The upcoming game with Georgia has been on the minds of Oklahoma State coaches, players and fans ever since last season ended.
But if there's one person who has had it on his mind the most out of anyone, it might just be defensive end Jeremiah Price. The 6-1, 268-pound senior hails from Collins, Mississippi - in other words, the heart of SEC country.
And by now most college football fans know how SEC fans seem to bind together when it comes to any member school playing a team from outside of "The South."
In Price's case, he's had to deal with that everywhere he went over the summer, as the Oklahoma State-Georgia game is one not just Bulldog fans are looking forward to seeing, but many other SEC fan bases as well.
And while friends might be giving him a hard time about the game, that's not the worst of it. His family isn't sparing him any grief, either.
"My aunt and uncle - I've got family that stays in Georgia - they were like, 'You know you guys have no chance, right?' " Price said. "But I told them, 'Hey, we're going to come out ready to play no matter what you say because you're not on the field. You're not going to stop us and we're going to do what we do.' "
With only four days to go before the Dawgs roll into Stillwater, Price is ready to put up so they'll shut up.
"It's motivating as heck," he said. "I'm just determined to show them that they're wrong. They know how I am, 'But is the rest of the team going to pick up?' Oh, we've picked up a lot. And we're going to come out and play and compete the way we're supposed to compete.
"I'm not going to say everybody is expecting us to lose, but everybody is like 'They don't have a chance.' "
Price's confidence is easy to see. A vocal type, his emotions and expressions bubble to the surface easily. A transfer from Jones County CC, Price was as solid contributor to the defense in 2008, posting 22 tackles, seven for a loss and three sacks. He also forced a fumble and nabbed an interception. Knowing that the defense has been what has kept OSU from better records the past couple of years, he said he and the other defenders realize it's up to them to make strikes so the Cowboys can seriously challenge for a Big 12 title.
"I have to make plays," he said. "The defensive ends - me, Ugo Chinasa, Jamie Blatnick, Richetti Jones - we have to make plays. The inside has to be very, very good. We have to make plays for this defense to do well."
And even though the first game of the season hasn't taken place yet, Price said he's already seeing a different mood from his associates on D, which he credits to the arrival of Bill Young as defensive coordinator.
"The defense this year, everybody is just flying around having fun," Price said. "Nobody is outside mad and everybody wants to be here, wants to learn more, wants to do the things they know they're supposed to do and everybody is just flying around having fun."
He says that Young has simplified the defense and made it more fun for everyone.
"The defensive line, we're reacting faster, we're not thinking as much and the linebackers are filling gaps and not thinking as much and the corners and safeties are doing their jobs," he said. "Everybody feels more and more relaxed and we're going to play because we enjoy playing for him. We like having fun.
"He doesn't really yell at his players. He may get upset but he's going to talk to you; he's not going to yell at you. He's been around the block and he knows that yelling doesn't help. So he just talks to you about it and he gets the outcome he wants without yelling."
Young, an OSU alum, came to Orange Country after the departure of former DC Tim Beckman, who left for a head coaching job at Toledo. Price says there are definite differences between how the two operate.
"He's more of a teacher, not a drill sergeant," he said. "He's going to teach you the way to go, but if you continue to go the wrong way than he's just going to slide you to the side and put someone else in. But he's a very great coach.
"He's helped the defense mold together as one. Everybody plays together. Everybody is flying around. We're making tackles 15 yards down the field at practice. He's influenced every one to just go out there and have fun."
Beginning this weekend, we'll all see if the effects of Young running things will net any differences. Price realizes the reputation the defense has and what it needs to do to improve, especially with how the offense has supported them the past few years with tons of points on the scoreboard.
"They gave the defense a chance last year," he said, adding that the defenders didn't take full advantage. "But we're going to get it - we demand respect this year."
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