That team had a turnover margin of plus-21 — and a significant advantage because of it — because of the defense.
Can this year's defense duplicate that?
“We talk about it,” Spencer said. “We stress it. But it's not like we stressed it anymore in '11 than we did in ‘12. A lot of it has to do with players and being opportunistic.”
And that's where all eyes turn to Spencer.
His defensive philosophy is to be more aggressive. Up front. Down field. Everywhere. And in doing that, the Cowboys hope to create more opportunities for turnovers.
But Spencer insists scheme isn't the biggest change that he's brought. He believes that for a defense to be at its best, every player has to understand how every other player's actions affect him.
His message, for example, to defensive linemen Calvin Barnett and Tyler Johnson: “You need to be Justin Gilbert's fan. If he covers that wide receiver a second and a half longer, you're going to get a hurry, you're going to get a sack.”
His message to everyone: “You've got to get your eyes off yourself and realize how it's all tied in together.”
To that end, Spencer has had and will continue to have regular and frequent meetings of all the players on defense. That's not something that was done in other years that he's been in Stillwater. But he wants the players to see video clips of every position, to hear him critique the good and the bad and ultimately to better understand how everyone is dependent on everyone else.
And Spencer has seen evidence that the players are starting to think that way.
“I saw some sparks in the spring,” he said. “When they don't (think that way), it's glaring and I point it out to them and I get ticked off and they know.”
He believes having that mentality is crucial.
“Great defenses I've been around have done that.”
Will this be a great defense?
The Cowboys' title hopes depend on it.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.