STILLWATER — Ryan Simmons is supposed to have supreme confidence in the Oklahoma State defense. It comes with his role as the Cowboys’ projected starting middle linebacker this season.
And as it’s been previously reported, Simmons’ leadership style is as serious as it gets.
During Thursday’s press conference previewing the Aug. 30 Florida State opener in Arlington, Simmons used his platform to praise a specific position group: the defensive line.
“One of the best d-line’s in the conference and in the nation, in my opinion,” Simmons said. “A lot of the things we can do can definitely put pressure on (FSU quarterback Jameis Winston).”
That’s some high praise. And quite the prediction considering the competition for those titles.
The Cowboys return a majority of their playmakers on the defensive line — including defensive tackle James Castleman and defensive end Jimmy Bean, who started every game last season.
But OU also returns a number of talented defensive linemen, and that group ranked second in the conference in sacks (33) and rush defense (137.6 yards allowed per game) last season. The Cowboys ranked sixth and fifth in those categories, respectively.
And none of the current Cowboy defensive linemen are considered top 2015 NFL draft picks next season — while USC, Nebraska, Michigan State, Florida, Iowa and Ohio State each have pass rushers and run stuffers who might go as high as the first round.
Simmons understands his defense isn’t getting that kind of hype, but says it won’t dictate his own expectations.
“Right now, nobody knows what we have the potential to be,” Simmons said. “The effort is there, we’re all still learning day by day. We just have to go about it and prepare as if it’s our last day.”