A look at Oklahoma State’s pre-spring depth chart at linebacker revealed much youth and inexperience.
And real concern.
If possible, the position has gotten thinner. And younger.
Concern is multiplying.
The spring storyline left Ryan Simmons – last year’s pup at the position – as the group’s leader, a junior whose 13 career starts represent all the career starts at all three positions... combined.
Sophomore Seth Jacobs and junior Kris Catlin are projected as the replacements for mainstays Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. And depth was on the way with junior college additions Devante Averette and D’Nerius Antoine. Dom Ramacher and Demarcus Sherod, two sophomores with special teams experience, hoped to enter the radar.
Well, time for a drastic rewrite.
Scratch Catlin, whom sources report has failed in the classroom just as he was on the verge of his first starting gig as a Cowboy.
Scratch Averette, who reportedly wrecked a knee in the spring and won’t play in 2014.
Keep the Sharpie ready for Antoine, too, who couldn’t complete requirements to enroll in January and is questionable to make it this summer.
As if you need reminding, defending national champion Florida State awaits in Game 1.
The Cowboys stack up strong along the defensive front and boast solid corners in the back end.
The middle, however, appears more than squishy and quite vulnerable to enemy ground attacks and short passing games.
Now, for some good news: Simmons played well in his first exposure as a starter a year ago and slides into his natural position in the middle, taking over Lavey’s spot and role as the unit CPU. Simmons should be good.
And yet, with nothing but raw rookies around him, Simmons could find himself swallowed up by the chore of covering too much ground and too much responsibility.
As it is now – and surprises keep coming – Jacobs joins Simmons as given starters. Then it gets murky.
Clearly, the Cowboys are going to have to count on kids.
And, again, that’s scary, especially when considering that the defense was already replacing seven senior starters. Nothing against the youngsters, it’s just that they’re being shoved into duty, probably before they’re ready. All are skipping the valuable backup phase of their career, when game action typically arrives in less tense situations, instead moving directly to the firing line.
So, who’s in play? Anyone on the roster with an LB attached to their name, including true freshmen. It might also involve some of the team’s bigger safeties getting a look at OSU’s “Star” position, a sort of safety-linebacker hybrid.
Anything to get possible playmakers on the field.
Jacobs has been a coaches’ favorite, a former All-State pick from California. Ramacher, another of the Denton Guyer crew, was a Texas Top 100 recruit. Sherod created buzz as a true freshman, before injury kept him out last season. All need to grow up, in a hurry.
From this year’s recruiting class, Broken Arrow’s Gyasi Akem and Texas recruits Josh Mabin and Justin Phillips will get a look to provide depth, if not more. Akem (6-1, 210) and Phillips (6-0, 215) are undersized for now, while Mabin (6-2, 227) at least appears to be more ready.
Kirk Tucker, the late safety get from Georgia, could play the star, as could Michigan transfer safety Josh Furman.
The defense, which leaned heavily on veteran play and leadership a year ago, has gotten younger.
And concern is multiplying.