Why Oklahoma State's Defensive Line will Outperform Expectations in 2024

After losing a few key pieces along the defensive front, the Cowboys will need some of their younger players to step up in the new-look Big 12.
Oklahoma State DL Collin Clay (93)
Oklahoma State DL Collin Clay (93) / NATHAN J. FISH/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

With Oklahoma and Texas off to the SEC and Oklahoma State returning an All-American running back as well as a veteran QB, the Pokes will have a chance to win the Big 12 and make the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history.

In 2024, the playoff format grows to 12 teams, guaranteeing the Big 12 champion a spot in the bracket and in turn giving the Cowboys a realistic path to the tournament.

For Mike Gundy's squad to make its way through its conference, however, Bryan Nardo and company will need a good performance from its defensive front.

After an inconsistent performance in 2023 that saw OSU allow over 166 rushing yards per game, good for No. 96 in the FBS last year, Oklahoma State lost two of its top d-lineman to the NFL.

Anthony Goodlow, a former Tulsa transfer who was one of the Pokes biggest contributors on the defensive line, is now with the Los Angeles Rams after tallying seven tackles for loss and three sacks during his lone season in Stillwater.

Nathan Latu, who racked up five tackles for loss and three sacks in 2023, signed with the Saints after going undrafted, but was recently waived by New Orleans.

With the loss of Goodlow and Latu, the Cowboys will need their other returning defensive lineman to step up in 2024.

On the edge, Kody Walterscheid, DeSean Brown and Xavier Ross are set to be big contributors this season after all playing more than 200 snaps on defense in 2023. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Putnam City North (OK) product Jaleel Johnson is also set to take another step forward after tallying 12 tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack as a redshirt freshman.

In addition to the aforementioned returnees, the Pokes also added Division II Gannon University transfer Obi Ezeigbo. A first team All-Conference selection at his previous school, the redshirt senior also has a chance to be a gamechanger for OSU.

On the interior, former Utah Tech transfer Justin Kirkland returns for his second year under Nardo after playing 448 snaps and earning a 68.2 grade from Pro Football Focus during his first year at the FBS level.

Putnam City (OK) product Collin Clay joins Kirkland on the inside after recording 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2023. Behind Kirkland and Clay is unproven redshirt junior Iman Oates, who could serve as a quality depth piece and rotational defensive lineman.

Oklahoma State's mix of experienced veteran players with good size and young, talented d-lineman with solid potential gives the group a chance to be much better than expected in the new-look Big 12.

Want to join the discussion? Like AllPokes on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest Cowboys news. You can also meet the team behind the coverage.

Randall Sweet