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Calvin Bundage Is Confident That His Best at OSU Is Yet to Come

Bundage is ready to wreak havoc during his senior season.



While most of Oklahoma State’s defense toils on the practice field — attempting to bounce back from a disappointing 2018 — its most important player is forced to mostly sit and watch.

Calvin Bundage, OSU’s exhilarating, yet enigmatic linebacker, spent a good chunk of last season battling injuries that affected his production down the stretch and is even now nursing what Mike Gundy called a back strain.

“Bundage is in a mental practice stage right now, he strained his back about a month ago, so we’ve cut back quite a bit what he does in practice,” said Gundy. “He needs to be a mature player, which would be opposite of the conversation that we had with the defensive line.”

The reason Bundage is so crucial to Jim Knowles’ unit is threefold. 1) From a pure talent standpoint, he probably owns the biggest upside of the group. 2) He highlights a linebacker group that Knowles admitted was his biggest concern as far as depth goes and 3) his main skill set (dialing up and executing a hit on the other team’s QB) is one the Cowboys will desperately need in 2019. OSU lost 24 of its Big 12-leading 39 sacks from last season (62 percent) including Jordan Brailford’s nine.

But Knowles is OK with his senior head hunter taking it easy in August as long as it pays off in November.

“Calvin has been working extremely hard,” Knowles said. “He battles injuries. He’s still battling them in the offseason. When you look at Calvin from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, completely different, right?

“In our system and in our structure, this was built for him. He wreaked havoc early on, but by the end of the year, he was worn out. We need to get him to a point where he can consistently play that length of the season. He’s working hard to develop his body to do that.”

To Knowles’ point, Bundage wreaked plenty of havoc early, racking up six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the Cowboys’ first four games. But after he was sidelined against Kansas, he managed just two TFLs and no sacks in his final six games.

Unfortunately Bundage, along with several of his teammates, also showed a knack for getting into penalty trouble last season. The Cowboys finished T91st averaging 6.8 penalties per game, the most since 2010, and showed a lack of discipline far too often.

He says that focusing on the little things as a team, like being on time, cleaning up trash in the locker room and going to class should could translate to better discipline on the field.

But further to Knowles’ point, the marriage of his aggressive approach to defense and Bundage’s likeness to a smart missile mixed with a wrecking ball are a match made in heaven.


“I feel like it’s a perfect defense for me and last year I really didn’t know what I was doing,” said Bundage, “but this year I know what I’m doing so I can just go out there and play with reckless abandonment. So I’m happy to do that this year.”

His head coach is also happy about what Bundage can bring to OSU’s reloading defense.

“We know what Calvin can do,” said Gundy. “We know where he comes from. We know what his strengths are. He’s aggressive, he likes to hit, so he needs to lead us in those areas. We need 50 good plays a game from him.

“He’s experienced. He’s been out there. He’s developed, so he needs to be a player we can rely on based on his experience. He should be fine with the pace we’ve put him at in a couple weeks. We could put him out there now and do it, but he’s a veteran guy.”

(This next part made me look up GIFs of the savagery.)

“If you watch him play, he’s not a guy you worry about hitting,” Gundy said. “He could not practice and he’s still going to hit.

“For some guys, you have to get them out there every day just because violence is not a part of their lives. He really has no issues with hitting. I think you could make him non-contact just a couple days before the game and he’d be fine.”

Violence is a part of his life.

The Cowboys’ defensive leader who was named to the Butkus Award watch list — an honor he says has always been a goal of his — is confident that, once he sees the field, he can wreak even more havoc than before.

“I know once I get on the field I know that I will be 100 percent and I’ll be the best Calvin Bundage I’ve ever been at OSU, so I’m not worried about it at all.”

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