broke up four passes during his limited action. At 6-1 and 190 pounds he can be a big corner or a fast safety, and he'll start out as a strong safety but could move to corner if there isn't more production from the projected starters.

Sophomore Johnny Thomas is a rising star with enough speed to sprint for the OSU track team and the tackling ability to make 12 stops as a true freshman. The 6-0, 195-pounder has unlimited range at free safety and will be a good special teamer again.
Watch Out For ... The Punisher. Antoine was supposed to be the new star of the show before suffering his knee injury. He has superstar potential and will make several highlight shows with his popping ability.
Strength: Speed. At the very least, the defensive backs can move with a track-team-like group. Staying with the faster receiving corps won't be a problem.
Weakness: Interceptions. The Cowboys have to start making more big plays, but that's been a problem for years. The team came up with 12 interceptions last season and could do more now that there should be more of a pass rush. The corners have to prove they can take advantage of the extra help.
Outlook: No one in the Big 12 played any pass defense so there's no need to get into a twist after allowing 270 yards per game. However, there have to be more picks and more big plays to go along with the yards. This group will be athletic and it'll make plenty of tackles, but it's not a special secondary.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Junior Dan Bailey had a rocky first season but was terrific last year nailing 15-of-18 field goals with two of his missed coming from beyond 50 yards. He was fantastic over the second half of the season, nailing ten of his last 11 field goals and will be counted on for any kick from 45 yards and in.

Good luck replacing Matt Fodge, who averaged 42.9 yards per kick. Redshirt freshman Quinn Sharp struggled throughout spring ball, and while has has a decent leg, he'll have to work on his accuracy and placements.

Perrish Cox is one of the nation's best kickoff returners averaging 29.8 yards per try with two touchdowns. He has four career scores on kickoff returns and will be avoided at all costs. He's way too good to kick to. Meanwhile, Dez Bryant was a superstar as a punt returner as well as a receiver averaging 17.9 yards per try with two scores.
Watch Out For ... Bailey. If he can hit a 50-yarder early on this year, the focus of the offense might change a little bit. At the moment, the offense will have to be more aggressive to avoid any long kick attempts.
Strength: The return game. It's the best in America. Cox and Bryant are All-Americans who can change a game at any time with returns for scores.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. The punting game could be the biggest problem, but the kickoff coverage team has been lousy for the last few years and struggled mightily last year giving up 25 yards per try.
Outlook: Sharp has to show some consistency early on, but even if he does, the punting will be a concern. Bailey is fine and the return game is elite. There needs to be some tweaking down with the coverage teams, but the positives in the special teams are huge.
Rating: 8