STILLWATER – The 2013 Oklahoma State Cowboys vowed to play more aggressive defense than in the season before.
In 2013, OSU sacked the quarterback the same number of times, 25, as in 2012, but those passers were more harried. OSU’s interception total went from 11 in 2012 to 21 in 2013.
But the Cowboys will undertake massive personnel changes in 2014. Seven seniors started on defense last season.
“It's a 180 degree flip from when I was sitting here last year,” said defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, whose promotion to that job coincided with the increased aggressiveness. “I probably said the appropriate things, but inside I knew we had a chance to be really good. Right now, we aren't very good, but that's just today.
“Technically, we lost seven guys but lost more when you factor in guys who may not have started but played a lot of crucial snaps for us.”
So the question becomes, can OSU keep up its newfound aggressive nature while also indoctrinating a bunch of new players?
The Cowboys say yes.
“Spring ball is the time to kind of get guys rolling on the ball, let them know we’re going to be attacking, aggressive through the whole season,” said junior cornerback Kevin Peterson, one of the four returning starters. “Spring ball is the time to show that.”
The other returning starters are linebacker Ryan Simmons, end Jimmy Bean and tackle James Castleman.
“Guys are motivated,” Simmons said. “We’re pretty young. Guys haven’t made a name for themselves. As far as being hungry and going out and making a play, I don’t think there’s going to be a problem with that.
“There may be sometimes when people may not know, or they may not do, a certain fit right, it happens. Even with last year’s team. I’m still sure people are going to go out and play aggressive and hard and fast.”
Still, it that aggressiveness will come with more caution this season. Younger players tend to make more mistakes. Blitz at the wrong time or place. Slip into the wrong coverage. All kinds of minor missteps can put a defense in peril.
“The coaching change we had with Coach Spencer, we had a more aggressive defense,” Peterson said. “We had a lot of older guys on the team. We had a lot of maturity on the defense. Then bringing in the new program, and the athletes we had, we were able to play at our highest level. It was the maturity we had throughout the season.”
That kind of maturity will take time to develop in 2014.