Dalton Cooper has gone from overlooked recruit to one of OSU’s key offensive linemen. He will play a role in the Cowboys' attempt to get their running game on track against a stingy Kansas State defensive front.
STILLWATER — Dalton Cooper was surprised everything happened so quickly.
He barely had time to ponder his final test as an Exercise & Sports Science major at Texas State before got an offer from offensive line coach Charlie Dickey to play left tackle at Oklahoma State.
”I took all my finals at Texas State, entered the transfer portal right after I took my last final and three minutes later coach Dickey called me,” Cooper said.
Cooper, a 6-foot-7, 311-pound fifth-year senior from Prague, had been wanting to play closer to home. Now, five months after that phone call, OSU will need him to help hold off Kansas State’s ferocious defensive line on Friday night.
Cooper has the best Pro Football Focus grade (66.9) on the Cowboy offensive line. It’s not a spectacular grade, but it shows Cooper’s value to a unit lacking top-tier players. He’s worked his way from backup right tackle in the season opener to starting left tackle for an offensive line that coach Mike Gundy said needs to play well against Kansas State.
The Wildcats have allowed just 2.53 yards per carry. That’s fifth-best in the country. Not an easy group to play well against.
KSU beat OSU 48-0 last year and held OSU to 54 rushing yards on 30 attempts. The Wildcats don’t return everyone from the defensive line. Edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah went to the NFL and longtime nose tackle Eli Huggins graduated. But Khalid Duke is tied for second in the conference with four sacks and the Wildcats’ defensive front is still stingy.
“(The KSU defensive line) is really good,” Cooper said. “They are very disciplined. Very disciplined. (Duke), their end, he’s very good.”
Running the ball well early against KSU is a priority for OSU.
“It’s important that we (establish the rush) in the games from here on out to stay as balanced as possible,” Gundy said. “This will be the best team that we’ve played so far in all three phases.”
According to Pro Football Focus, run blocking is Cooper’s strength.
He said that skill was developed in Prague, under 2A high school coach John Graham. Facing few players as big as Cooper, the Red Devils’ offense was, well, consistent.
“It was really just ‘run the ball right, run the ball left, overload tackle right, overload tackle left,’” Cooper said.
Because right tackle Jake Springfield was hurt in the season opener, Cooper has played most of OSU’s first three games at right tackle. Last week at Iowa State was his first start at left tackle.
“Coach Dickey, throughout fall camp, two weeks in he switched me to right tackle just to see what I could do and how I could play off it,” Cooper said. “It really helped me gain more confidence being able to expand my repertoire and play multiple positions.”
Gundy said OSU’s 48-point defeat against KSU last season does not really factor into game prep this season. Coaches aren’t emphasizing it. But losing like that is a hard memory to shake.
Cooper, who wasn’t at OSU for that game, said he’s heard more about that loss from his teammates. Combine that with a 2-2 start in 2023, and there is a lot for OSU players to avenge on Friday.
“I’d say the players are more amped up and ready to get out there than anybody else,” Cooper said. “That wasn’t really on the coaches last year. That was on (the players). So they know that they need to come out and show why we are better than we’re showing on our record right now.”