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OSU football: Which positions have the most quality depth?

OSU lost a receiver last week after Kevin Johnson transferred, and DT Christian Littlehead could face discipline after being arrested. At which position group could the Cowboys best withstand the loss of a player?
BY GINA MIZELL Published: May 27, 2012

STILLWATER — The Oklahoma State football roster endured at least one hit to its depth chart last week when wide receiver Kevin Johnson transferred to Lamar.

It could end up being two blows after defensive tackle Christian Littlehead was arrested on a complaint of public intoxication, his second run-in with the law in six months. It's important to note that no disciplinary action has yet been taken against Littlehead following the arrest. But we can use the past as a guide — he was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl after being charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia in December.

Which position group can best withstand the loss of a player? Let's rank them all — other than quarterback and specialists — from most quality depth to least quality depth.

1. Linebacker

Lyndell Johnson had one of the best springs of any Cowboy, and Ryan Simmons is generally regarded as a rising star. Both of those players are backup linebackers.

OSU returns all three starters in Shaun Lewis, Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey and legitimately goes three deep at each linebacker spot.

Mike Gundy calls this the best group of linebackers he's seen at OSU during his time as a coach or player. He especially likes the speed at the position and those players' ability to cover ground from sideline to sideline.

2. Running back/Fullback

This easily could have been No. 1 on the list, as Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith could be the best 1-2 running back combination in the Big 12. Randle compiled more than 1,200 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns last season, and Jeremy Smith averaged more than 7.1 yards per carry.

Herschel Sims' role should increase in his sophomore season, and running backs coach Jemal Singleton wants to really count on fellow sophomore Desmond Roland, as well.

Fullbacks Kye Staley and David Paulsen are both seniors with plenty of game experience.

3. Defensive tackle

It's pretty remarkable how this has quickly gone from a position of weakness to a position of strength.

With or without Littlehead, the Cowboys have a combination of experience and young talent on the interior — enough to move Nigel Nicholas back to his natural position of defensive end.

Junior college transfer Calvin Barnett impressed during the spring and should start the season opener, as should returning starter Anthony Rogers. Davidell Collins also has experience, and coaches are high on sophomore James Castleman and redshirt freshman Mike Mustafa.

4. Offensive line

Let's lump all of these positions into one category, given the way offensive line coach Joe Wickline likes to mix and match different guys at different positions.

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