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Oklahoma State football: Return of Malcolm Rodriguez, Devin Harper boosts Cowboy linebackers

Oklahoma State's Devin Harper (16) will be a primary fixture at linebacker for the Cowboys in 2021. [JOHN CLANTON/TULSA WORLD]
Oklahoma State's Devin Harper (16) will be a primary fixture at linebacker for the Cowboys in 2021. [JOHN CLANTON/TULSA WORLD]

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has had a wealth of depth at his two linebacker positions the past couple of seasons, but that depth is finally taking a hit.

With Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA, Knowles will have experienced seniors filling his starting jobs.

But he won’t have the valuable experience backing them up, like he’s had the last two years.

Here’s a look at OSU’s linebacker group in 2021:

Season rewind: For the second straight year, linebacker was a highly reliable position. Rodriguez (82 tackles) and Amen Ogbongbemiga (80) led the team in tackles, and both continued their trend of being in the right spot and making stops when they got their hands on ball carriers.

A year after moving from safety, Rodriguez bulked up to nearly 230 pounds, which helped him hold up better against bigger blockers. Harper played a crucial role as a backup, and occasionally, as a third linebacker in specific situations.

Who’s out: Amen Ogbongbemiga, Calvin Bundage

Who’s in: Nick Martin, Fr.

The take: Rodriguez has been one of the most steady players on the team for the last three seasons, and his decision to stay in school for one more year certainly made Knowles smile. Same for Harper, who hasn’t had as much starting experience, but still has played a decent amount in his career.

The Cowboys won’t have the same kind of pass-rush specialist that Bundage was, particularly last season when he led the team in sacks. But the door is open for young players to emerge.

Counting Martin, the Cowboys have signed seven linebackers in the past three recruiting classes. Now it’s time for some of them to prove themselves with spots open on the depth chart.

Projected depth chart

Outside linebacker

Malcolm Rodriguez, RSr., 5-11, 230

Na’drian Dizadare, RFr., 6-2, 220

Inside linebacker

Devin Harper, RSr., 6-0, 240

Mason Cobb, Fr., 6-0, 230

Scott Wright covers OSU athletics, especially football. You can send your story ideas to him at or on Twitter at @ScottWrightOK. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›