As the Oklahoma State Cowboys prepare for the 2013 season, they are preparing themselves to take a run at their second Big 12 title in the last three seasons. To get there, they will need their defense to be stout against some of the high-flying offenses they are sure to come up against in conference play. Their best bet to stop those offenses is to get after the quarterback, and that is where Tyler Johnson becomes so important.
Last season, Johnson led the team with four sacks and will be even more important to the pass rush next season. Two key pieces of the 2012 defensive line, Nigel Nicholas and Ryan Robinson, have both graduated and are no longer on the roster after combining for six sacks and finishing No. 2 and No. 3 on the team in sacks last season. That makes Johnson the most experienced member of the line and by far the most productive.
That means that the burden of leadership will be placed on his shoulders next fall. Oklahoma State can’t allow opposing quarterbacks to just sit back and pick apart the defense so Johnson must find ways to continue to improve his pass rushing ability. After playing six years of professional baseball before walking on at OSU, Johnson is a physically mature senior that has continued to learn and grow since being moved down to defensive line.
His ability to put all those lessons together and carry the pass rush load for Oklahoma State will go a very long way in deciding just how good this Cowboys’ team can be. If he rises to the challenge, look for Oklahoma State to be right in the thick of things for the Big 12 title at the end of the season.