STILLWATER — The 2010 implementation of Dana Holgorsen's air raid offense signaled a program-wide change at Oklahoma State.
And at the time, it also looked like the definitive dagger in Cooper Bassett's Cowboy football career.
Spread attacks provide the perfect stage for wideouts and quarterbacks, turning undervalued slot guys and quick-release passers into pro prospects.
But for bulky tight ends that specialize in blocking? A permanent exile to the bench or an awkward mid-career position change.
Not wanting to sit or transfer (because of his lifelong love for Oklahoma State's program), Bassett, a Tuttle native, went with the latter. But for any shot at playing time, he still needed a lifeline.
That came from defensive coordinator Bill Young.
“Coach Young saved my career here,” Bassett said. “(He) recruited me out of high school at Kansas University, and he ended up coming here and I guess he remembered me from high school. He asked me to come play defensive line for him.”
But his definitive spot on the defensive line has been a revolving question the past two years. Flipping between tackle and end on numerous occasions, Bassett has never settled into a comfortable role.
“I didn't know if I was going to have to be 300 pounds (at the tackle),” Bassett said, “or if I was going to stay (at the end) or what.”
But despite the confusion, Bassett has provided value. In two seasons, he compiled 28 tackles, three sacks and an interception.
And during that time, he has witnessed the agonized program he grew up rooting for turn into a BCS bowl winner and national title threat.
“It's crazy to think now that I've been a defensive player longer than I was a tight end,” Bassett said. “I've just enjoyed it and to be a part of it, whether I was a tight end, defensive end, defensive tackle or whatever it was, to say that I helped us win our first Big 12 championship is awesome. I'll take that wherever I go.”
And for his unwavering dedication, Bassett received a reward. The man who saved his OSU career when it was in question has labeled Bassett the starting defensive end in 2012, giving him the permanent positional home he has never known.
“The best thing was in the weight room, it was nice not having to put on or drop any weight,” Bassett said. “It really allowed me to just kind of focus in on not having to learn a new system or learn a new position, but just kind of honing in on my skills. It's really just a relief. I've been a little bit of a journeyman, so it's nice to finally really have a home my senior year at defensive end.”
And the defensive line should benefit from the move as well.
“Cooper Bassett being able to move to the outside should really help us,” Young said. “One, it means we've finally got some depth inside. And it means Cooper finally can settle into his natural position. He's really been a valuable player for us.”
A player who at one point seemed irrelevant to keep around.
But Young's vision, combined with Bassett's willingness, altered those plans, giving the Cowboys a senior leader and talented rusher they almost lost.
“Coach Young has been a great coach and a great teacher, and I wouldn't be where I am now without him,” Bassett said. “Bringing me in and letting me be such a big part of the defense like I've been, whether it's been defensive tackle or defensive end, he's been patient with me. He's been a great teacher. I owe my career to Coach Young.”