Defense in the Big 12 doesn’t get a lot of credit. However, Oklahoma State showed last season that they are capable of putting pressure on opposing defenses by recording 39 sacks and 96 tackles for loss. Even for a defense that at times looked confused under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, that was good enough to tie for 10th in sacks and 20th in tackles for a loss.
Now that Knowles is starting to get his feet underneath him in Stillwater, he’s going to be without a couple of big names that helped carry the load last season.
Jordan Brailford led the Cowboys with a total of 10 sacks; followed up by Jarrell Owens with six. Unfortunately, Brailford is currently grinding away in the Washington Redskins camp, and Jarrell Owens is competing for a Cleveland Browns roster spot.
In the Big 12, putting pressure on Quarterbacks is paramount to success. Going up against players like Jalen Hurts, Sam Ehlinger, Charlie Brewer, Alan Bowman, Brock Purdy and more; a defense cannot give them time to scan the field to read coverages.
For the Cowboys to be successful this season, here are three names who could step up and replace the 41 percent decrease in sack production.
Mike Scott – DE
No, not that Michael Scott, although, that would be amazing. This Mike Scott is the 6-foot-5, 245-pound redshirt senior, and transfer from Trinity Valley Community College. He had a productive first season for the Pokes by finishing with a total of three sacks, two quarterback hurries and 10 total tackles.
However, going into this season as the go-to defensive end, and the leading returning sack artist. Scott, will need to turn ample playing time into quality pressure every down from the outside of the line of scrimmage.
Learning from the likes of Jordan Brailford and Jarrell Owens last season, while having another year in Jim Knowles schemes, should give Mike the confidence and knowledge to have an outstanding and breakout final year in the orange and black.
Israel Antwine – DT
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle transfer from Colorado has transferred back home, and should be an absolute boon to the defensive line. Oklahoma State initially missed out on Antwine in the 2018 recruiting class.
Switching from playing defensive end in Colorado’s 3-4 scheme to playing defensive tackles in Knowles’ base 4-2-5 might cause a slight transition period for Israel. However, being a part of spring practice and now fall camp should alleviate any significant problems.
Last season at Colorado, Israel accounted for 15 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hurries. Israel also comes with previous game experience after starting 11 games last season.
Israel should be able to have a “breakout” year for the Cowboys as he gives the Cowboys some depth in the interior of the line, especially as Mike Scott and the next name on the list provide outside pressure.
Brock Martin – DE
Brock Martin has had an interesting career so far in Stillwater. He came to campus as a highly anticipated freshman in 2017 who ended up redshirting due to a shoulder injury. And then last year, Martin was used sparingly as it was hard to find playing time behind Brailford, Owens and Cole Walterscheid.
However, when you watch his tape, he always seems near to the action in most plays. He only totaled seven total tackles, one for loss, and one sack, and also recovered a fumble against West Virginia that helped fuel a Cowboy comeback.
If the Cowboys and Jim Knowles can get the production from Martin that he showed during his time at Oologah High School, then the Cowboy defense will be helped in spades.
Brock Martin may not be a well-known name yet in most Cowboy fan households. But, with him projected to be a starter at one of the edge positions, it would not be surprising to see Brock have a tremendous season.
Scott, Antwine and Martin have some big shoes to fill, but if these guys can take a step forward, then opposing quarterbacks might start hearing some Queen lyrics go through their minds, “Pressure pushing down on me, Pressing down on you, no man ask for, under pressure that burns a building down.”