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OSU Defensive Positional Power Rankings: Backup Backers Look Like Starters of Old



Gyasi Akem is Alex Elkins.

Both are about 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. Both played linebacker at Oklahoma State and played well. The only difference is one started and one has been fighting for playing time since he got on campus.

The Cowboys’ linebacker situation historically has been floppier than Mike Gundy’s bobbing mullet in the Pittsburgh air. However as backups have come in to support those lost to injury, suspension or short-term exhaustion, they have proven to be more like a second set of starters rather than the second platoon.

Week 3 was a great example of that. Here are where the other positional groups fell on defense in the Cowboys’ 59-24 dub.

5. Defensive Tackles (Previously: 2)

Darrion Daniels wasn’t injured but didn’t record a tackle Saturday. DeQuinton Osborne picked up another sack, but outside of him and Enoch Smith Jr. at times, the depth at DT has to be a mild concern as Big 12 play starts.

Maybe I’m delusional, but production seems like a big part of a defensive front. DQ and Daniels take up more than 600 pounds of space, and do a fine job of that. But one tackle from an entire position group isn’t fantastic.

Stat Osborne Carter Daniels Smith Jr. Total
Total Tkl 1 0 0 0 1
Solo Tkl 1 0 0 0 1
TFL 1 0 0 0 1
Sacks 1 0 0 0 1
QBH 0 1 0 0 1
4. Defensive Ends (Previously: 1)

This defense seems to have a different star group every week. The numbers next to “previously” seem to change more than the seasons. Gundy enjoyed what he saw out of Jordan Brailford, but the pass rush wasn’t anything like it was a week ago.

There is no reason to doubt the edge men, not now, but their performance against Pitt was a step back in just about every way. That was probably expected though against an ACC team and not a Sun Belt one. Also, both the D-line and ends created a lot of disruption which can’t be measured in the box score.

Stat Brailford Webber Walterscheid Leveni Owens Total
Total Tkl 3 2 1 1 0 7
Solo Tkl 3 1 1 1 0 6
TFL 1 0 0 0 0 1
Sacks 1 0 0 0 0 1
QBH 0 1 0 0 1 2
3. Cornerbacks (Previously: 5)

Credit to Glenn Spencer. The Cowboys have used a lot more zone coverage than they would have liked, but it has been needed with the youth on the corners. For the most part, their inexperience hasn’t been shown yet.

Whether OSU is hiding its young corners or they’re actually improving, A.J. Green and the company looked sharper than they had this season. In fact, outside of a screen play that went for 74 yards, they were just about perfect.

So perfect that they haven’t allowed a touchdown on their behalf in since the Alamo Bowl.

Stat Green Baker Williams Kearse Total
Targets 4 4 2 1 11
Completions 2 1 0 1 4
Yards 27 13 0 74 114
TDs 0 0 0 0 0
2. Safeties (Previously: 4)

I think we are starting to understand the roles between Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers more clearly after Week 3.

They don’t so much work side-by-side but rather in complement. Because of the zone coverage I mentioned, the Cowboys are using a lot of cover 3. Richards drops down, almost like a nickel corner, and Flowers drops deep to cover the home run balls.

Like this one.

With that, Richards has had to cover a lot of balls underneath. He has missed a few but defended more. People will glare at Richards and say he isn’t doing well enough, that he needs to stop play like he did when he was wearing No. 18 as a freshman.

The fact is that he is taking the brunt of the pass attack so that the corners don’t have to and so that Flowers can play his game.

Stat Richards Flowers Total
Targets 6 1 7
Completions 4 0 4
Yards 45 0 45
TDs 1 0 1
1. Linebackers (Previously: 3)

And to think we were started to get worried about the depth.

Kevin Henry suffered a season-ending injury. Kenneth Edison-McGruder has already missed two of three games. Calvin Bundage was ejected and suspended for a half after a targeting penalty.

Akem, Kirk Tucker and Amen Ogbongbemiga have gone from guys you considered might play to guys you consider must play and do play and do play well.

When you throw in the actual starters — Chad Whitener, KEM/Bundage and Justin Phillips, who has two more touchdowns than Chris Lacy this season — dare I say it, this might be OSU’s best group of linebackers in the school’s history. Spencer said he has had numbers like this in the past but maybe not the “quality” of that depth.

Stat Ogbongbemiga Akem Phillips Whitener Bundage Tucker Total
Total Tkl 5 5 5 4 2 2 23
Solo Tkl 3 4 4 4 1 2 18
TFL 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sacks 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
QBH 0 0 0 1 1 0 2
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