As we continue breaking down the position groups for OSU, let’s move on to the defense.
The defensive line for the Cowboys was one of the best position groups in the nation last year. Led by Emmanuel Ogbah, the defensive line wreaked havoc in the trenches making piles and creating a pass rush that made opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. Ogbah was able to supply the pass rush from the edge, and Vincent Taylor broke out in his sophomore year and cause problems for offensive lines on the inside.
Vincent Taylor returns for his junior season looking to build on what he did for the Cowboys. He’ll share the inside with the other returning starter, Motekiai Maile. Jordan Brailford and Jarrell Owens will try and replicate the pass rush that Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean had last season. Brailford and Owens both played significant minutes last season and played well, but now they step into the role of starter and we’ll see how that adjustment is made. Trey Carter and Cole Walterscheid will be the backups at defensive end, while Darrion Daniels and Vili Leveni will backup at defensive tackles. All of these guys have seen the field in some capacity, Daniels playing in every game last season as a true freshman.
There is experience at the position which will help, but Brailford and Owens are new starters and I hope they step into the role with no problem. It will be difficult to replicate the pass rush of last season. The only backup with significant playing time last season was Daniels, so there could be learning curve for the guys that will play more this year as they grind out more game reps.
Overall Grade: B-
Last season, the linebacking corps was a solid group for the Cowboys. Jordan Burton, Seth Jacobs, Ryan Simmons started the year for the Cowboys. Simmons was lost early in the season due to injury, Chad Whitener stepped into his spot and the group did not miss a beat in production. Jacobs had a year of eligibility remaining but decided to retire from football. Whitener and Burton were also given 1st Team All-Big 12 honors.
This season, Burton, Whitener, and Averette all return and will start. Returning these three is a good start and will solidify the second line of defense for the Cowboys. Kirk Tucker will back up Burton, Josh Mabin will back up Whitener, and Justin Phillips will backup Averette. These three played in minimal action last season, so they will have to step into a bigger role this season. The guy I am most excited to see is Calvin Bundage. He is listed as 3rd on the depth chart at the “Star” linebacker spot, but I can see him getting reps in certain packages. He is an athletic linebacker and I can see him playing as a nickel back that can cover receivers in space.
Having the three starters that the Cowboys have will make a difference for them to start the season, and I think their play will rub off of on the backups and the position as a whole will be strong. The linebackers will be a major strength for the Cowboy defense this season.
Overall Grade: B+
Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin led the way at this position last year and excelled the whole year, despite Lampkin battling injuries the whole season. Being a defensive back in the Big 12 is one of the toughest positions to play, especially once teams get into conference play. With so many athletic receivers you have to be on top of your game at all times. KP and Lampkin were able to do that last year. Ramon Richards played as a backup last season and was never quite able to reach the high expectations he had coming into last year and had a down sophomore campaign.
Lampkin is now a redshirt senior, and will be starting again. Coaches have said last year was a wake up call for Ramon and he looks to turn a corner (no pun intended) in his junior season as he is now the starter opposite Lampkin. Lenzy Pipkins is a graduate transfer from the University of Louisiana-Monroe and will had depth and experience to the position. He played in 34 games at ULM and started 22 of them. Darius Curry will back up Richards, Curry played in every game last season in a backup role and will do the same this year. Beyond those four it is up in the air as to who else will get playing time. A couple names that have floated around as possible candidates for more reps are true freshman Madre Harper and redshirt freshman Bryce Balous.
Lampkin will be one of the leaders of the defense and will have another great year in his final year as a Cowboy. Richards will have to step up this year, and we hope to see the guy that broke out as a freshman and not the one that scuffled as a sophomore. Pipkins will add more depth to the position and will get significant playing time. Beyond them though I am not sure who else could get reps at the position.
Overall Grade: B-
Jordan Sterns led the team in tackles last season with 108, and Tre Flowers had 83 tackles. In their junior seasons both guys were a force at the last line of defense for the Pokes. Both have delivered punishing hits their whole career, and will not let anyone get past them. They were one of the biggest X-Factors in the Cowboys defense last season.
Both Sterns and Flowers return for their senior season, and look to have similar production this year. Having both starting safeties return will help anchor the Cowboy defense at the back. Derrick Moncrief and Kenneth Edison-McGruder will backup Sterns and Flowers. Both Moncrief and Edison-McGruder played as the backups last season as well, and made a lot of key plays for the Cowboys in key downs. Having experience at both the starting role and the backup role will make a difference because any of the four can play any down without drop off in production or talent.
I believe the safeties this season will be the best position group on defense for the Cowboys. Sterns and Flowers will have great years again and be leaders on the field. Moncrief and Edison-McGruder will play well as the backups and provide stability at the position.
Overall Grade: A-
The Cowboys defense this season returns many starters which means there will not be much drop off from last season. My main concern is if the Cowboys can replicate the pass rush from last season, and without Emmanuel Ogbah that will be difficult. If the Cowboys can create a pass rush and/or force turnovers, the defense will have another good year. Big 12 teams have to play a bend-but-don’t-break style sometimes, and the Cowboys cannot break this season.
Overall Grade: B