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Spring Football: Safety Should Be a Strength for Oklahoma State

The Cowboys added even more experience to their safety group.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

While Oklahoma State was prone to give up chunk plays last year, there’s reason to think the Pokes can tighten it up this fall. The Cowboys return a ton of experience, depth and talent across their defense, but probably nowhere more so than at safety. We’ll finish our preview of OSU’s defense with these dynamic DBs.

Be sure to check out our previous previews: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | CB

Who’s Back

The Cowboys return Kendal Daniels and Trey Rucker, who each started every game last year. The duo returns after each racking up 100-plus tackles last season. Daniels’ 105 and Rucker’s 100 made them the first pair of OSU safeties to hit that mark in a single season. And along with linebacker Nick Martin’s 140 (!), they made for the first trio of Pokes to all hit triple digits since 1985.

Add in Cameron Epps, Lyrik Rawls and Dylan Smith, who each started their first games last season and should all be a regular part of OSU’s rotation this fall. OSU also returns a handful of up-and-comers, including Ty Williams, Raymond Gay II, Garrick Martin, Parker Robertson and Kam Franklin.

Who’s New

The Cowboys added former UTEP safety Kobe Hylton via the transfer portal. The super senior comes in having earned honorable mention all-conference honors the last two seasons. In 2023, in addition to his 54 tackles, Hylton broke up four passes and recorded two QB hurries and forced two fumbles.

OSU also added three early enrollees in Landyn Cleveland, Willie Nelson and David Kabongo.

Number That Matters: 9

The Cowboys’ safeties were taking it back last season. OSU’s 23 forced turnovers were tied for third in the Big 12 last year with Kansas State and behind only outgoing OU and Texas, and the majority of those takeaways came thanks to this group.

Of OSU’s 13 interceptions, nine came from current safeties, with Cameron Epps leading the Cowboys with three. Dylan Smith, converting from corner to safety, had two, and so did Kendal Daniels. Daniels and Rucker each forced a fumble as well.

Safety Outlook

The Cowboys showed some inexperience on the back end last season in addition to having to adjust to Bryan Nardo’s defense, but neither should be an issue this fall. The group of Daniels, Rucker, Epps, Rawls and Smith combined for 56 career starts. Add to that a grizzled journeyman like Hylton, and the Pokes should have one of the better, and more experienced, safety groups in the league.

With a deep group led by six safeties with starting experience and headlined by heavy hitters like Daniels and Rucker, the Cowboys’ safety group should do a smashup job of protecting the middle of the field and shoring up OSU’s experienced defense.

Spring Safety Depth Chart Prediction

Here’s a semi-educated guess at what the Cowboys’ safety depth chart could look like come fall.

S1: Kendal Daniels
S1: Trey Rucker
S1: Lyrik Rawls

S2: Kobe Hylton
S2: Cameron Epps
S2: Dylan Smith

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