, Muskogee, OK

August 25, 2013

Play in the trenches could be critical for Cowboys

By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service

— STILLWATER — Most games are won in the trenches.

And for Oklahoma State, they are hopeful the  defensive players battling at the line will be able to propel the Pokes to a successful season.

It’s not a stretch of the imagine to view OSU’s group of defensive linemen as a group that could be a driving force to improve a mediocre defense from the past years.

“I love the fact that I can trust the guy next to me, I can trust the guys at the end,” defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “I know I can trust anyone put on the defensive line. It’s exciting.”

Barnett, a senior who transferred from Navarro Community College before last year, will be the anchor of the big men in the trenches. The Tulsa native made waves in his first year at OSU, earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, First-Team All-Big 12 by coaches and Second-Team All-Big 12 from the Associated Press.

He was one of two Cowboy defenders to earn a spot on the Preseason All-Big 12 team, as voted on by media representatives who cover the league.

“I’m just looking to get better. I know there are things I can still improve on technique-wise,” Barnett said.

But it’s not just Barnett that has people speaking highly of this defensive line. There is plenty of returning talent across the front — with some depth to help the cause.

Also returning along the line are familiar names like junior James Castleman and seniors Anthony Rogers, Tyler Johnson and Davidell Collins. Castleman is tied with Barnett in returning tackles on the defensive line — recording 30 tackles to go with one sack and an interception.

With getting more pressure up front, the hope is that it could lead to more turnovers, as well. After forcing 44 turnovers in 2011 — which helped propel the program to its first Big 12 championship and a trip to a BCS game — there was a drastic drop off last season with just 22 takeaways.

Improvement at the line may also help in yards allowed. Last year, OSU finished in the bottom half of the league in total defense — ranking sixth with 421.7 yards given up per game. That translated into 28.2 points allowed per game, which ranked fifth among league defenses.

“I think this defense is going to be better than last year,” Barnett said. “We’re more aggressive, everybody looks faster. We’re young, but we have a lot of experience at the same time. There is a lot of leadership on this defense.”