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Storyline Countdown No. 14: How Much Will the Corners Have to Play?

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PFB’s countdown to football season by counting down the 15 most intriguing storylines continues today with a look at the No. 14 storyline we’re tracking going into 2018.

Storyline rank: No. 14
Storyline: Will Rodarius Williams and A.J. Green have to play as much as they did in 2017?

Why this matters: Late in the season, starting cornerbacks A.J. Green and Rodarius Williams seemed more tuckered out than a 2-year-old after a day at the neighborhood pool.

OSU gave up 62, 42 and 45 points consecutively to OU, Iowa State and Kansas State in three of the final four Big 12 games of the season, with the KSU one being the real indicator that fatigue in the secondary was setting in (I should not need to recap).

With Jim Knowles’ new 4-2-5 defense, secondary help should be beefed up, but one of the tenants of his philosophy is that you get your best players in one on one situations defensively and let them make plays. That enhances the necessity for quality depth at your skill positions.

“I think the year we had Mike Hunter, we were really, really deep,” said cornerbacks coach Tim Duffie. “The year before that we had Patmon, Lampkin and Peterson. We had a lot of guys. I think we’re getting back to that. We have some guys who have to prove themselves, but that’s the goal — to get it back to where it was where we can really roll some guys in and keep them fresh.”

How it could play out: The problem here is not necessarily depth but rather quality depth in the near future. OSU has some names on its roster — Tanner McCalister, Jayveon Cardwell, Gabe Lemons and Lamarcus Morton — that I think are eventually going to be pretty good. But are they going to be pretty good in 2018? I don’t know.

You could see some combination of those guys along with Tyrell Alexander and Texas A&M transfer Kemah Siverand provide the blows that Green and Williams didn’t see a year ago.

Mike Gundy’s thoughts: I asked Gundy about this at Big 12 Media Days, and he seemed encouraged.

“I would think that we have improved at the corner position,” said Gundy. “We played two young corners last year, and there were times those guys got beat up on a little bit just with youth. While doing that, though, they were gaining valuable experience and I thought both of them played considerably better the last four games of the year.”

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“So I would hope that we will be better just from an experience standpoint at the corner position.”

My thoughts: I am (possibly irrationally) excited about Oklahoma State’s defense this season. I think they might have some dudes, and it’s impossible to measure the growth guys like Green and Williams will have from last year. Duffie said that Green especially transformed his body and could be much better than 2017.

And now you’ve sort of pieced together what might actually be a pretty awesome two-deep with those two plus a freshman or Alexander and Siverand. The hard part in evaluating and judging corners and even defensive backs in general in the Big 12 is that so much of it seems to be situation dependent. You might rock for 83 plays and be out of position for five, and that’s curtains.

Still, I’m confident in both the starting corners against a set of new Big 12 QBs and equally excited to see some of the newbies give those two the rest they need going into the meat of the schedule in the latter part of the year.

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No. 15: How will OSU use all its running backs in 2018?

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