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The Most Important Cowboy Football Players for 2017: No. 7

We’re sticking with the defense on this one.

TCU v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

We continue our countdown today by sticking with the defensive side of the ball. Our seventh pick goes to one of the top tacklers for the Cowboys the last two seasons.

No. 7 - #45 Chad Whitener

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

His name isn't brought up nearly enough when we talk about the defense. That’s a mistake, especially considering he won the Leslie O’Neal Award last season (if you don’t know, that’s an award coaches hand out to the top defensive player on the team. If you don’t know who Leslie O’Neal is... look it up!).

Whitener is Oklahoma State’s top returning tackler from last season. The 6-foot-0, 240-pound linebacker was third in tackles last season with 71, and he had 7.5 tackles-for-loss (my favorite stat). As a second-team All Big 12 performer last year, he had his biggest games against two Top 10 teams; he had 13 tackles including one TFL and a sack against West Virginia, and 11 tackles against Oklahoma.

Did I mention he was also OSU’s third leading tackler the season before as a sophomore?

Add to that, he absolutely fits the mold of the kinds of players Gundy and Co. look for; character guys.

"I love playing the game, but it's not really the love that gets you through. It's more about your character and who you are."

Three of last season’s top five tacklers are gone, leaving only Whitener and Ramon Richards (we’ll get to him soon). As a redshirt senior this season, he will be someone the defense will rely on heavily. Whitener has shown he can make tackles, and do so in big games. That’s what makes him so important. If he can continue to produce in big ways like he has for the last two seasons, his name might finally be one Oklahoma State fans recognize.

We will be releasing the rest of our countdown each day leading up to the Spring Game April 15th. Check back every day to see who makes the list!

Top 15 Countdown:

15. Matt Ammendola
14. Backup Quarterback
13. Tyron Johnson
12. Marcus Keyes
11. Jarrell Owens
10. Zach Sinor
9. DeQuinton Osborne
8. Darius Curry