Defense holds key for Oklahoma State

By John Hillman  |   Monday, April 20, 2009  |  Comments( 1 )

Oklahoma State Cowboys
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Good news and bad news greets Oklahoma State at the conclusion of spring football practice. Preseason pollsters rank Oklahoma State as the nation’s seventh-best team. But those same pundits have Texas at No. 2, and the Longhorns are followed closely by Oklahoma in the third position.

The Cowboys possess enough offensive firepower to leapfrog over the Horns and Sooners in 2009. However, Oklahoma State’s defense must come of age quickly in order to compete for the Big XII title.

OSU’s defenders have little place to go except upward in the national standings. In 2008, the Cowboys ranked 93rd in yardage allowed and 109th in pass defense. Those numbers must improve significantly if Oklahoma State expects better than a third-place Big XII South finish next season.

New defensive coordinator Bill Young may provide the answer with simplicity. Instead of implementing complicated blitzes and stunts, the 62-year-old veteran assistant has emphasized reacting to the play and tackling the ball carrier this spring.

Results manifested in the annual Orange-White scrimmage last Saturday. The Cowboy defense, led by Jeremiah Price, recorded seven sacks. Andre Sexton, Swanson Miller, Derek Burton, Nigel Nicholas and Ugo Chinasa complemented Price's two sacks with one apiece.

A solid core of linebackers in Sexton, Orie Lemon and Patrick Lavine return to anchor Oklahoma State’s defense. Plus, newly appointed linebacker coach Glenn Spencer reported former junior college player Donald Booker has demonstrated the most improvement during the offseason.

The defensive line and secondary pose the biggest questions. Cornerback Perrish Cox can hold his own in any league, but solid replacements must found to stop the passing of Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford.

Offensively, the Cowboys have few worries. Coach Mike Gundy showed tremendous confidence by playing mostly backups in Saturday’s spring game.

Running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant both missed the scrimmage. Hunter received permission to attend his sister’s wedding in Texas, and Bryant skipped spring practice entirely to rehab from offseason knee surgery.

Starting quarterback Zac Robinson played briefly before exiting to the sidelines in favor of backups Brandon Weeden and Alex Cate. Robinson ran three offensive series, completing 4 of 8 passes for 92 yards.

When the Cowboys open the season against Georgia on Sept. 5, little doubt exists Robinson will run the offense, Hunter will carry the ball, and Bryant will haul in most of Robinson’s passes. But if this trio’s not on the field, Oklahoma State needs some ready results to vault past its longtime Big XII adversaries.
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About John Hillman

John Hillman graduated from Baylor University in 1974 with a BBA in accounting and earned an MBA from Baylor in 1987. He worked for accounting firms until 1982 when he became the chief financial officer for an independent insurance claims adjusting service, a position he still holds today....
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