Last week I compiled my all-time Oklahoma State football offense, backups and all. Now, it’s time for the other side of the line of scrimmage as I put together my Oklahoma State all-defensive team.
Despite being more historically known for its offensive players, OSU has produced a plethora of great defenders during its 100-plus year history. A lot of which would go on to have very successful NFL careers after their time in Stillwater.
As mentioned in my offense compilation, these picks are based solely on who I believe is the best player at every position. All-America selections, awards and draft selections also factor heavily into the process. I’ll be going off of the 4-2-5 defensive model the Cowboys use today for a touch of modernism.
Defensive Line: Leslie O’Neal, Jason Gildon, Emmanuel Ogbah, Phillip Dokes
Probably the program’s strongest defensive position historically, the D-line boasts some of the most dominant football players in school history. Some more famous names who roamed the trenches include guys like Kevin Williams, James White, Gary Lewis and Jordan Brailford. However, the guys I picked are without a doubt the best the program has ever produced.
Leslie O’Neal was a consensus All-American in 1985 and currently leads OSU in career sacks with 34, as well as sacks in a season with 16. He would go on to be drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft, where he would accumulate six Pro Bowl selections and three second-team All-Pro selections, undoubtedly Oklahoma State’s most successful defensive pro.
Jason Gildon sits just behind O’Neal in career sacks with 33 in a tenure in Stillwater spanning from 1990 to 1993. He was a force to be reckoned with in the trenches, and was selected in the third round in 1994 by the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played nine seasons, picking up three Pro Bowl selections from 2000 to 2002.
Emmanuel Ogbah lived in opponents’ backfield from 2013 to 2015, earning All-America honors and leading the Big 12 in sacks in 2015 with 12.5. He ranks fourth in school history for career sacks and third in single season sacks, a resume impressive enough to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round in 2016. Ogbah currently plays for the Miami Dolphins where he is a key contributor on defense.
Phillip Dokes earned All-American status in 1976 after securing 320 total tackles in four years, good for eighth in Oklahoma State history. He totaled 320 tackles in four years at OSU, good for eighth all-time, and was taken 12th overall in the 1977 draft by the Buffalo Bills, where he started 10 games in two seasons.
Linebacker: John Corker & Cleveland Vann
Perhaps an underlooked position in Cowboys history, the linebacker spot has a history of physicality and a whole lot of tackles. Guys like Ricky Young, Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey, Chad Whitener, Orie Lemon and Calvin Bundage were the anchors of the defense throughout the years. John Corker and Cleveland Vann are my choices due to their accolades and awards, as well as their impressive numbers while donning the orange and black
Corker holds the Oklahoma State record for career tackles with a whopping 496. That’s 124 tackles a season from 1976 to 1979. He was an All-American in 1978 and a fifth round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1980, where he played three seasons. After the NFL he played in the United States Football League for the Michigan Panthers and Memphis Showboats.
Originally recruited to Stillwater as a running back in 1970, Cleveland Vann made the switch to linebacker his junior year and ran with it. He became an All-American that same year in 1973 and earned two All-Big Eight honors while leading the Cowboys in tackles in 1972 and 1973. The Miami Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round in 1974 but opted to join the Southern California Sun of the WFL.
Safety: Mark Moore & Rod Brown
At safety, many guys could fill these spots. Alvin Brown, Harry Cheatwood, Markelle Martin, Tre Flowers and Jordan Sterns are all names I considered when scouting the safety spots. I ultimately went with the hard-hitting Mark Moore and consensus All-American Rod Brown.
Moore always seemed to end up in opposing teams’ passing lanes, notching a Big Eight record 16 interceptions in four years at Oklahoma State between 1983 to 1986, including seven in 1985, which was the most in the Big Eight. He earned two All-America selections and three All-Big Eight selections before being taken in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks in 1987.
As mentioned earlier, Rod Brown was a unanimous All-American in 1984 as well as All-Big Eight. He picked off six passes in his first six games as a senior, returning one for a touchdown. Brown went undrafted in 1985, but signed with the Denver Broncos and eventually carved out a solid career in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.
Cornerback: Justin Gilbert, R.W. McQuarters, Darrent Williams
Rounding out my All-Time Cowboys team is the toughest position in football. In this dream lineup, the corner spot is occupied by two boundary guys and a nickel guy. Some players considered included the likes of Perrish Cox, Broderick Brown, Ashton Lampkin and Kevin Peterson, but Gilbert, McQuarters and Williams are my clear-cut choices.
The last Oklahoma State player to be drafted in the first round, Justin Gilbert was nightmare fuel for opposing quarterbacks. A consensus All-American in 2013, he made an immediate impact as soon as he stepped on campus, playing in every game as a freshman and every game onwards for four seasons. His seven interceptions in 2013 was good for first in the Big 12 and second in the country, and he also led the Big 12 in pick-sixes that year with two. The Cleveland Browns drafted him eighth overall in 2014.
R.W. McQuarters patrolled the secondary from 1995 to 1997 as well as fielded kicks. The corner from Tulsa earned one All-Big Eight selection in 1995 and one All-Big 12 selection in 1997 while serving as one of the most lethal return specialists in the country. He finished his OSU career with six interceptions and even caught three receiving touchdowns for the Pokes, good for a first round selection to the San Francisco 49ers. His NFL career lasted a decade and culminated in a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants.
Darrent Williams tore up college football from 2001 to 2004, earning an All-Big 12 first team honor his junior year. His five career pick sixes are the most in Big 12 history and fourth-most in college football history, which would have likely been more had he not gotten injured his senior year. Like McQuarters, Williams was also a dangerous kick returner, recording three punt return touchdowns in four seasons. He would go on to be drafted 56th overall by the Denver Broncos, where he started 23 out of 27 games through two seasons before he was tragically killed in 2007 in a drive-by shooting at age 24.
Oklahoma State All-Time Team Depth Chart
QB: Brandon Weeden Backup: Mason Rudolph
RB: Barry Sanders Backup: Terry Miller
RB: Thurman Thomas Backup: Kendal Hunter
WR: Justin Blackmon Backup: Rashaun Woods
WR: Dez Bryant Backup: Hart Lee Dykes
WR: James Washington Backup: Tylan Wallace
TE: Brandon Pettigrew Backup: Alonzo Mayes
OL: Russell Okung Backup: Lane Taylor
OL: Derrel Gofourth Backup: Jon Kolb
OL: John Ward Backup: Brad Lundblade
OL: Levy Adcock Backup: Zachary Crabtree
OL: Teven Jenkins Backup: Grant Garner
DL: Leslie O’Neal Backup: Kevin Williams
DL: Jason Gildon Backup: James White
DL: Emmanuel Obgah Backup: Gary Lewis
DL: Phillip Dokes Backup: Jordan Brailford
LB: John Corker Backup: Ricky Young
LB: Cleveland Vann Backup: Shaun Lewis
S: Mark Moore Backup: Alvin Brown
S: Rod Brown Backup: Harry Cheatwood
CB: Justin Gilbert Backup: Perrish Cox
CB: R.W. McQuarters Backup: Broderick Brown
CB: Darrent Williams Backup: Kevin Peterson