There is no doubt that, late during the 2012 season, it was the Oklahoma State defense that let the Cowboys down. The change at defensive coordinator from Bill Young to Glenn Spencer will be a big difference in 2013.
The Cowboys lost their last two regular-season games to Baylor and Oklahoma last season, giving up 92 points and over 1,200 yards of offense combined. The Big 12 has good offenses, but giving up numbers like that is unacceptable when you are a program like Oklahoma State that is looking to rise the ranks.
That is not to say that Young was a failure in Stillwater. He did great work for the Cowboy defense during his four seasons there, helping shape them into one of the most prolific, turnover-producing defenses in college football history in 2011.
However, the significant downturn in turnover production in 2012 combined with the continued allowance of big yardage to opponents proved that a change needed to be made.
According to Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman, Mike Gundy stated that his team “needed a spark,” and that the biggest change Spencer will likely bring to the Cowboy defense is intensity.
That is exactly what this defense needs.
The modus operandi of the Young defense was to be conservative, keeping opponents in front of you until you could force a turnover or get a stop. While that worked well at points, teams fared well against it in 2012 by hitting routes underneath and moving the ball down the field.
In the same article by Mizell, Spencer discusses how, philosophically and schematically, the defense will not be much different than it had been under Young. And that makes sense, especially given that Spencer has been an integral part of the defensive staff for years now.
The defense will change though, and it appears that Spencer wants it to change most attitude-wise.
The stressing of intensity and enthusiasm is something that the Cowboys need to hear. Too many times last season, the defense had the defeated look of a group of individuals who had no answers for the problems they were being asked to solve.
Spencer is a passionate coach who is at his best when he is motivating and inspiring his players. In today’s college football landscape, schemes have become less and less important. What is important now is perception, attitude and confidence. Those things are what inspire football players to play their best and to go to certain schools as recruits.
The Cowboy defense may not look completely different in 2013. The playbook has changed very little during this defensive transition.
However, it will feel different. The players will be inspired to play harder by a young defensive coach who asks for their unbridled passion above all else. The fans will see that in the players.
The Cowboy defense will be better in 2013—not because things are drastically changing but because they are not. Instead, Gundy is adding only that spark that he wants his defense to have, and that will make all the difference.