2010 Oklahoma State Preview - Defense
Oklahoma State DE Ugo Chinasa
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Oklahoma State Cowboy Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Quietly, the defense came up with a nice year and picked up the slack for the inconsistent and disappointing offense. But that was a veteran group that didn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This year's defense is full of tremendous athletes and loads of promise, but there's little to now experience or sure-thing star power to rely on. Ugo Chinasa leads a good front four that should be the strength of the defense, while the back seven desperately needs the talented young defensive backs to keep the errors to a minimum and the linebacking corps to stay healthy. This won't be a bad defense since it'll simply be faster and more athletic than most of the offenses it'll face, but it won't be a brick wall, either.
Star of the defense: Senior DE Ugo Chinasa
Tackles: Markelle Martin, 45
Sacks: Ugo Chianasa, 6.5
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior FS Johnny Thomas
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Brodrick Brown
Best pro prospect: Chinasa
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Chinasa, 2) LB Orie Lemon, 3) SS Markelle Martin
Strength of the defense: Speed and Athleticism, Young Prospects
Weakness of the defense: Proven veterans, Tackle Bulk
Projected Starters: One of the team's most important players for a defense that has to come up with a disruptive playmaker will once again be Ugo Chinasa , a 6-5, 252-pound senior who led the team with 6.5 sacks with nine tackles for loss and 30 tackles. A superstar recruit a few years ago, he hasn't quite lived up to his immense billing but he has good quickness and has become a strong finisher once he gets a bead on a quarterback. He's been just good enough to be a factor for the last three years, and now it's time he became All-Big 12-special. The Cowboys need him to be an elite player.
Working on the other side of Chinasa will once again by Jamie Blatnick , a 6-3, 270-pound junior who spent last year as a spot starter making 28 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 270 pounds he has good size and good smarts, but he doesn't have the raw speed to be a top pass rusher even with all the attention paid to Chinasa. He was expected to play quicker after checking in at about 250 pounds last year, but he wasn't as flashy as needed.
Former JUCO transfer Chris Donaldson wasn't a major piece of the defensive puzzle in his first season, but he played in every game after the opener and finished with nine tackles. A smart player who has the 6-1, 299-pound size to plug things up on the inside. He's better than his stats showed and could quickly become one of the team's most important linemen.
Able to play on the outside or at tackle, senior Shane Jarka is a versatile veteran who had a decent year as a key backup making 18 tackles with 1.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. He's 6-3 and 295 pounds with just enough quickness to slip into the backfield from time to time, and his worth will be as a one-gap tackle who will bring pressure to the quarterback.
Projected Top Reserves: Richetti Jones was considered one of the nation's top end prospects before suffering a hip injury late in his high school career. He has been fine, but he hasn't been the great player originally expected. However, he has turned into a bit of a pass rushing specialist making three sacks and six tackles for loss and just nine total tackles. The 6-3, 264-pound junior has the raw skills and should be used more and more in the rotation.
At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Nigel Nicholas is an undersized nose tackle who can move. A great backup throughout last year, he came up with 13 tackles with two tackles for loss and showed enough promise to give him more opportunities this season. He's very quick off the ball and is strong for his size. In a perfect world he's a 3-4 end, but he'll be just fine in the rotation in the 4-3.
Watch Out For … Jones to grow even more as a factor. A good pass rusher who has the upside and the pure talent to be fantastic, he'll work in a rotation with Blatnick but could see a little starting time if there's a shuffling up front. A five-sack season is an easily attainable goal.
Strength: Stopping the run. It's not like the Cowboys played a slew of great running teams and almost everyone threw the ball, but the front line was good at stuffing the ground game. Even with two new starting defensive tackles the line should be fine.
Weakness: Consistency. It took smoke and mirrors to start to generate a consistent pass rush after doing nothing to get to the quarterback in 2008. This will be a good pass rushing front, but not a great one.
Outlook: There might not be a slew of all-stars and it's asking a lot for everyone to come up with career years, but this should be a solid line that will hold up well despite the lack of beef in the middle. Chinasa, Blatnick and Jones will all take turns coming up with nice games on the outside, and the potential is there for the ends to blow up and be terrific with their combination of size, quickness, and experience.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: Can Orie Lemon get back on track and build off of his fantastic 2008 season? A rising superstar for the defense, he made 90 tackles as the starter in the middle two years ago and was supposed to be on the verge of being the leader of the defensive front seven, but he suffered a torn ACL just a few days before the start of the season. He's still trying to get back to form and missed time this offseason, but when he's right the 6-1, 246-pound senior can fly from sideline to sideline and will seemingly be in on every stop.
Taking over for Patrick Lavine, the team's second leading tackler, on the weakside will be Justin Gent . A 6-1, 236-pound senior who has spent his career as a key reserve with great tackling skills and good toughness against the run. He made 27 tackles and was always making something happen when he got in, and while he's not elite against the pass, he's good enough to get by.
Stepping in on the strongside will be 5-11, 209-pound junior James Thomas , a defensive back-sized playmaker who works mostly on the more physical side of the field. A great special teamer, and more like a safety playing linebacker, he made 25 tackles with a broken up pass. With his quickness he should do more as a pass rusher and be better in coverage, but he's simply a tough, small, undersized hitter.
Projected Top Reserves: Considering Orie Lemon is hardly a sure-thing thanks to his knee problem, 6-0, 230-pound senior Tolu Moala will likely be a big part of the rotation in the middle. A good, sound tackler, he overcame an injury that halted his career after coming in from the JUCO ranks and made 23 tackles and two tackles for loss last season. He can get into the backfield if needed, but mostly his worth is as a run-plugger for anything inside the box.
LeRon Furr was a good recruit last year and spent the season getting bigger and stronger. Very fast with great range, the 6-2, 231-pounder is a guided missile who should grow into a dangerous defender on the weakside. He has the size to play any of the three positions, but he appears to be best suited to hanging with backs in pass coverage and using the open space to chase down ball-carriers.
One of the team's top recruits, true freshman Caleb Lavey could make a big impact sooner than later. While he needs to hit the weights to add bulk to his 6-4 frame, the 215-pounder is tough, fights through the trash and gets to the ball without much of a problem, and moves well. He needs time in the weight room, but he's a big-time talent who spurned Oklahoma and Notre Dame, among others, to be a Cowboy.
Watch Out For … the coaching staff spending most of the year figuring out how to work everyone in. Don't expect this to be last year when Andre Sexton, Patrick Lavine, and Donald Booker formed the starting trio for all 13 games. It all starts with the health of Lemon's knee and everything goes from there.
Strength: Toughness. This is a quick linebacking corps that's full of try-hard types who aren't afraid to stick their noses into the tough plays. It might take a while for the group to be more than just solid, but there will be plenty of head-knocking against the run.
Weakness: Experience. Several players have seen time, but OSU is trying to replace 249 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and eight interceptions lost with the departure of Booker, Lavine and Sexton.
Outlook: It's all up to Lemon. If he's at 2008 form, the revamped Cowboy corps might not miss a beat. There's quickness and toughness across the board, and while there might not be too many plays made in the backfield, there should be good production against the run.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: Mostly a special teamer over the first part of his career, junior Markelle Martin took over the strong safety game in week three and ended up finishing fifth on the team with 45 tackles and 11 broken up passes. The 6-1, 190-pound free safety has the size to play either safety spot and the speed to be moved at corner if needed. After being one of the biggest surprises of 2009, he'll have to be a rock as the only returning starter.
Johnny Thomas will try to take over for NFL prospect Lucien Taylor at free safety. At 5-11 and 195 pounds, the junior isn't all that big but he has excellent range and tremendous speed brought over from the OSU track team. He made 25 tackles as a key backup and top special teamer, and now he'll get his shot at a starting job.
The spotlight will be on sophomore Brodrick Brown after showing good promise in his first year. Despite missing half the season with an elbow injury, the 5-8, 180-pounder, finished with seven tackles and a broken up pass. While he didn't do that much when the ball was in the air, that's expected to change quickly. Also a member of the OSU track team, he has the speed to be a star corner.
Working on the other side will be sophomore Aundrae May , an ultra-athletic corner who was supposed to redshirt last year but ended up seeing time in a few games making two tackles. Originally considered a top safety prospect, he's more of a natural at corner with great cutting ability and 5-11, 171-pound size. He's not going to pop anyone, but he'll turn out to be great in coverage.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 191-pound sophomore Daytwaion Lowe is a big, talented prospect who starred on special teams last year but will see time at free safety this season. He's a bit thin, but he's a big hitter who'll come up with his share of highlight hits and big plays when he gets his chance. He finished last year with ten tackles, but this year he'll do far more making most of his big plays on defense.
Needing to be a factor early on will be true freshman Devin Hedgepeth , a 6-0, 190-pound speedster who was a big play wide receiver and will be a dangerous nickel and dime back when he's not at corner. He got to school early and went through his practice lumps, and now the goal is to get him into the rotation so he can be a key starter somewhere sooner than later.
Watch Out For … Brown. OSU will live and die with its young, talented corners, and while May might be the best all-around athlete, Brown is the burner who played well in the Cotton Bowl in place of Perrish Cox and could be a lock-down defender with more of a role.
Strength: Speed. This group might not hit anyone with a ton of bricks, but everyone can fly. The safeties run like corners and the corners run like track stars. Staying with the faster receivers won't be an issue.
Weakness: Time logged in. There isn't enough experience across the board to rely on anything to start the season. Martin is a veteran and there's skill at all four spots, but OSU secondaries are rarely rocks and there will be a long period of growing pains.
Outlook: Next year the secondary should be fantastic with no seniors and two juniors in the two deep. Next year. For 2010, the Cowboys defensive backs will have to get by on sheer athleticism and a lot of prayers as everyone will test the green corners time and again. Speed and quickness won't be a problem, but there will be times when this group gets lit up like a Christmas tree.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: Senior PK Dan Bailey had a good year but not a great one. He connected on 13-of-18 field goals and showed off a nice leg hitting a 51-yarder against Missouri, but he also missed on three makeable kicks from deep. Fortunately, none of the misses mattered much and he's a veteran who'll be fine, but he has to be automatic from inside 50 yards.
Sophomore punter Quinn Sharp had the unenviable task of replacing Ray Guy winner Matt Fodge, and he turned out to be fantastic. His coverage unit didn't always give him the best of help, but he still averaged a tremendous 45.1 yards per boot and put a whopping 24 inside the 20. It's a bit of a stretch to call him the team's biggest surprise of the 2009 season, but after looking awful at times in practices, he was a big-time player.
Watch Out For … Sharp to be on everyone's radar. With a great leg on kickoffs and coming off a fantastic first season, he deserves to be in the hunt for the Ray Guy Award if he's able to crank out another year like 2009.
Strength: Veteran legs. Sharp is a proven weapon now and Bailey, while not special, is good enough to get by. The kicking game will be a positive and should be the difference in at least one game.
Weakness: Covering kicks. OSU's coverage teams were a disaster allowing 24.4 yards per kickoff return (which was inexcusable with a boomer like Sharp handling kickoffs) and allowed a whopping 17.8 yards per punt return.
Outlook: The kicking game will be terrific with Sharp and Bailey to be among the Big 12's best. And the returners will be … ? After Perrish Cox was so great at handling all the duties, especially on punt returns, it'll be a bit of trial and error on the return game this year. WR Josh Cooper has the potential to be a strong punt return man and there are so many speedsters on the squad that finding a few who can return kickoffs shouldn't be a problem. If the coverage teams are better, OSU should have some of the best special teams in the conference.
Unit Rating: 7
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