Before I get started, let's sit back and take a look at this marvelous play.
What's important here is not the tremendous play by Brodrick Brown, although it was spectacular, but better yet the awareness by a then-freshman Shaun Lewis. He absolutely played his tail off that game recording a season-high 12 tackles, two interceptions and a tackle for loss as the Cowboys suffered a bedlam defeat in 2010 at BPS.
He had other huge moments that season (the late interception against A&M), so everyone in the Big 12 knew about Shaun Lewis and how productive his career had the potential to be. He lived up to the hype and had an extremely productive four-year career for Oklahoma State, becoming a staple in defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer's scheme, but his time has come and gone.
Now for a replacement--a replacement with some pretty big shoes and pads to fill, left by Lewis.
Since Lewis' departure, incoming freshman Gyasi Akem, from Broken Arrow, Ok, is a name that has been mentioned more than a few times in regards to a possible up and coming figure in the 2014 Cowboy defense. Having that big of a role in a defense of that caliber is quite the pressure for an 18-year-old true freshman to carry on his shoulders.
Every year across football, true freshman are expected to come in and take the program to new heights. Some flourish and exceed those expectations and some can't handle the limelight just yet. It is what it is, but you truly can't find out if a kid is ready until he's battle tested.
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Akem isn't the ideal size for the outside linebacker position, but neither was Lewis at 5-foot-11. Akem appears to have more foot speed than Lewis, but that's also due to the fact that he hasn't been working with Rob Glass for four years, either.
Akem is fortunate, in the sense that he has room for error. What do I mean by that?
Well, I'll give you a second to take a look at the amount of healthy linebackers on the roster for the fall. Don't worry, I'll wait.
Ok, now that you're done with that short task, you see that Spencer doesn't have another choice. Akem is it, essentially. Yeah, I mean they can be shuffled and toyed with pertaining to specific positions, but who else is there, really?
From an earlier CRFF post by Robert Whetsell about Glenn Spencer's "challenges" this season...
"Well, according the NewsOK's John Helsley, [Kris] Catlin might have flunked out and [Devonte] Averette is reportedly a scratch for 2014 due to a knee injury. Another JUCO transfer that didn't qualify to enroll early, but was expected to help, was D’Nerius Antoine. Helsley also reported that Antoine may not qualify this summer." (and rumors are floating about that)
OSU isn't the program to stretch as far as playing a walk-on at such an important position. I just don't see that happening. Akem HAS to step up and I don't think he'll have a freshman all-american season, but he'll certainly produce.
He has all the tools and resources to be great in Stillwater. He's got the coaches, facilities and supporting cast around him to succeed. It's a matter of how quickly he will be able to make the transition from 6A high school football to Division 1 opponents every week.
I think he will earn the job in fall camp and have a strong freshman campaign, becoming a regular contributor on the defensive side of the ball. If not, well, it's back to the drawing boards, but for the time being, there's a lot more weight than people think riding on Akem's shoulders.
Bottom line: he's going to get his shot, and I think he'll prove to be up to the task.