Preseason practice hasn’t even begun and the folks in Stillwater have already reached a fever pitch in their excitement over the opening game against Georgia. And no wonder. Because of their high-powered offense, many prognosticators are pegging Oklahoma State as probably a Top 10 team, despite the fact they’re picked third in their own conference division (such is the current media infatuation with the big guns of the Big 12).
I checked in recently on the piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago on whether the Cowboys were overrated and the Dogs underrated, and confident Okie State fans are still posting comments.
The beat writer who covers OSU for the Oklahoman goes so far as to predict a 21-point win over the Bulldogs.
And now comes a bit of bulletin-board material courtesy of Andre Sexton, a senior linebacker on the Pokes’ defense, who remembers his teammates being intimidated and scared when they visited Athens two years ago for what turned into a beatdown Between the Hedges.
This time, Sexton told the San Antonio Express-News, “Georgia’s the one that has to be scared. Not us.”
Big talk coming from a member of a defense that ranked 94th nationally last year and in the past has been the Achilles heel that has kept the Cowboys from breaking through to greatness, most recently falling apart in the second half of their Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon.
But T. Boone Pickens U. went out during the offseason and hired a big-name defensive coordinator: Bill Young, who made his name working under former Ohio State coach John Cooper and most recently coached at Kansas and Miami.
It remains to be seen what sort of change Young has wrought in the OSU defense, but he’s at least got his players believing it’s not so much that they were bad last year as it was they were just playing in a super league.
As Sexton told Yahoo Sports: “People were bashing our defense and saying we’re not any good. It’s not that we’re not any good. We’re just playing against the top talent week in and week out. If an SEC team played in our conference for a year, they’d see. They’d totally respect it. It’s something that’s hard to understand unless you’re in the middle of it.”
Oklahoma and Texas may have the most respect outside the Big 12, but “Oklahoma State is up there with those guys now,” Sexton declared to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
And star quarterback Zac Robinson told the paper, “I’m real excited to see our defense play this year. I saw the improvement in the spring. … There are a ton [six starters] back and obviously Coach Young coming in is going to help us a ton with the track record he has and the defenses he’s coached. … I know if our defensive guys buy into his stuff, we’re going to be just fine.”
OK, we know Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and receiver/punt returner Dez Bryant are among the nation’s best offensive players and OSU is going to score points. And, granted, Young’s more simplified schemes and emphasis on fundamentals probably will result in improved play on the defensive side of the ball.
But the Pokes allowed more than 400 yards a game last year, ranked 107th nationally in sacks and are having to replace three starters in the secondary. Can one 62-year-old man on the sideline calling the defensive signals make enough of a difference that someone thinks Oklahoma State is three touchdowns better than the Dogs? I’m not convinced.
What do you think? Should Mark Richt’s team be “scared” going into Stillwater?