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Oklahoma State football: All eyes on Glenn Spencer and his defense

For OSU to be successful this season, the defense must perform well. And Spencer is working on ways to make that happen.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: July 25, 2013

STILLWATER — Glenn Spencer could've played golf Thursday morning on one of the state's best courses for free.

Instead, the Oklahoma State defensive coordinator holed up in his office working on practice plans.

Time to knuckle down.

Even though he came out long enough to make an appearance at the annual media golf outing at Karsten Creek, Spencer is clearly aware of the workload on his defense this season. The Cowboys have been picked to win the Big 12 largely because they have an offense that rolls around regardless of who is calling it or playing it.

The defense?

It was the difference between a Big 12 title two years ago and a so-so season a year ago, and if the Cowboys are to make good on those preseason prognostications, it will be because of the defense and its new coordinator.

Spencer said he doesn't look at it that way, that he concerns himself with doing whatever needs to be done on a given Saturday. But he acknowledges that the defense needs to be better than it was a year ago.

“It's scoring, then turnovers, then red zone,” he said. “Those are the three big categories.”

Look at the 2011 defense and what it did in those categories — scoring defense, turnover margin and red-zone defense — and you can see why OSU won a first-ever Big 12 title. The Cowboys were first in the league in turnover margin (plus-21) and red-zone defense (72.9 percent), not to mention a respectable fourth in the league in scoring defense (26.8 points per game).

But last year, the Cowboys weren't nearly as good in those categories. Even though they led the Big 12 in red-zone defense again, offenses were more successful, scoring 77.4 percent of the time. Scoring defense went up to 28.2 points a game, and turnover margin plummeted to zero.

The truth is, the 2012 defense wasn't statistically that much worse than the 2011 defense. In many categories, it was actually better. Yards per game. Yards per play. Third down conversions. Fourth down conversions. But the huge discrepancy was turnovers.

Two years ago, the defense had 20 fumbles and 24 interceptions, leading the nation in total takeaways.

A year ago: 11 fumbles and 11 interceptions.

That led to a turnover margin of zero last season. The offense committed exactly the same number of turnovers as the defense caused. And Lunt, Walsh, Chelf and Co. weren't turnover prone. They actually committed one less turnover than Weeden, Blackmon and Co. did during that Big 12 championship season.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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