By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER — It had been three years since the Oklahoma State defense last took to the field without Bill Young calling the shots.
That changed with the season opener, when Young was sidelined due to health reasons — and he is expected to miss Saturday’s road contest in Arizona.
Filling the shoes of the OSU defensive coordinator has been Glenn Spencer, the co-defensive coordinator, who said it hasn’t been to difficult in the role left by Young’s absence.
“It’s an ‘us’ operation with him,” Spencer said. “That’s the way it’s always been. He’s taken input. Everybody’s involved. So when he wasn’t there, it made the transition smooth.”
In Young’s absence, Spencer has also had to balance working with his linebackers as well as the defensive line — which Young typically handles.
“We grouped up a little bit since Bill wasn’t here,” Spencer said. “I met up with the whole front seven several times. But (graduate assistant) Jermial Ashley has done a great job. Jermial takes them (defensive linemen) through their drill work and fundamentals."
Ashley, who played under Young at the University of Kansas, has been working as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State for three years.
“It’s not like you have a young coach who hasn’t been around,” Spencer said of Ashley. “He played for Bill and now been coaching with him for three years. So he knows his terminology, knows what (Young) expects. So that has helped me a lot.”
While Spencer has been spread out with his coaching in practice and during games, the defensive players have also had to manage without their leader on the sideline.
“It’s been a little different. But we know he’s got to get better and get healthy,” senior cornerback Brodrick Brown said. “Coach Spencer has done a tremendous job taking over. We’ve just got to continue playing hard for all our coaches.”
Sophomore defensive lineman James Castleman added, “We try not to make it seem like a big deal, but it was. Coach Young hasn’t missed a game in a long time. It is different. We aren’t used to not having him around. We got through it and will get through it.”
Gundy agrees, though, that his players have handled Young’s absence well.
“They’ve done very well,” Gundy said. “In college football, you’re going to be without players at any given time and at times, you’ll be without coaches because we all live normal lives just like anybody else in the public.
“... You’ll have situations where coaches can’t be there all the time (or) players can’t be there all the time. So the operation of the program should make up for that and I think they’ve done well. We certainly want to get him back as quick as possible, but they have to adjust and move on.”
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.