Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is set to begin his second season as the main in charge of the Cowboys defense. Spencer's unit had a stellar 2013 season, finishing atop the conference in points allowed (21.6), yards per pass attempt (5.83), third down conversion rate (31.4 percent) and opponent adjusted QBR (20.9). With preseason camp on the horizon, Spencer sat down with ESPN.com to discuss his unit's motto in 2014, strengths and concerns and his biggest area of growth heading into his second season as DC.
Heading into fall camp, what are three things you’d like to get accomplished with your defense?
First thing, which is the most important and has nothing to do with talent, is finding out where their heart is as a unit. Getting them to realize all the intangibles you have to have to be a really good defense. What’s your motivation for playing? Are you going to be selfish or unselfish? Where is your level of authentic toughness? Are you accountable to your teammates every practice? All of those things. Here are the three things, they're going to be on a T-shirt I’m making for the defense for camp: (1) Authentic toughness (2) Outrageous effort (3) Conquering love. It has nothing to do with talent. You have to have that to have any chance of being good and maximizing your talent and ability to be a great defense. That’s our motto.
Other than that, there’s a sense of urgency to make every rep valuable for those guys. You can’t simulate game day but you have to make it as close as possible and put those guys in stressful situations to see how they’re going to respond, create chaos out there in the practice atmosphere to toughen their skin and toughen their mind.
Are you feeling better about the leadership than you did in the spring?
It’s a process. The guys I’ve challenged with that role, Ryan Simmons, James Castleman, Kevin Peterson, those guys have earned a bit of respect because they’ve played and they know how to practice hard and get ready to win a championship. I feel better about it but they haven’t arrived yet and we have a long way to go.
I’d imagine, defensive line wise, you feel pretty good?
Yeah based on the number of guys who have played. They know the highs and lows, ups and downs and have proven they can play at this level. If you had to say we have a strength, which I don’t think we have a lot of strengths right now, that would be one. I’ll challenge them from the start of camp and say, ‘Hey, I’m expecting a lot out of you guys.’
Is there a particular position that is a concern?
We don’t have a lot of proven safeties, we don’t have a lot of proven linebackers. Linebacker then safety would be the top two concerns in terms of having young guys who have to play that haven’t proven themselves yet. They’ll need every practice to get ready to have half a chance against Florida State. We might have to get out some diapers to put out there along with their game uniforms, we’ll have to put some diapers because there might be a few accidents out there in Dallas.
Heading into your second season as defensive coordinator, what do you feel was your biggest area of growth as a coach?
I enjoy the process, it’s nice to start fresh again. I enjoy the process of developing a lot more things than people imagine, it’s a privilege for me. The experience of going through game planning, even though I was heavily involved with Bill (Young, OSU’s former DC), being the only guy and being in charge of the organization of a game plan and calling it on Saturday. Having gone through that for a year, just like a say you can’t coach experience of playing, you can’t coach the experience of making adjustments. The whole thing about defense these days is adjustments because you’re going to get something every week that you haven’t seen before. They might be attacking you with something, well you have to do something different. What is your adjustment going to be and being sound with your adjustments.