OSU’s season opener is just 11 days away, and the questions facing OSU are the same. Linebacker, safety, offensive line. Quarterback, I suppose.
But a position that is not on the list shows the evolution of the Cowboy program. OSU is stacked on the defensive line. Mike Gundy said it in the spring and there’s no reason to think it’s otherwise. D-line might be the best position for the Cowboys in 2014.
When defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer talked the other day about his line, he started naming guys and seemingly went on forever.
“I think we’re getting good play up front,” Spencer said. “Those older guys, like (James) Castleman, Ofa (Hautau), Jimmy (Bean), Sam (Wren) and Trace (Clark), give us some good ends and some good defensive tackles. Those guys will be giving us some good depth.”
Historically, the Cowboys had ballplayers all over the back seven, but the upper-tier defensive linemen were reserved for the Big 12 heavyweights. Of course, that’s still true, since OSU has become a Big 12 heavyweight.
Of course, OSU always could use more depth at defensive tackle. Virtually every team can say the same. Castleman and Hautau will be backed up by inexperienced players. But to have established, effective players at tackle, coming off a year in which Calvin Barnett was a senior, is a sign of program strength.
“James is my most experienced player,” said OSU d-line coach Joe Bob Clements. “He’s been around the longest and had the most snaps, so he is having to step up his role and leadership this year. It’s not just a matter of him playing well. He’s also got to be a leader for that entire front and our defense. I’m pleased with what he has done so far.”
OSU brought in Wren and Hautau as junior-college transfers a year ago, and Clements said their progress is “tremendous. A lot of times with the junior college players, they’re just trying to hang on that first year. You get a little bit of productivity out of them, but after they’ve been with the program for a year, you really see the level of play skyrocket a little bit. I think that’s the case with both of those guys.”