Question marks surround every name on the Oklahoma State defensive line to the point that the members of the group are happy to be anonymous.
After years of sustained success in an offensive league, the Cowboy D-Line looks like it has taken a step back from the outside. Gone are such stars as Jordan Brailford, Cole Walterscheid and Trey Carter to graduation.
The heart of the group for years now lives two states up north as Darrion Daniels transferred to Nebraska to play with his brother.
It almost would seem that they left nothing behind. All the attention has shifted to the defensive secondary as the men in the trenches have already become a lost cause to the general public.
Not to the players and coaches in that room, though. The tone for the Cowboys is set at the line and for co-defensive line coach Greg Richmond that still is true, no matter what players are going out there.
“We still believe that. The guys in that room still believe that as well,” Richmond said. “Once they went into this winter program, then went into the spring and summer workouts, you see a lot of guys who are confident in theirself first and foremost. They are a group of confident young men and we believe in them as well.”
For Richmond, a former Cowboy sack leader who is heading into his second year on the staff, and his co-coach Joe Bob Clements, it might seem like a big task to replace the productivity with a perceivably motley crew. But, for a group that is used to exceeding low expectations, it’s nothing new.
In terms of experience, the group is short on that. The most venerable of the squad is redshirt senior Michael Scott, who played in 12 games a year ago and recorded three sacks. Scott is only in his second year with OSU, as the Irving, Texas, product went to Southern Methodist out of high school before transferring to Trinity Valley Community College and then ending up in Stillwater last season.
Scott, who stands at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, said he likes the little fanfare his group is getting because it will only make their success that more surprising.
“They are putting us down just because we lost some great guys, which we did. But Coach is recruiting some great players,” Scott said. “Just because we are young, these kids are cold. I love playing with them. This is the best team I have ever been a part of. Genuinely, I am saying that. I can go on all day talking about each one. I know we are ready.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Sameula Tuihalamaka is a redshirt freshman who is also looking to earn some playing time this year. A positive of the uncertainty around the defensive line is that every position is up for grabs and anyone from either a redshirt senior down to a true freshman has a shot.
“The tone we are trying to set is that we might be young, but we are coming with everything we’ve got,” Tuihalamaka said. “It don’t matter who you are, no matter what we are taking every game serious and are coming with everything.”
Clements likes that attitude from his players. They know that nothing is given on the defensive line and the competition has shown that throughout the fall and spring.
“I just want to see them to continue to be eager to work and be good,” Clements said. “They understand there is a tremendous amount of competition across the board. It is not just a matter of identifying who our four starters are, but also who their backups are and who is even behind them.”
Because of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ schemes and formations, even hinting at possible three-down fronts this season, Clements and Richmond have to have players who can play anywhere. They also have to get a lot of guys into games because of the speed of the game, with Clements never having fewer than nine defensive linemen rotate in a game during his time at OSU.
Brock Martin, a 6-foot-4, 242-pound, redshirt sophomore from Oolagah, knows the importance of the depth. Locked in a battle with Scott right now, it is why he understands that while the role of starter is important, he will get playing time based on the rotations.
“Depth is pretty important and I think we have it,” said Martin, a former state champion wrestler. “What comes with that competition between positions is that people know what they are doing. Whether it is Mike that starts, me that starts or Brendon (Evers) starts the nose, whatever. It is that next guy up. We have all been taking that same amount of reps.”
“… There is no guarantee who is going to play, where we are going to play or how much we are going to play. We just want to play. If they want to put me at safety, I will do it. Obviously I’m not going to, but if they need me anywhere, I would do it to win.”
The defensive line group is vast with 22 players listed as either ends or tackles. One player who will make an impression in the interior is transfer Israel Antwine, Richmond said. Antwine, who came over from Colorado in the offseason, is a Millwood High graduate who tips the scales at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds and started 11 of 12 games for the Buffaloes.
“Just watching him over the summer, his body change and his approach to everything change. Just looking forward to him putting it all out on the field,” Richmond said.
There are a lot of men in the mix for the defensive line with guys like Tyler Lacy, Braden Cassity, Cameron Murray, Amodou Fofana, Brendon Evers and a slew of others.
Murray, a redshirt junior from Bryant, Arkansas, saw action in all 13 games last year and is looking for a breakout this year.
“I am really excited and I think I have worked hard over the years to get to this point and get way more reps than I have been getting,” Murray said. “Just knowing that I have the opportunity, I am taking advantage of it.”
Scott epitomized what his group’s thoughts are about making an impact from the first snap against Oregon State on Aug. 30. The defensive line has had a proud tradition and he doesn’t intend for it to end on his watch.
“A lot of people don’t know what to expect and don’t expect a lot from us,” Scott said. “I feel like that is the best way to do it. If we have to come out on the scene and burst everybody’s bubble, then that’s how we are going to do it.”