Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter and Russell Okung all emit a significant glow.
And yet, the telling focus of the Cowboys' fortunes might be directed on defense, where there's a search for shining light.
OSU's defense ranked No. 93 nationally in total defense and No. 78 in scoring defense a year ago and still won nine games and played in the Holiday Bowl.
Goals and expectations for 2009 have risen, both inside and outside the program. But to make them real, to contend in the Big 12 — beyond? — the defense must be better.
Enter Bill Young, brought from Miami to OSU in a bit of a coup, as OSU's next defensive coordinator.
Young's preseason plan is to guide the Cowboys D on a climb. And quick.Here are Young's five defensive goals to accomplish this season:
1) Focus on finding the best 11 on defense. And then the next 11.
Breakdown: The Cowboys return six starters and 18 letterman overall on defense. But on the brink of possible special season, this is no time for simply playing favorites. A new coordinator means players must prove themselves all over again. Young, too, is shifting players into different roles to fit his approach. Depth, always a concern, is trickier with the changing definition of positions.
Young says: "We did a little bit of (identifying the key figures) in the spring and now we've added some new people; plus we've gotten bigger, stronger and faster. Our offseason conditioning program has been tremendous. Our guys are so much more physical looking than they were when we left spring."
Notable: Young has been at this for more than three decades; successfully, too, serving as the defensive coordinator at seven schools. So he knows how to identify talent. And there is talent. Still, it's a lot to completely transform a defense in eight months, especially in a league where offense reigns.
2) Keep implementing the package.
Breakdown: There's always an adjustment to a new coordinator and his philosophy and scheme. This adjustment, away from the complex approach of former coordinator Tim Beckman, should be relatively smooth. Young likes to simplify things and rely on his players' athletic abilities and instincts. That's popular in the locker room, too.
Young says: "We've got some veteran players who have played a lot of football. We've got a good mixture of young guys who are really talented. If we can stay healthy, which will be as big a key for us being successful as anything, we'll be in good shape."
Notable: With Georgia up first on the schedule, the learning curve is extreme.
3) Create turnovers.
Breakdown: There's a greater emphasis on getting takeaways, which is one sure way to stop an opponent. The Cowboys are focused on stripping ball carriers and creating tipped passes to turn into interceptions during drills.
Young says: "We feel like that's a mindset. We've got to work as hard as we can as a staff and as players to emphasize how important that is."
Notable: Every team talks turnovers. Some are just better at creating them. That's what the Cowboys want to be. They weren't bad a year ago, ranking fourth in the Big 12 and 35th nationally in turnover margin.
4) Stop the run.
Breakdown: Young is old school, so his passion for stopping the run comes natural. And even in a pass-happy league like the Big 12, it's the base requirement for being a solid defense.
Young says: "We've got to not only have great technique and assignments, but we've got to get off blocks and we've got to tackle well and stop people from running."
Notable: Young is opting for quickness over bulk at the point of attack, which is why he's moved former ends Derek Burton and Shane Jarka (both listed at 285 pounds) inside to tackle. The cast of veteran linebackers ï¿½ Patrick Lavine, Orie Lemon and Andre Sexton ï¿½ should be in attack mode.
5) Contribute to the feel-good vibe of a team garnering top 10 consideration.
Breakdown: Hey, the defenders know what's been said. They know the stats. And they're determined to make an impact.
Young says: "Coach (Mike) Gundy has done a great job with our whole football team. We're doing our small part over on defense to make sure everyone understands it's a big-team, little-me attitude. And that permeates down from the head coach to them.
"All of that is an attitude. And it's a positive attitude. That's so much more important than ability."
Notable: It's been a while since an OSU defense stood tall. A long while. But check Young's defenses at Kansas a few years ago and you understand the reason for optimism.