January 17, 2013

2013 Outlook Series: Defensive Backs

We've been through two-thirds of the defense, and it seems like the Cowboys are set in 2013 on this side of the ball.

In our last defensive installment, it's more of the same, but 2012 taught us all that that's not always the case.

But before we start, here's my little speech I've been giving all season.
Defense is a dead art, especially in the Big 12. It's no longer "Stopping an opponent", it's simply "Slowing them down until they make a mistake". There are a few that have figured it out better than others (TCU, Texas on a good day) but for the most part that's the case.

That was the case with the Oklahoma State secondary in 2011. They'd slow opponents down long enough to jump a pass or force a fumble. But when they aren't getting the breaks, 2012 happens.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's continue as we start hitting the defensive backs.

Key Losses

Brodrick Brown: 62 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery

Key Returners

Daytawion Lowe: 75 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions

Justin Gilbert: 63 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 9 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble

Shamiel Gary: 72 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble

Kevin Peterson: 20 tackles, 2 pass breakups

Outlook: Before you jump all over me for putting Gilbert and Gary in the "Key Returners" category, hear me out.
Gilbert is the most athletic player on any field no matter who OSU is playing, and just because he had an off year doesn't mean he's a bad player. He could easily turn it around this offseason just as fast as he dropped off last offseason, and his return is huge. He led the team in pass breakups with nine, and once he figures it out, could be a dominant cornerback in college, and a solid player in the NFL. But that's if he turns it around. Same with Gary, although he seems a bit farther off from it than Gilbert.

The Pokes Lowe, who's led the team in tackles the last two years and has been pretty solid at the safety spot. He understands what's going on back there, and seems to have assumed a leadership role with the unit. He'll try and drag along Gary, and probably Zack Craig.

Craig has been called the best coverage guy Oklahoma State has by his fellow teammmates, and performed well in his time on the field this year, though it was limited.

The unit's lone loss doesn't seem to be a huge hit, as Peterson heads into his sophomore season with a start and experience in all 13 games in 2012, and will likely take over the spot Brown has left open. Also, look for Andrae May to keep making contributions.

As far as other names go, Larry Stephens and Miketavius Jones could see some playing time come their way after being listed on the depth chart in preseason. The Pokes also lost Devin Hedgepeth to another Achilles tear in 2012, but it's rumored he could be trying for yet another return to the gridiron, although it's way too early to know that one way or another right now.

As far as the biggest question for this unit goes, it's simply "Will they perform?" The DB's were great in 2011, forcing an abundance of turnovers, but in 2012 they couldn't get the ball and looked porous against the Sooners and the Baylor Bears as the season came to a close after looking really good at times in the middle of the campaign.

As was the case going into the 2012 season, all the pieces seem to be there for the Oklahoma State defensive backs, but only time will tell if they actually decide to put it together in 2013. They could be great, horrible, or anywhere in between.

That's just the way football is nowadays. It doesn't matter who's back there if they can't slow down opposing offenses, especially in the Big 12.

We'll find out come this fall, but chances are decent that they'll be just fine.

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