When Darrion Daniels got the name Bonecrusher, he said it kind of grew on him.
“For me? That don’t sound too bad,” He said. “I like it.”
And so it was after a group of Oklahoma State defensive linemen saw the film “Transformers: The Last Knight” this summer, that they decided to give their unit a moniker that was worthy of all their virtuosity.
For years, the Cowboys front four has been defined by the work of one standout player. Names like Vincent Taylor, Jimmy Bean and Emmanuel Ogbah come to mind in recent years, but Daniels – a junior defensive tackle tasked with replacing Taylor – said he thinks this year, the whole unit is going to be remembered.
That’s why he wanted a name for them that would not only describe their skills, but also make other teams remember what they were up against.
“We was all just sitting around talking and we were just thinking about a nickname for the D-line and I had just recently seen the movie and I was like, ‘What about he Decepticons?’” Daniels said. “Everybody was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The Decepticons, that kind of sounds dope.’ I said, ‘I was just playing but if y’all like it, I love it.’”
In the Transformers universe, the Decepticons are the arch nemesis of the good-guy Autobots. With a vast lineup of villains that have a voluminous set of skills, the Decepticons have been wreaking havoc for years, which is what Daniels thinks the D-line will do this season.
Trey Carter, a redshirt junior defensive end who has had more weight transformations for roles than Tom Hanks, described the mindset of the group perfectly.
“We feel like we got to be some dogs, got to be some savages,” Carter said. “The Decepticons, they were not the friendly type. They were the ones trying to take over everything and stuff and that’s what we try to do. The D-line is trying to take over everything and we trying to show to everybody that there are some mean people on there.”
Carter is listed as an end but has played extensively in the interior of the line, bulking up to 295 pounds, a gain of 10 pounds from last year. He is one of many players on the defensive line that will be continuously cycled around to keep the image of a never-tiring, unstoppable force of 10 men who are ready each and every game.
At least, that’s defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements’ dream, but as the summer and early fall progressed, he saw that it was becoming more of a reality.
“I think I have enough bodies,” Clements said. “I don’t want to label them as solid yet. I will say I have enough bodies, though. We have some things we need to improve on and we need to work on. We’ve got a long time to get it done but we got to take advantage of each and every day to get that.”
Along with the ability to keep players fresh, Clements also said his unit has speed that can strike fear into opposing offenses. Clements’ boss, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, thinks the same thing when he sees the potential of this unit.
“DeQuinton Osborne is going to go make a play on a screen play from hash to opposite number at 300 pounds,” Spencer said. “He’s not going to jog and expect somebody else to do it. That’s what great defenses do. They play with great emotion and great intensity and they play for each other.”
Carter and Daniels will be two candidates to replace departures in Taylor, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins after a stellar junior year, and Motekiai Maile, who graduated.
Behind them are a seemingly endless group of tackles including redshirt sophomore Taaj Bakari, who has had good reports in camp and Osborne – who had heavy playing time last season and is poised for a breakout.
Osborne, who had 3.5 sacks last season, is a man who Taylor said could lead this galvanized unit.
“I feel like collectively, we have really been coming together as a unit,” Osborne said. “We have been getting better every day and making strides to take that step and be the next D-line in the Big 12.”
On the ends, the Cowboys will have two returning starters in Vili Levini and Cole Walterscheid, who had a breakout season last year after packing on 30 pounds of muscle the offseason before.
Behind Levini and Walterscheid is a deep group as well including Jordan Brailford, whose shoulder injury last season made way for Walterscheid’s year, as well as newcomer Enoch Smith Jr. – a transfer who has seen playing time at Michigan State – and Jarrell Owens, who had some starts last year and finished with 25 tackles.
Brailford, who had to spend most of his time after his shoulder surgery sleeping upright in a chair, said he is ready to go this year.
“I passed the little condition test that we have and in fall camp,” Brailford said. “I’m excited to be out there. I’m excited to get more reps out so I can see if I can go through a whole season.”
Even with all this returning talent, the D-line has been looked upon as a weakness going into the season. For Walterscheid, he said it doesn’t matter what people think because after a couple of weeks, they will know who the OSU defensive line is.
“I kind of like flying under the radar,” Walterscheid said. “Whatever they expect out of us, we’re just going to go out there and stop them as good as we can. Ultimately we would like to keep a team from moving a ball and inch and put a goose egg up there, be dominant.”
The unit being undervalued is what gave way to the Decepticon nickname. While there is some dissension amongst the group –Walterscheid and Levini being some that aren’t as fond of the name – a majority have come to like it. With Daniels coming up with individual names for every D-lineman, it’s going to be hard not to feel like a part of the group.
“They gave me the little robot, Frenzy,” Brailford said. “I don’t how I feel about that one yet or if they say I’m the smallest one, I don’t know. I’m indifferent but if it helps us as a team, I’m all for it.”
Other groups have chimed in about the name with the linebackers choosing to go with a simple and effective nickname.
“The D-line deserves it,” Star linebacker Kenneth Edison-McGruder said. “They get the opportunity to have that name, but we just the hitters. We the go-getters.”
Whether they call themselves the Decepticons or not, the D-line is ready to play with the mindset of the villainous scoundrels anyway.
“The Decepticons were hungry and wanted it,” Carter said. “They wanted to take over everything. We are trying to take over the whole Big 12 and take over everything we need to take over.
“The D-line is here.”