Bill Young, Oklahoma State’s new defensive coordinator, has an excellent reputation. I think it’s fair to say that he’s one of the major reasons many people expect the Cowboys to live up to the promise of T. Boone’s expenditures this season. What I’m curious about is how realistic it is to expect a sea change in OSU’s defense this season – or at least in a few days from now in the opener against Georgia’s offense.
One thing we can look at in evaluating Young’s track record is how things went in the beginning at his last stop which, conveniently enough, occurred last year.
During his one year as defensive coordinator at Miami, Young’s defense ranked 28th nationally in 2008, yielding a little over 317 yards per game. That’s a modest improvement over the ‘Canes 2007 results, when they ranked 33rd nationally, giving up almost 346 ypg.
On the surface, that’s not bad, but two grains of salt should be tossed into the mix for consideration. First, don’t forget about the new clock rules that went into effect last season. As a result of shortening the game, defensive numbers tended to improve as a general rule last season. (Southern Cal finished second both in 2007 and 2008, but gave up 50 yards less per game last season.)
Second, the offenses in the ACC the last two seasons have been wretched, to put it politely. Here are the national rankings of Miami’s cohorts in the conference in total offense last year: 50, 51, 68, 87, 88, 92, 94, 101, 102, 103 and 105. That works out to an average ranking of 85. Their average ranking in 2007 was the same. (By comparison, the Big XII had four offenses in the top ten last year.)
Now, if you’re OSU, your mileage may vary with this data, of course. First of all, you’re digging out of a much deeper hole, stat-wise, than Miami was:
Oklahoma State finished 9-4 last season, losing to Oregon in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, and was ranked No. 16 in the final Associated Press poll. But the Cowboys struggled defensively.
They finished 93rd among 119 teams in total defense, allowing 405.54 yards per game, and 76th in scoring defense at 28.1 points per game.
But you’re going to be doing it against much better offenses on average. And I doubt that Young has the athletic talent available to him this year that he did last year, although what he’s got to work with in 2009 is more seasoned than that green bunch he had in Miami. So I’m not sure how much there is to hang your hat on in a week or so.
None of which is to suggest that Young isn’t good at what he does, or that he won’t have the OSU defense playing at a higher level eventually. But maybe it’s a little bit of a stretch to expect the Cowboys to step on the field in the opener looking totally transformed on that side of the ball from a year ago.
UPDATE: This comes from a beat reporter, not an Okie State coach, so take it in that context, but still…
… Georgia is going to run the ball right at OSU. They aren’t going to come out in a spread offense and count on Cox to lead them to a win. The Cowboys’ defense is largely designed to handle Big 12 spread offenses with speed, not prodding the 300-plus pound behemoths that Georgia calls an offensive line. So even if the Pokes struggle stopping the Bulldogs’ run, they could still be successful against Big 12 offenses.
Yeah, Georgia runs out of the I-formation, but if these guys really think team speed is an issue for the Dawg offense, they’re in for a surprise.