It didn’t take long for Chad Whitener to make an impact at No. 18 (in CFP rankings) Oklahoma State (6-2, 4-1 Big 12).
Whitener, who played a season at Cal before transferring to the Cowboys in 2014, became a starter last season after a linebacker ahead of him on the depth chart suffered an injury. Whitener was ready and delivered, tallying impressive numbers during the second half of the year.
This season, Whitener is leading the Cowboys in total tackles (52) and solo tackles (38).
“It’s all about hustling to the ball,” said Whitener, a redshirt junior who also has five tackles for loss and four pass breakups. “That’s what we emphasize. We all need to fly around to the ball. It’s just part of the culture here.”
After graduating from Mansfield High, where he was a standout with 334 tackles in three seasons, Whitener traveled to California for his freshman year. But he wanted to be closer to home and chose to transfer to Oklahoma State.
The atmosphere in Stillwater is amazing. I’ve been trying to play with the same intensity every game.
“I looked here and at TCU, but the depth chart presented a better opportunity here at Oklahoma State,” he said.
The decision to go to the Cowboys has paid off. Whitener didn’t become a starter until Oklahoma State’s sixth game last year, yet he still finished the season third on the team in tackles with 93. He also had 7.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery a year ago.
“I just stepped in and tried to do my job,” Whitener said. “All the hard works pays off.”
This season didn’t start the way the Cowboys expected. Oklahoma State lost its second game against Central Michigan on a Hail Mary play that should not have happened. Officials later said the game should have ended on the previous play, an incomplete pass by Oklahoma State.
Two games later, the Cowboys lost a close contest to Baylor.
“That next Sunday practice after losing to Central Michigan, we were all running hard, flying around to the ball, and doing what we know we have to do to improve,” Whitener said. “The negativity didn’t last long.”
Oklahoma State visits TCU on Nov. 19.
Since its 2-2 start, however, Oklahoma State has rebounded to win four straight, including an upset of then-No. 10 and unbeaten West Virginia last weekend at home. Whitener had his best game of the season with 13 tackles and a sack.
Oklahoma State can still challenge for the Big 12 championship. The Cowboys play at Kansas State this week and will finish the season against rival Oklahoma. The No. 14 Sooners are the last Big 12 team without a conference loss.
“What we want to accomplish, as far as being in the Big 12 title race, is all still on the table,” Whitener said. “Our main message is to go out there and keep working hard. We’re not focusing on the fact that we had a top-10 win. We are focused on Kansas State. You can’t look at the past or focus on the future too much.”