STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's secondary has plenty of star power with senior safety Markelle Martin and junior cornerback Brodrick Brown.
Martin is a three-year starter, the leader in the Cowboy secondary and maybe the hardest hitter on the roster.
And in his first year as a starter, Brown graBrowned two interceptions and provided an unforgetable highlight-reel moment in the Cowboys' Bedlam loss to Oklahoma when he flew out of bounds to deflect an errant pass to linebacker Shaun Lewis, who intercepted it.
Martin and Brown each bring something different to the table, but are electric as a pair for the Cowboys.
How would you describe your relationship with one another?
Martin: I would say he's like my little brother. I know he's gonna take care of his responsibilities over on the other side, but if he needs help, I'm coming over there to look after him and knock whoever wants to challenge him down.
Brown: Yeah, that's how I see it. (Points to Martin) This is the man right there. He's a good leader, so I follow him.
What's something about each other that you envy?
Martin: His footwork. He's got really quick feet. He's kinda like a boxer — just real quick and physical.
Brown: I wish I had his height (laughs). Also his mind, his presence of the game. He knows everyone's responsibilities, where everyone's supposed to be. I've got that, too, but he's just on cue with it.
What were your first impressions of each other?
Martin: He was small and fast when he first came in. The older he got, the more I got to know him, and we started calling him the “small pitbull” because he has a lot of fight and a lot of heart in him.
Brown: When I first met him, I thought, “This guy, he's an athlete.” First, he was at corner, and he always could hit. When I saw him hit at corner, and then the next year they moved him to safety, and I thought, “This man, he's gonna come downhill and bring the heat.” I just thought that he'd be special one day, and he is.
What is something embarrassing about the other guy?
Martin: I'm just gonna say he has three personalities, and I'm gonna leave it at that. He has three personalities.
Brown: (Laughs) OK, OK. I'll just say he's got two personalities — a behind the scenes personality. Nah, but it's good. He's a great person. I love him, man.
DUO THEY MOST RESEMBLE
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
Steady. Deadly. Consistent and productive. Martin shares those traits with Durant, who just gets it done, night after night, no matter the competition. Brown gets it done with regularity, too, but like Westbrook, has his spectacular moments of “did-he-just-do-that?” flare. Both will wow you, but often in different ways.
FROM THE COACH
Secondary coach Jason Jones on the defensive backs:
“It's a good group. In Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas, we have two guys who have been three-year starters for us. They bring a lot of experience to the table. And both of them do an outstanding job of being leaders. Brodrick Brown really stepped up to the plate and had a good season last year. On the other side, we're looking at Justin Gilbert, who played some last year but was still learning the position, because he played quarterback in high school. But in the spring, a light just came on.”
OSU DEFENSIVE BACKS DYNAMIC DUO
R.W. McQuarters and Kevin Williams, 1997
OSU's defense had been in a decade-long funk. Then 1997 arrived, and the Cowboys broke out to an 8-4 season that included a trip to the Alamo Bowl.
Defense was the reason. OSU allowed 16.7 points and 302.7 yards per game, the best defensive performance since Pat Jones' great 1985 defense.
And the '97 Cowboys had big-time defensive backs. McQuarters, one of the best athletes in OSU history, moved from cornerback to free safety and was a constant playmaker. Williams asserted himself at cornerback, making six interceptions. Both made all-Big 12.
McQuarters went on to play 11 years in the NFL and a post-season star for the 2007 Giants en route to their Super Bowl championship.
Williams went on to play four NFL seasons.
If the front seven holds question marks, the back four bring the answers. And the hits. The strength of the defense, OSU's secondary is deep and talented, led by ball-hawking safety Markelle Martin, whose playmaking and swagger carries over to the entire defense. Brodrick Brown, Johnny Thomas, Justin Gilbert … much to like.
CB Brodrick Brown
SS Markelle Martin
FS Johnny Thomas
CB Justin Gilbert
CB Andrae May
SS Zack Craig
FS Daytawion Lowe
CB Devin Hedgepeth
Unit grade: A
If OSU's secondary isn't the best in the Big 12, the discussion involves them on a very short list.