No position group on Oklahoma State’s roster was immune to the bite of the portal this offseason, but the Cowboys’ linebacker corps may have done the best job of overcoming it.
The Cowboys lost their leading tackler from the linebacker group in Mason Cobb after he jumped the portal for USC. OSU also said goodbye to their No. 3 tackling LB in Lamont Bishop. But the Cowboys do return quite a bit of experience and depth.
Cobb and Bishop were the only two scholarship linebackers that aren’t returning from last year, and the Cowboys added a couple of big additions to the group (more on that below).
Back is Xavier Benson, a former transfer himself, who will be leaned on as a leader of the defense this year. Also back is Nicholas Martin who saw reps on the defense as a freshman and played in all 13 games last season. Expect Martin to be leading the pack of young backers ready to make their mark. Add to that list a handful of up-and-comers who could take the next step this fall.
Who’s Entering the Mix
With the installation of Bryan Nardo’s 3-3-5 defense, former Freshman All-American and Bedlam hero Collin Oliver is moving from LEO defensive end to outside (Rover) linebacker. Expect him to get plenty of opportunities to pin his ears back and launch at opposing QBs.
Also added to the group was former Tulsa linebacker Justin Wright. The two-time All-AAC selection and three-year starter is fresh off a career season in which he led the Golden Hurricane in tackles (101) and tackles for loss (10.5). He also added two sacks, grabbed a pair of interceptions and logged three pass breakups. His addition was a godsend shortly after losing Cobb.
Spring Depth Chart Prediction
Here’s a look at how things might shake out at linebacker this fall.
LB – Collin Oliver, Donovan Stephens
LB – Justin Wright, Jeff Roberson
LB – Xavier Benson, Nicholas Martin
Although the Cowboys will miss Cobb’s production, they may have made up for it with the addition of Wright, and with a proven stud like Oliver joining the room, the position could be even stronger this fall. But the most important factor will be how quickly Nardo’s new defense can hit the ground running.