STILLWATER — Jimmy Bean started every game in 2013 and led Oklahoma State with 4 1/2 sacks.
He is 6-foot-5 and weighs 253 pounds. He’s one of four returning starters on the OSU defense.
But somehow, that hasn’t been enough to really get Bean noticed.
Bean is finally starting to draw attention, though, like when the often quiet and goofy defensive end broke out in a freestyle rap this offseason in front of teammates.
“I don’t know what he was saying, but I heard everyone like, ‘Ohhh,’ and I was like, ‘OK Jimmy,’ ” cornerback Kevin Peterson said. “When he walks into the locker room, he’ll usually just walk in and look at everybody like, ‘Yeah’ and walk by, so it was really surprising.”
What’s less surprising, though, is Bean’s play on the field this spring. Undersized his first three years at OSU, Bean bulked up from 243 pounds to 253. His goal is to enter the 2014 season near 260.
He said he has also made huge improvements in technique. Now, Bean said, he’s even better at shedding blocks and using quick moves to rush the passer.
“I don’t see a whole lot of d-line in practice, but I know whenever I make a play, I look to the d-line to see where the pressure is,” Peterson said. “I always see Jimmy down there working hard. He’s really progressed over the spring.”
It’s been a long time coming for Bean, a product of Denton Guyer High School in Texas. He signed in the same class as Guyer teammates Josh Stewart and J.W. Walsh. Walsh’s father, John, is Guyer’s head coach.
Sophomore linebacker Dominic Ramacher and transfer Cameron Hunter are also from Guyer.
Bean spent the past two seasons watching Walsh and Stewart thrive while he went unnoticed. In 2012, when Walsh won the Big 12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year and Stewart emerged as one of the conference’s best receivers, Bean was sidelined with a dislocated knee that forced him to take a medical redshirt.
In January, OSU coach Mike Gundy said Bean’s injury was the best thing that could have happened to him.
“(Walsh and Stewart) just turned the corner,” Gundy said Friday. “Five or 6 out of every 10 players that we bring in here, they struggle for the first 18 months.
“A couple years ago, (Bean) wasn’t sure if college football was for him. There was a lot of issues with structure and discipline and accountability. He wasn’t sure he fit the role of college football player.”
Gundy said now, Bean has turned that corner.
“We’ve got a lot of faith in him,” Gundy said. “He’s now become a mature, veteran player, and I like him.
“Jimmy Bean has come a long ways.”
Once taking advice from Walsh and Stewart, Bean is giving it as one of the more experienced players on the OSU defense.
“It was always motivating to watch them be successful,” Bean said. “They would tell me just to keep my head up and that my time will come. To just be patient, it’s a blessing in disguise.
“I just took all that in and just waited until my time came.”
For Bean, it’s a matter of finally feeling comfortable.
“He thinks a lot,” Peterson said. “You can tell because he freestyles. He can freestyle real good, so he’s good at thinking. He knew he was going to have to come into that role, and before he came into his own skin, he was probably a little humble.
“Once he came into his body and formed out, he realized he could be really great.”
And with Stewart moving on to the NFL, it’s Bean’s time to help Walsh represent Denton Guyer.
“It’s great to have the group of guys we’ve had come out of Guyer and then make a statement here as individuals,” Bean said. “I feel like it’s my turn to step in.”