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OSU Defensive Line Optimistic After Opener

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Many Cowboy fans were disappointed with Oklahoma State’s season-opening 24-13 win at Central Michigan. They wanted more points, more explosion and, well, more points.

And it’s true; the Pokes certainly could have been sharper in some areas, specifically the ground attack and the kicking game. Ironically though, OSU actually excelled in what was expected to be one of its main departments of concern: run defense.

Defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean stole Central Michigan’s lunch money, which was to be expected. But it was the play of defensive tackles Vincent Taylor and Darrion Daniels that was most encouraging. Taylor, a redshirt sophomore, and Daniels, a true freshman, entered last Thursday’s opener as unknown commodities.

If you’re familiar with how football works, you know that if the interior of your defensive line gets dominated, your defense is probably doomed. With that said, OSU’s performance against CMU felt like a giant exhale for the Pokes’ coaching staff. The Cowboys dominated the line of scrimmage and held the Chippewas to just 78 rushing yards on 28 carries. And if you exclude quarterback Cooper Rush’s 51 yards, CMU ran for a grand total of 37 yards on 20 tries.

“I thought we defended the run real well,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “The linebackers did a great job of seeing the ball, coming off of blocks and making the play they’re supposed too. When you stop the run like we did, it's the front seven doing a good job."

A very large (literally) part of that front seven is the 320-pound Daniels. Most freshman defensive tackles at the Power Five level aren’t physically ready to be tossed into the fire right away, but after losing standouts James Castleman and Ofa Hautau to the NFL, OSU coach Mike Gundy didn’t have much of a choice. But that’s not to say that Gundy wasn’t confident.

"Physically, (Daniels) is a little further ahead than players we've had in the past here,” Gundy said. “He's a 300-pounder, he's strong, he's got a good background and he's more mature than most freshmen are.

“He was able to stay healthy in camp. He has made plays in practice, and he has held his own against the offense. His cardiovascular shape is pretty good. When you can stay healthy through camp and absorb information, you have a chance to play as a freshman.”

Ogbah, who spent most of the night getting tag-teamed by a pair of Chippewas, praised the Pokes’ interior linemen for not only holding their own, but dominating.

"I knew Vincent (Taylor) could ball, so I kind of knew that he was going to do all that,” Ogbah said. “I know Darrion (Daniels) can step up when he needs to. He's a young player, and he really stepped up during the game so we're glad that he did that for us.”

All the attention on Ogbah, an elite NFL prospect, allowed Bean to really sprout (sorry). Bean, a 250-pound senior, was all over the field, flushing Rush out of the pocket on countless occasions. Despite only recording one sack, Bean disrupted Rush’s rhythm on countless occasions.

"I think that's how it's going to work a lot throughout the whole year,” Bean said of OSU’s pass rush. “We've got guys at each position that will be able to get back there and put pressure on the quarterback."

This group will get a shot at an encore on Saturday against Central Arkansas, but we probably won’t get another accurate read until Sept. 19 against UTSA. Defensive line play isn’t as exciting as running up the score, but the goal for these fellas is fewer points, less explosion, and, well, fewer points.

So far so good.

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