3 strongest position groups for Oklahoma State football after spring 2024

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2. Linebackers

The Cowboys have a ton of talent at the second level defensively and it all starts with Collin Oliver and Nick Martin — two of the best linebackers in the Big 12. 

Following a pair of highly productive seasons at the college level, including being named the unanimous Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, Oliver continued to mold himself into one of the best edge rushers in the nation last season. The Oklahoma City, Okla., native recorded 73 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, six sacks (led all Big 12 linebackers), and four forced fumbles (third in FBS). A 2023 second-team All-Big 12 selection, Oliver’s 26 career pressures are the most in program history.

After not cracking the starting lineup in his first two seasons in Stillwater, Martin shined all over the field and was the ironman for Oklahoma State’s defense in 2023. A first-team All-Big 12 selection, Martin led the team with 140 tackles (sixth in FBS) and 83 solo tackles (third in FBS) to go along with two interceptions.

Losing Xavier Benson to the NFL draft leaves a hole at the other linebacker spot in second-year coordinator Bryan Nardo’s 3-3-5 defense. A favorite to fill the void is talented outside linebacker Justin Wright, who was forced to medically redshirt the 2023 season after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. A Tulsa transfer in 2023, Wright was an All-AAC selection in 2022 and has 254 tackles and 27.5 tackles for loss to his name at the college level. Wright possesses the most upside, but other backers, such as Jeff Roberson (14 appearances in 2023), Gabe Brown (11 appearances in 2023) and touted true freshman Temerrick Johnson, will make a push for the starting job this offseason.

It goes without saying this group will once again be the heart, soul, and fist of the Cowboys’ defense in 2024.