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Oklahoma State football: Linebacker depth a big plus

Assistant coach Glenn Spencer has the luxury of rotating in several players, keeping the Cowboys' corps fresh.
By Gina Mizell Published: August 28, 2012

Caleb Lavey, MLB, junior

2011 stats: 74 tackles (5 for loss), 1 interception, 1 forced fumble

A reliable contributor in the middle of the OSU defense last season, Lavey was third on the team in tackles.

Spencer says: “Caleb Lavey is quicker. He has a great aptitude for the scheme and for getting to the spot where he needs to be and getting there quick and making up for when somebody else might lose their assignment. Somebody up front of him loses their gap and he's going to overlap and overtake it — shoot, you just don't get that out of many people.”

Alex Elkins, WLB, senior

2011 stats: 90 tackles (5 for loss), 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries

Elkins' story, which took him from a junior-college open tryout to becoming a starter in Stillwater, is well-known. One of the Cowboys' most exciting playmakers a season ago, and an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection, is continuing to learn OSU's defensive scheme.

Spencer says: “He's not a finished product. I don't know if any of them will ever be. We're working for perfection, but we'll accept excellence. That's what he's trying to do. He's got a further way to go than the rest of them, but as long as he's making improvements, I'm very pleased.”

Joe Mitchell, SLB, junior

2011 stats: 32 tackles (1 for loss)

Mitchell was a steady backup last season, but has since been dropped to the third team with the emergence of Lyndell Johnson.

Who's new

Ryan Simmons, MLB, redshirt freshman

Essentially now a co-starter with Lavey, Spencer calls Simmons a “natural” in the middle.

Spencer says: “He's very instinctive, he's very smooth. The more reps he gets, he's just exponentially getting better every week. I'm rolling him and Caleb in with the 1s right now, and I think as time goes on, he's made Caleb better.”

Lyndell Johnson, SLB, sophomore

Johnson added about 15 pounds in muscle during the summer, but is still a bit undersized at the position. He's got excellent speed and athleticism, though, especially in pass coverage.

Spencer says: “He's rangy, he's quick and he's done better at getting more physical in this camp.”

Demarcus Sherod, WLB, redshirt freshman

Once projected to primarily be a special teams contributor in 2012, Sherod has since climbed up the depth chart to the backup spot behind Elkins.

Nico Ornelas, WLB, sophomore

Like Johnson, Ornelas is working to add muscle and plays best on the perimeter. He's currently competing with Sherod for the second-team spot on the weak side.

Spencer says: “Just watching him out there in practice in camp, he's not shy. He loves to stick his face in there. He's a guy that gives you a little bit more in the passing game than in the running game right now.”

Kris Catlin, MLB, redshirt freshman

Could compete for playing time behind the Elkins-Simmons platoon.