OSU football: How good can the Cowboy defense be?
STILLWATER — Jim Knowles’ excitement was genuine and emphatic.
The Oklahoma State defensive coordinator believes he has a group of players capable of taking yet another step forward in Knowles’ third season with the Cowboys.
OSU showed noted improvement on defense a year ago, and returns 10 starters this season, plus several reserves who made important contributions.
“I think we are poised to really take the next step,” Knowles said. “The leadership is great. Everybody knows what they’re doing. They’re in the right places and playing fast.
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“It’s been full speed ahead and I think we got a real chance to be good.”
The defense returns 11 of its top 12 tacklers from a year ago, and gets the added boost of senior linebacker Calvin Bundage returning from injury.
The defensive line lost only one player out of its primary nine-man rotation, anchored by tackle Cameron Murray, who emerged as a stalwart noseguard with 30 tackles, 6.5 of them for loss.
“As a unit this whole camp, we’ve been locked in,” Murray said. “We got a different type of swagger, different type of mindset going in.
“The defense this year I feel like is gonna be really good. This camp is really showing how good we can be.”
The Cowboys graduated starting cornerback A.J. Green, but moved two-year starting safety Jarrick Bernard-Converse to cornerback and added graduate transfer Christian Holmes from Missouri. Bernard-Converse and Holmes are battling for playing time opposite fourth-year starter Rodarius Williams.
The Cowboy defense allowed 32.5 points per game in Knowles’ first season of 2018, and dropped that number to 26.8 last season.
“I feel like we had a great finish to last year,” Knowles said. “We really helped the team win some games. We have a shot to have everybody healthy. I see veteran players who know what to do and have a lot of speed.
“I see more depth than ever and a chance to be a well-rounded unit.”