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Season Grades: How Did OSU’s Young Group of Safeties Do in 2018?

Experience is on the upswing, but they have to start creating more turnovers.

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Jim Knowles’ 4-2-5 system puts a lot on safeties, and unfortunately for the Cowboys, safety was the least experienced position they had.

The group had some promising moments, but the overall defensive performance this season was sub-par. Here are my season grades for Oklahoma State’s safeties.

Quick note: Kenneth Edison-McGruder is a bit of an enigma. He is listed on OSU’s roster as a linebacker, but he is everywhere. So, throughout this I list stats with and without McGruder so everyone can sleep at night.

Experience Gained: A

A breakdown of players listed as safeties on OSU’s roster:

  • Seniors: 0
  • Juniors: 2
  • Sophomores: 1
  • Freshmen: 6

All of those players played this season, and many played a lot. Here is a list of players who can return to OSU next year and what their playing time looked like this season.

Name Class Games Played Starts
Malcolm Rodriguez Sophomore 12 9
Jarrick Bernard Freshman 12 8
Kolby Peel Freshman 12 4
Za’Carrius Green R-Junior 11 0
Kanion Williams Freshman 4 0
Malik Givens R-Junior 12 0
Sean Michael Flanagan Freshman 1 0
Tre Sterling R-Freshman 12 0
Jason Taylor Freshman 2 0

Gundy’s universal chart for quarterbacks says QBs need somewhere between 12 to 15 games to turn a corner. In this year alone, five safeties played in 12 games. It’s unsure whether Gundy’s rule is the same for safeties, but regardless the group will only get better.

Forcing Turnovers: C-

This is something all of OSU’s defense struggled with this season.

Together, safeties had one interception, two forced fumbles (three is you count Edison-McGruder) and a fumble recovery (two if you count Edison-McGruder). Jarrick Bernard had the group’s lone pick way back in Week 4 against Texas Tech.

It wasn’t solely a safety issue, as in total, the Cowboys had a Big 12-low five interceptions, and OSU’s 12 turnovers forced was eighth in the conference, leading only Oklahoma (11) and Baylor (9).

Pass Defense: C+

OSU has 36 pass breakups so far this season, and only six came from safeties (unless you count Edison-McGruder, in which nine came from safeties). That total number is low compared to OSU’s opponents, which had 49 pass breakups.

OSU gave up an average of 258.3 passing yards a game this season, the seventh-most in the conference. So, not great, but not downright horrific.

Tackling: B+

OSU safeties accounted for 206 total tackles in the 2018 regular season (271 if you count Edison-McGruder). Malcolm Rodriguez is the team’s second-leading tackler with 80 tackles this season, trailing only Justin Phillips’ 92.

Safeties also had three sacks (five if you count Edison-McGruder). Bernard had two sacks for 18 yards.

Overall: B-

Safeties are like the OSU basketball team — there are some good things happening, there are some bad things happening, but it’s important to remember how young the group is.

Next year the group will only be better and the year after with a senior Malcolm Rodriguez and juniors Jarrick Bernard and Kolby Peel is going to be better than that.

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