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Three Questions for Oklahoma State’s Defense Entering Fall Camp

There will be a lot of fresh faces on the Cowboys’ defense this season.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Oklahoma State’s defense will look quite a bit different in 2023 than it did in 2022 — not just in the personnel on the field but how the Cowboys line up.

OSU hired Bryan Nardo as the team’s third defensive coordinator in as many seasons earlier this year. With the Cowboys fall camp set to start next week, here are three questions for the Pokes’ defense as we all barrel toward the start of the season.

1. How Quickly Can the Pokes Get Up to Speed with Nardo’s 3-3-5?

This isn’t a question that the Cowboys will start working on when fall camp starts but a question that has been ongoing since Nardo was hired in January.

The Cowboys are navigating a large amount of roster turnover while also implementing Nardo’s 3-3-5 scheme. In some ways, it could be easier to have newcomers learning the new scheme as opposed to having to rewire longstanding starters, but regardless new things must learned.

It’ll be hard to get a clear read on how this question is answered during fall camp, but early returns through spring ball and Big 12 Media Days suggest Mike Gundy and his players are happy with what Nardo has brought to the table.

2. How Will OSU’s Secondary Reload?

The Cowboys return only two regular starters from last season’s secondary in safety Kendal Daniels and corner Korie Black. Those two ought to be as good as ever in 2023, but what happens outside of those two will be the interesting bit to figure out in fall camp.

The good news is that the Cowboys have a ton of young talent in their defensive backfield, but it is unproven.

At corner, redshirt sophomore Cam Smith is expected to be a heavy contributor after making three starts last season where he recorded 22 tackles and a pair of pass breakups. The Cowboys also brought in Arkansas State transfer Kenneth Harris after he recorded 71 tackles, three interceptions and 22 pass breakups in three seasons with the Red Wolves. Other names to watch are guys like D.J. McKinney (R-Fr.), Cameron Epps (R-Fr.), Jordan Reagan (R-Jr.) and De’kelvion Beamon (R-So.).

At safety, Lyrik Rawls and Trey Rucker had solid finishes to the 2022 season, particularly in the Pokes’ Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss to Wisconsin. Only a redshirt sophomore, Rawls has been a hot name in different spring and fall camps but had to wait his turn behind some stellar secondaries in recent seasons. It’s finally his time. Other names to watch out for this fall are junior college transfer Lardarius Webb Jr., Nick Session (R-Jr.) and Ty Williams (R-So.).

OSU’s secondary might experience some early season growing pains being in a new system while also being inexperienced, but it appears as if the group has the talent to figure things out as the year goes on.

3. How Early Will OSU’s New Faces Make an Impact?

Harris and Webb are two newcomers who could contribute this year, but they are far from the only ones.

Year 1 of the Bryan Nardo era could rely heavily on newcomers with guys like Justin Wright, Anthony Goodlow and Justin Kirkland also expected to contribute right from the jump. Come Sept. 2 there could be a lot of OSU fans looking at their rosters as the Cowboys’ defense takes the field.

Luckily all of those guys got a head start this spring, but these first few weeks of fall camp are vital to getting the new guys up to speed in the new scheme that OSU is running.

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