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End of Summer Depth Chart Analysis - Defense

Let’s look at the other side of the ball.

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Colorado Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Big 12 Media Days have come and gone and the freshman have arrived in Stillwater, its time we took a good look at the depth chart and see where the Cowboys are solid and where they need to see some players step up in fall camp.

Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: Jarrell Owens, Darrion Daniels, DeQuinton Osborne, Cole Walterscheid

Backups: Tralund Webber, Trey Carter, Taaj Bakari, Vili Leveni, Jordan Brailford, Ben Hughes and Enoch Smith Jr.

The D-Line is in a very interesting position heading into next season. They are loaded with tons of experience, but don’t have a lot of combined starts. Pair that with a handful of players who play at both edge and tackle. Walterscheid and Owens started most of last year and the starting job will be theirs to lose. Daniels and Osborne were terrors out of the rotation and should be ready to fill in the spots left vacated by Vincent Taylor and Motekiai Maile. Leveni and Brailford have stints as starters but have been staving off injuries the past couple of years and will be key in the rotation this year. Webber, Carter, Bakari, and Hughes were huge parts of the rotation last year and will likely to continue to do so. That leaves newcomer Enoch Smith Jr. as the lone man out as a JUCO transfer. His experience will come into play but will be in the back end of the rotation.

2016 group stats: 84 games played, 118 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, 13 QB hits, 5 pass break ups, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 1 blocked kick

Linebackers

Starters: Justin Phillips, Chad Whitener, Kirk Tucker

Backups: Kenneth Edison-McGruder, Kevin Henry, Calvin Bundage, Gyasi Akem and Patrick Macon

Over the past few years, the linebacker position has grown into one of the team’s cores while becoming surprisingly deep. This year might be when it all comes to fruition with a group of 8+ that could see significant playing time. Whitener has spent most of his career as a starter, while Phillips and Tucker have been key rotational players the last few years. Kenneth Edison-McGruder may have just officially switched to LB this year but saw a lot of time at the Star LB role that hybridized his safety skills. Gyasi Akem has been crucial on special teams since arriving on campus three years ago and has been gaining more and more playing time every year. Henry and Bundage have only been playing for a year but were definitely making their presence known when they were on the field and have tremendous upside going forward. That leaves JUCO transfer Patrick Macon trying to earn his spot in the rotation.

2016 group stats: 88 games played, 220 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, 5 pass break ups, and 3 QB hits

Safeties

Starters: Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards

Backups: Jerel Morrow and Darius Curry

With the departure of longtime starter and key playmaker Jordan Sterns, there was a hole to fill in the secondary. Enter Ramon Richards. Richards made the move to safety and it gave the Cowboy D some serious firepower. Richards’ ball-hawking and return moves paired with Flowers’ hard-hitting pass breakups and run-stopping ability make for a fearsome tandem. Add in another corner-to-safety switch with Darius Curry and longtime backup Jerel Morrow and the safety role should be really set for this season.

2016 2-deep stats: 50 games played, 137 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, and 15 pass break ups.

Cornerbacks

Starters: Adrian Baker and Madre Harper

Backups: A.J. Green and Bryce Balous

According to Glenn Spencer, Richards and Curry made the move to safety because the team will be better because of it, implying that the corners are solid enough to get away with moving two of their more veteran players to another position. It’s certainly hard to see right away and there might be a baptism-by-fire for the young guys, but there has been enough excitement following them to believe they’ve made a step up by practicing on the Cowboy receivers. Graduate transfer Adrian Baker made the move to Stillwater from Clemson following an injury and is the most likely to be a starter. He was a regular in the Tiger secondary and frequently made himself known before going down with his injury. Madre Harper was phenomenal on special teams last year, scoring the first touchdown of the season off a muffed punt. A.J. Green and Bryce Balous also saw time on special teams and in the secondary but still have a lot to prove. They will have to fight for time with incoming redshirt freshmen and true freshmen, but the coaching staff believes they won’t be as green as their youth suggests.

2016 2-deep stats (2015 for Baker): 29 games played, 19 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass break ups.