While the starting quarterback may be the biggest question mark for Oklahoma State football this fall, there is also concern on the defensive side.
After the defensive line – which ranked in the top 10 of sacks in Division I football last year – lost nearly the entire two-deep roster, the new wave of players has been an enigma for Cowboy fans.
Though Rodarius Williams is part of a veteran secondary that carries a lot of expectations into the season, it’s different position group that he had high praise for midway through the fall camp.
“The front end. The defensive line – the big guys – they are really rolling,” Williams said. “It shows a lot about your defense when you’ve got defensive linemen with a lot of stamina and ready to roll.”
“It feels like we have the same people. They are ready to roll.”
While their teammates are seeing good things from the defensive line, several of them feel it shouldn’t be a surprise.
“We want to live up to the standard, we don’t want to lower our standards just because a couple of people left,” said redshirt senior defensive end Michael Scott, who played limited minutes as a backup in his first year after transferring from Trinity Valley Community College. “That’s what happens at good programs. We’re just about to show who is the next big guy here.”
In each year of Joe Bob Clement’s tenure as defensive line coach at OSU, the Cowboys have had an All-Big 12 selection on the line – and several of those seasons it was with uncertainty of what was returning. So it’s an expectation among the inexperienced defensive line that there shouldn’t be a drop-off, since there hasn’t been over the years.
“Coach Joe Bob and Coach (Greg) Richmond do a great job of recruiting the type of guys they want – hungry guys,” Scott said. “These young guys coming in, even myself, we’re coming in understanding people looking down on us, we understand they don’t expect much from us.
“But Coach Joe Bob is no slouch. He’s that guy who puts dudes in the league (NFL), so expects nothing but the best from us.”
The most recent defensive lineman to get a chance at the next level has been Jordan Brailford – though he has been slowed in training camp with the Washington Redskins by mounting injuries – after he led OSU last year in sacks.
But Brailford didn’t have a lot of playing experience himself before last year’s breakout season due to an injury-plague college career. So the defensive line is confident there is another group in line to fill the hole left by last year’s large graduating class.
“All of us can ball,” Scott said. “Because that’s how we practice, and that’s how we are coached. If we don’t play up to that level, coach just won’t play us.”
“We’re playing six to seven guys that we’re rotating in. I couldn’t even tell you who each is because there’s not enough difference to say one guy is getting more reps than the other.”
Cowboy coach on defensive line