Oklahoma State led the FBS in sacks last year, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks to the tune of four per game. And they did it without their returning sack leader Trace Ford.
The Edmond-Santa Fe star hit the ground running as a true freshman with three sacks and nine (!) QB hurries in 2019, and then followed that up with 4.5 sacks in 2020, lining up all over Jim Knowles’ defensive front, drawing constant double-teams and living at the top of opposing OCs’ whiteboards. That’s when a knee injury derailed his breakout sophomore season. Ford was primed for a comeback in 2021 before a torn ACL (in his other knee) forced him to miss all of last year.
We’ve heard from Mike Gundy and the likes of fellow edge rusher Brock Martin that Ford is at 100 percent physically entering the 2022 season. But spending time nailed to the bench allowed the dynamic QB hunter a chance to dig into the details of OSU’s defense and to learn, which should make him even more effective at wreaking havoc.
After Thursday’s practice, Ford quipped that he didn’t know what cover-3 meant before, but now has a much better understanding of the game.
“It slows the game down tremendously,” said Ford about what he’s learned over the last year. “I mean it used to be fast. Now I know what this tackle’s going to do. He’s gonna drop down. I know what the guard’s gonna do. I know what gap’s going to be open, most likely. It’s a lot easier to read the formations just getting more educated on the field.”
Bedlam hero Collin Oliver had a historic freshman season with 11.5 QB takedowns and Brock Martin set a career-high adding nine notches to his belt. Both are back for 2022. Tyler Lacy also returns after 3.5 sacks last season.
Now, with a healthy Ford in tow, the vaunted Cowboys defensive front enters Thursday night’s season opener against Central Michigan with a threatening two-deep of defensive ends scary enough to keep any offensive tackle up at night. All four don ORs on the Week 1 depth chart. Expect hockey-like line changes.
“Yeah, dudes definitely shouldn’t be tired this season, that’s a fact with the dudes we have on edge right now,” said Ford. “We’re pretty stacked. There’s plenty of rotation going on, lots of experience, so we should be ready to go.”
Rather than worry about who gets the numbers and the glory, Ford is just happy to get out there and pin his ears back with his friends. He says he’s been craving it, counting down the days to kickoff.
“I hope Collin gets 15 [sacks],” Ford said. “I hope Brock gets 15. I’m rooting for them. I mean, I hope I get 15, but I’m rooting for all of them. I mean I just wanna play. I’m ready to play by their side. Rooting for everyone.”
Ford will get his chance Thursday night at 6 p.m. when OSU hosts Central Michigan inside Boone Pickens Stadium.