Two players from Kansas could play a role for Oklahoma State against Kansas State in Saturday’s Big 12 football game.
Jerel Morrow, a fifth-year senior from Emporia, is expected draw a starting assignment at free safety for the Cowboys while redshirt freshman Teven Jenkins from Topeka has been a key performer on the offensive line.
Morrow is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Tre Flowers, who must sit out the first half after being disqualified in the second half of last week’s game against Iowa State for a targeting penalty.
“I hope I can be remembered for stepping in whenever they needed me,” Morrow told The Daily Oklahoman. “I didn’t come in here expecting a spot. I worked my way up, and I wanted to do what was best for the team.”
Morrow has been a mainstay on special teams for the Cowboys throughout his career. He has 14 tackles and one interception this season.
“An unsung hero in my book,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer told The Oklahoman. “You appreciate guys like that. Too many other guys, if they’re not the guy they have bad attitudes, they’re sour, they can be poison in the locker room.
“You’ve got to have guys like him to win a lot of games.”
Jenkins has been a asset up front as a back-up guard and tackle. When the Cowboys endured injuries earlier in the season, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Topeka High product started three games: right tackle vs. TCU and right guard vs. Baylor and Texas.
“He played well for us when we needed him,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said Monday on the Big 12 teleconference. “He’s in there as a third tackle or third guard for us and continues to get a little bit better each week. He’s a young player but he got some quality experience in live action and we’re certainly glad he’s on our team.”
The ability to play guard and tackle increases Jenkins’ value and opportunity to get on the field for the No. 10 Cowboys.
“It’s not easy but we don’t have a lot of depth at that position so we have to have some swing guys, and he has the intelligence to do that where we’ve had the luxury of using him some at tackle and guard,” Gundy said.
Jenkins was in the same recruiting class out of Topeka High as K-State running back Mike McCoy. Another ex-Trojan, Will Geary, is a starting defensive tackle for the Wildcats.
OKLAHOMA STATE OFFENSE: The Cowboys have one of the top quarterbacks in the nation with Mason Rudolph and arguably the best receiver with James Washington, but don’t overlook running back Justice Hill.
While Rudolph has passed for 3,690 yards and 30 touchdowns and Washington has 1,158 receiving yards and 9 TDs, Hill is the leading rusher in the Big 12 – and No. 14 nationally – with 1,198 yards to provide the ultimate high-powered, balanced offense.
“As I’ve said the last couple of weeks, I think teams are trying to go in that direction a little bit more,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “We saw Texas Tech, which has been a team that throws it all over the place, try to balance their offense up. Last week, West Virginia is attempting to do the same thing so we had to defend both. This week, the same thing.
“It’s kind of trending right now in the Big 12 Conference, but at the end of the day you’re still looking at a guy that leads the nation or is right at the top in a variety of categories throwing the ball around. You have a wide receiver that has more big-play catches than anybody in college football so you know they are going to put the ball in the air, whether it’s 50 times or 40 times I don’t know but it will be one of those numbers. Taking enough snaps, they’ll try to keep you honest with the run game and they have an extremely talented running back and they want to make sure he gets his hands on the ball, as well.”
OKLAHOMA STATE DEFENSE: As is the case for many Big 12 teams, the defense is overshadowed by the offense but the Cowboys rank No. 4 in the conference in total defense, giving up 414.1 yards a game.
The strength is run defense, ranking No. 4 at 129.5 yards, while the pass defense comes in at No. 8 at 284.6 yards.
The Cowboys will miss their leading tackler, Flowers, in the first half. Defensive end Jordan Brailford has four sacks and eight tackles for loss while cornerback A.J. Green has four interceptions.
“A lot of new faces in the lineup but young guys, based on what I’ve seen, that run well, play very hard, an aggressive defensive football team that flies to the ball and gets a lot of people on tackles,” Snyder said. “They run so well to the ball so misdirection becomes a little more significant for you.”