A veteran and experienced defensive line and a couple of playmakers at linebacker haven’t been enough to overcome the inexperience at the safety spots in the Cowboy defense.
While Oklahoma State (4-2, 1-2 Big 12 Conference) has demonstrated an impressive pass rush that leads the nation in sacks with 28 and ranks third in tackles for loss with 55, it appears the weak spot of their defense lies with the young secondary group that is surrendering an alarming number of passing plays.
The Cowboys have started two true freshmen, Kolby Peel and Jarrick Bernard, at safety in the last two games, with sophomores Malcolm Rodriguez and Thabo Mwaniki, who each started the first four contests, also seeing plenty of action in the rotation. Mwaniki is the only one of the four who had seen the field on defense before this season, starting two games last year, and the group is experiencing growing pains.
“We’ve got to a better job defending the deep ball, we can’t give up big plays,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “We’re young in the safety position and it’s a difficult position to be young at. Those guys have to be really, really disciplined. Thabo didn’t get a lot of work last year, and then you have two true freshmen and everybody knows it, it’s not a secret. They have to be really disciplined and structured in their eyes, and they get caught looking around at times. It doesn’t surprise me, but I wish we had answers for it.”
Oklahoma State has allowed 1,349 yards passing over the last four games. That’s an average of 337.3 per game, which would rank 128th out of 130 FBS schools if that was their full-season average. As it is, their overall mark of 241.3 ranks 91st. [Washington Post]
It’s hard to imagine a more trial-by-fire way of learning than playing center fielder against Big 12 offenses as a true freshman. But the sooner these young guys grow up, the better. OSU’s season certainly depends on it.
As a trip to Manhattan looms, how the Wildcats attack the two biggest weaknesses will have a large say in Saturday’s game.
Handicapping this weekend’s game at K-State, Gundy said: “They’re watching the tape. They’re smart coaches. Our defense is going to get a big dose of what they saw Saturday.”
Meaning, they’ll run the ball to set up play-action and take their shots downfield. It’s Bill Snyder’s way, particularly against a vulnerable secondary.
It remains to be seen if Snyder can exploit OSU’s offensive line. They’re halfway up the league’s defensive statistical leaderboard. The Cowboys will want to block defensive end Reggie Walker, the Big 12’s best pass rusher not named Jordan Brailford.
Danger lurks this week. Judging by OSU’s 1-2 Big 12 mark, it lurks every week from here. [TulsaWorld]
So bad signs on Saturday would be if the Big 12’s least potent offense breaks 40 and Cornelius is spending more time horizontal than vertical. On the brighter side, it’s a great opportunity for a struggling defense and a hurried offense to get back on track.
OSU and NCAA Notes
Kansas fired OC (and Cowboy alum) Doug Meacham….OSU Basketball is scrimmaging Wichita State this month….How the Patriots and Chiefs are using college football offenses in the NFL….Three Big 12 freshman made this top freshman of 2018 (so far) list….Tramel gives Big 12 efficiency numbers and projects this week’s games in league play
Brailford finally getting a little national attention.
#OKState defensive end Jordan Brailford, the nation's leader in sacks, has been added to the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to college football's top defensive player: https://t.co/mFaaxugYSC
— Nathan Ruiz (@NathanSRuiz) October 10, 2018
From the mouth of one of the NBA’s best – Tony Allen was the best defender he ever played.
"He was the only one that wasn't crying for help." 😂
Kobe says Tony Allen (by far) was the toughest defender for him. Respect. pic.twitter.com/q1FPdCT1wC
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) October 9, 2018
Yesterday on PFB
- Cowboys top receiver target breaks down his visit
- Marshall previews the K-State game this weekend
- ESPN’s metrics have the Cowboys winning more games than you’d expect
- Three Kyle Weave on Cornelius and OSU’s talent-level
- Three things to know from yesterday’s post-practice availability