Stillwater News Press

Sports

August 14, 2012

Oklahoma State football looking to replace Markelle Martin in secondary

STILLWATER, Okla. — While many believe the Oklahoma State defense will be the catalyst of this year’s squad, there are still plenty of holes needed to be plugged on the defensive side of the ball.

One of the biggest vacancies left from last year’s defense was safety Markelle Martin, a sixth-round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans who was in the top five in tackles.

According to the defensive coaches, the plan for now is to tag team the spot left by the talented Martin who started for three years at OSU.

“We’ll do it by committee,” defensive coordinator Bill Young said following Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll rotate them in, they’ll stay fresh and we need both. Markelle was a great player and it’s hard to replace him, but that’s how we’ll try to do it — have two guys replace one.”

But OSU coach Mike Gundy is thinking of the situation. He expects to utilize his depth in the defensive backfield.

“Our defense plays two-deep a lot, and we have Daytawion Lowe, you’ve got (Shamiel) Gary, Deion (Imade) and Zack (Craig),” Gundy said. “We have four guys who basically play two spots.”

Junior Shamiel Gary, a transfer from Wyoming where he was a Freshman All-American and averaged 96 total tackles over two seasons, could be the natural selection with his playing experience.

But Gary is sharing time with Lavocheya Cooper, who is in his third year in the program — though he missed much of last season with a knee injury. As a freshman in 2010, Cooper saw action in 10 games and played in just four contests last year.

“We’re just trying to get better every day and keep trying to make each other better, so we can make the defense better,” Gary said. “Me and Voch are cool. That’s my boy and we talk every day.”

“They are two guys who have had experiences, so it’s not necessarily the same as having to throw a freshman in there — which we could be in that situation in the future,” first-year safeties coach Van Malone said. “So it’s not a situation where I’m at all afraid of what we’ve got going on. Matter of fact, they’re competing and I’m excited to be able to play with both of them.”

While Malone expects Cooper and Gary will be rotating in and out of the position, that’s not to say Malone wouldn’t like one of them to really take complete control and prove himself to be the legitimate starter.

“I’ve been telling these guys that if one of them just takes the reigns and runs, then we’ll be settled,” Malone said. “But they are so close in size, close in speed, close in aggressiveness and both work hard so this is what we have.”

What the battle may be helping in the future is the depth being created in the secondary.

“In this game today you’ve always got injuries — especially at that position and the way some of them play,” Malone said. “Sometimes coaches will make the mistake ... where they will back off and wait and once something happens then you’ve got to relearn things with guys.

“So we’ve been fortunate that a lot of guys have played and that it’s been a heated battle and great competition and both guys have done a great job.”

Fortunately for the Malone and the two fighting for playing time, they do return safety Daytawion Lowe, who led the defense in total tackles with 97, to help them out.

“He’s been real helpful,” Gary said. “Me and D-Lowe go way back. We played each other in high school, so we’re pretty close. We’re always talking about different stuff.”

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