Continuing our series looking at Oklahoma State’s 13 most important players for the 2013 season.
No. 8: Lyndell Johnson, strong safety
A non-starter — at least going into fall camp — comes in at a fairly high spot on this list. But Johnson was a clear difference-maker for the Cowboys last season as a versatile playmaker at hybrid linebacker, tallying 28 tackles (6.5 for loss) two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry in just nine games.
Perhaps Johnson’s importance was most apparent in the games he missed due to a foot injury, particularly in the Cowboys’ loss at Arizona, where the Wildcats consistently attacked the OSU defense in the middle of the field.
Now Johnson has moved back to safety (the position he played in high school), where the Cowboys will continue to rely on his athleticism, lateral range and speed to make plays against both the run and the pass.
Word is Johnson’s presence pushed Shamiel Gary, the incumbent starter at strong safety, to improve during the spring. That’s good news for the Cowboys. But don’t be surprised to see Johnson overtake Gary for that No. 1 spot at some point this season.
Here’s our countdown so far:
13. Jake Jenkins, center
12. J.W. Walsh, quarterback
11. Shaun Lewis, linebacker
10. Blake Jackson, inside receiver
9. Tyler Johnson, defensive end
8. Lyndell Johnson, strong safety