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Scouting Ahead: Secondary defense edition

Over the past couple of seasons, Oklahoma State’s secondary defense has been considered a weakness with young corners and safeties, but this season it will be one of its strength.

In an interview with Pistols Firing Blog back in March, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was encouraged by the secondary and was ready for them to have a good season.

“I’m most excited about our secondary,” Knowles said. “We played a lot of young guys there last year, and you know, ‘school of hard knocks.' They had some tough experiences, but they are going to be light-years better and we have two great corners in my opinion.”

OSU returns both their cornerbacks in Rodarius Williams and A.J. Green along with safeties Kolby Harvell-Peel and Malcolm Rodriguez.

Green should have a standout senior year as he has improved each year he has been at OSU. Green has become the shutdown corner for the Cowboys.

When Green has gone up against great receivers he limits their number of catches and holds them in check. For example, he held Texas receiver Colin Johnston to five receptions on 13 targets and West Virginia’s David Sills to four receptions on 11 targets.

Redshirt junior Williams will complement Green on the other side of the field. Williams has been encouraged by the cornerback competition this spring.

"We have a lot of guys with a lot of experience,” Williams said. “The fresh faces last season are coming in as sophomores now, and it is great having a lot of depth."

Also, keep an eye on Kemah Siverand, who has already been at OSU for a year now after graduating from Texas A&M. Siverand made a solid impact last season catching an interception against Missouri in the Liberty Bowl.

Green and Williams have the starting corner position on lock down, and the same can be said for safeties Rodriguez and Harvell-Peel. Rodriguez had a break out sophomore season with 83 tackles during the 2018 season, the second most on the team.

Rodriguez will provide confidence as an experienced secondary that will be the backbone of the defense this fall.

Harvell-Peel also made a big impact during the 2018 season as a true freshman. Harvell-Peel had a career-high nine tackles against Missouri in the Liberty Bowl. Harvell-Peel also had seven tackles in three games during the 2018 season.

Rodriguez and Harvell-Peel will have much needed experience behind them this season at the safety position.

Look for Jarrick Bernard to continue to play a good amount as he had 59 tackles as a freshman for the Cowboy’s defense. Bernard made an impact on special teams with a blocked a punt against Boise State and 14 tackles against Texas Tech as a freshman. Bernard has experience that will help the Cowboy secondary have a great season.

With depth at the safety position, another player to watch for is Tanner McCalister. McCalister played in 12 games as a freshman on defense and special teams. McCalister will be more experienced, having already gone through the learning curve of division I football.

Last year, the secondary showed glimpses of how good they can be, but struggled most of the season giving up too many big plays in the passing game by allowing receivers to get behind them.

In the upcoming season, Knowles will have to rely on the secondary to get the job done because they are his most experienced group on defense.

After going through the growing pains and installing the new defense, the secondary looks to cause a lot of turnovers and limit the number of big plays in the passing game by opponents.

sports.ed@ocolly.com