You've heard that old saying "football is won in the trenches"? Well it's true. While Oklahoma State's offensive line is considered by many to be a weakness, there is no doubt that the defensive line is the team's greatest strength.
Last year, the nation was put on notice when a sophomore defensive end sacked Jameis Winston twice in OSU's season opener against the defending champion Florida State Seminoles. "E-Man" ended the night with six total tackles, two for loss and two pass breakups as well. He was only getting started. We know who Emmanuel Ogbah is, and now so does the whole country.
Last year's Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year currently ranks fifth in sacks nationally with 7.5 through six games. Last year he became the first Cowboy to compile double digit sacks with 11. He is sitting at 33 tackles, two forced fumbles and now, thanks to Skyler Howard, a touchdown. He's quick and strong and has the size and length to disrupt opposing QB's in a number of ways.
After a breakout season, there's always the chance for some type of slump. I mean offenses scheme for him. He sees double-teams, sometimes triple-teams. But Ogbah is still on pace to bust last seasons numbers wide open.
Opposite of Ogbah is his "partner in crime", senior Jimmy Bean. Bean is also in the top 20 in sacks with 5.5. He doesn't get all the hype that E-Man enjoys but he can really make you pay for doubling up on Ogbah. The two make a dynamic duo and are truly the pillars of this D-Line.
With Bean graduating and Ogbah likely a first round pick, they will leave a big hole to be filled on this defense. Let's not fool ourselves, E-Man is not going to pull a Marcus Smart. He's playing on Sundays next year. As fans we should be grateful for his service and make sure we all have Sunday Ticket. So who will replace them?
Vili Levini was part of the rotation at tackle last year but is now listed as a defensive end. At 6'3" 290 pounds he seems to be a better fit on the end. You also have redshirt freshmen Jordan Brailford, Jarrell Owens and Trey Carter, as well as true freshman Louis Brown (who will likely redshirt this season). What do we know about them? Not a ton. Brailford and Owens have seen limited run this season, each only playing in two games apiece and each totaling 2 tackles.
Louis Brown, an ESPN 300 and four star recruit, was committed to Texas but flipped to the Cowboys. He also held offers from the likes of Baylor, Notre Dame, Oregon, Mississippi State, Nebraska and OU. He played just about every position in high school but is listed as a DE. At 6'5" 212 pounds, he obviously has to put on some weight. But he is athletic and agile and there is a certain staff member at OSU who has a knack for turning guys into monsters. Maybe this was OSU's sales pitch.
One of the biggest concerns coming into camp was the depth at defensive tackle. Similar to the DE's leaving this year, Oklahoma State lost mainstay starting tackles James Castleman and Ofa Hautau to graduation in 2014. Sophomore Vincent Taylor turned some heads in the spring but with the season ending injury to Vili Leveni and career ending injury to Victor Irokansi, an already inexperienced rotation became even greener.
The good news: we're halfway through the season and those questions have mostly been answered due to the emergence of Taylor and Motekiai Maile as well as true freshman Darrion Daniels. The interior lineman have been solid. Taylor has accounted for 26 tackles (14 solo) and three sacks. He's stepped up. Maile has been solid and should continue to improve.
One of the players I was most interested to see if/how he played this year was Darrion Daniels. The 6'3" 320 pound true freshman (that's correct, this kid is 17 years old) earned immediate playing time in game one. If you ever saw his recruiting highlights, he looked like a giant among sixth graders. He came in as a four star recruit and was ranked in the top 30 defensive tackles in the nation. This is the type of talent OSU didn't get ten years ago. With Taylor and Daniels both underclassmen, the tackle spot seems to be in good hands moving forward.
Through six games, the defensive line has accounted for the majority of Oklahoma States 25 sacks (now second in the nation because of a bye week). Oklahoma State is also second in tackles for loss and leads the nation in fumbles recovered (eight). This could be the best defense Gundy's ever had, if not the best in school history, and it all starts in the trenches.