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Spring Retrospective: OSU’s Young Linebackers Are Ready to Make an Impact



Mike Gundy likes what he sees from his defense, so far. The corner position is definitely lacking in experience — other than Clemson grad transfer Adrian Baker. But the rest of the defense is actually as deep as you could probably ask for.

Gundy is looking forward to hockey-like line changes in the trenches and Ramon Richards roaming centerfield. Tre Flowers is a multiple-year starter who has only missed one game in three seasons. They headline their own deep group of safeties.

But no one is really talking about Glenn Spencer’s group — the linebackers.


Even with the loss of seniors Jordan Burton and Devante Averette, the Cowboys have a plethora of linebacker talent. And they’ll need it as they head into their first full season employing multiple defensive schemes.

It’s apparent that OSU is going to be heavily feature a three-down set. Thomas Fleming did a great job of breaking down some of what he saw during the spring game.  You simply cannot do what Mike Gundy is trying to without A) bodies and B) the speed and versatility to plug guys in at multiple positions.

Oklahoma State has that.

“I like our linebackers,” said Mike Gundy during the spring. “The challenge outside of Chad [Whitener] will be, “are we going to be physical enough inside the tackles?” Fast enough? I don’t think there’s any question.”

Speed is important, but so is that depth we talked about — the key to keep legs fresh late in the season.

Biggest news

As part of the shuffling around on defense that saw Ramon Richards move to full-time safety, Kenneth Edison McGruder moved over to full-time linebacker. He spent time filling in last year with that role, especially when Jordan Burton was injured.

The permanent switch is another part of Mike Gundy’s plan to bring versatility to OSU’s defense.

“A lot of (the move) has to do with that 3-down, 4-down (linemen) concept we’re going to now,” Gundy said. “Having that guy that can play both, if you really have one of those guys, then they’re potentially a high-round pick because they’re skilled.”

Camp Star

There are several young linebackers set to make a splash this fall but I’m going to go with a second-year player who was the jewel of the Cowboys’ 2016 recruiting class.

Calvin Bundage played all but two games as a true freshman and saw quality reps on defense and the Edmond, Oklahoma native has already earned a reputation as a big hitter.

During spring camp, Bundage has showed even more growth according to senior linebacker Chad Whitener.

“He’s grown a lot,” said Whitener. “He’s matured a lot and is playing very fast right now. Calvin is a guy that makes a lot of plays and he’s been doing that this spring so far.”

Bundage capped off his spring with a four-tackle, one tackle-for-loss spring exhibition and looks forward to an even bigger role this fall.

“He just needs to keep on doing what he has been doing this spring,” Whitener said. “He’s been communicating a lot better because he knows what’s going on more. I want to see him continue to build on what he has been doing for our defense and then to continue to develop further.”

Projected depth chart

As with the defensive line, Glenn Spencer has talent and depth at linebacker he hasn’t had before. Hopefully, that will pay off dividends in November and beyond.

Here’s a look at how we see the depth chart shaking out this fall.


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