It’s no secret that the weakness of this last year's team was up front on the defensive line. The unit struggled to stop the run and get a consistent pass rush throughout almost the entire season. Defensive line coach, Jackie Shipp, must now break in almost an entire new group after losing five seniors to graduation, (David King, Casey Walker, Jamarckus McFarland, R.J. Washington, and Stacy McGee).
Chuka Ndulue will be the lone returning starter for the Sooners on the defensive line.
This off season, the coaching staff has hit the recruiting trail hard, as they try to find immediate impact players on the defensive line to replace the holes left void by the departing seniors. There will be an open competition for starting spots, and with so many young players in the mix, it will be exciting to see which players shine.
Defensive Tackle: After appearing in 10 games this year as a freshman, Jordan Phillips, will most likely be one of the starters at defensive tackle. He accumulated 12 tackles on the season, and showed spurts of how much potential he has. Phillips has all the tools to be a dominant player in the future. Incoming JUCO transfer, Quincy Russell, is the favorite to win the other starting spot at defensive tackle. 247Sports has him ranked as the No.7 defensive tackle and the 37th best overall player coming out of the JUCO ranks. The only downside to Russell, is that he won’t enroll at Oklahoma until June. This gives him a limited amount of time with the coaching staff before the start of the season. However, you can still expect him to be a major contributor, and likely a starter.
There will be several other players with little to no experience who will be competing for playing time in the upcoming season. Jordan Wade, Marquis Anderson, and Torrea Peterson will each get their chance in spring workouts to separate themselves from the pack, and claim a starting spot heading into the summer. With Russell already signed, the Sooners currently have two other commits at defensive tackle. Kerrick Huggins (6’4, 282) of Dallas (Skyline) is ranked as the 30th best defensive tackle in 2013 class, and the No. 53 ranked player in the state of Texas by 247Sports. Charles Walker (6’3, 280) of Garland, Texas (South Garland) is ranked as the 49th best defensive tackle in the nation, and the No. 102 ranked player in the state of Texas.
Defensive End: The lone starter the Sooners have returning on the defensive line is Chuka Ndulue. After starting 10 games as a sophomore, Ndulue will be a starter at defensive end, and by far the most experienced player the Sooners have front. Ndulue had 43 tackles, six tackles for loss, and five sacks on the year. He will be expected to be the leader of the unit. The other starting job is up for grabs. A crowded group will compete all through the offseason for the other starting spot opposite of Ndulue. After moving to tight-end in the beginning of last season, Geneo Grissom made the switch back to defensive end after head coach Bob Stoops said, “It just didn’t work out”. Grissom is now one of the main candidates to take over the other spot.
Other candidates include, Charles Tapper, Chaz Nelson, Rashod Favors, and Mike Onuoha. Tapper, appeared in five games last season, and accumulated two tackles. There is a lot of excitement around the coaching staff concerning his future. Nelson was a JUCO transfer last year who was expected to provide depth, but ended up red-shirting instead. He will return as a junior this season. Favors appeared in nine games and had 1.5 sacks last year. Onuoha is also a guy the coaching staff is excited about. With a long frame at (6’5, 235), his athleticism could help him become the next great defensive end at Oklahoma.
In this recruiting class, the Sooners have a wealth of talent at defensive end. The two headliners are, D.J. Ward (6’4, 282) of Oklahoma City (Southmoore), and Matt Dimon (6’4,255) of Katy, Texas. Ward didn’t play in his senior season due to transfer rules, but still finished as the No. 13 defensive end and the 191st player in the country by 247Sports. Dimon had a banner year that included an undefeated season and state championship. He was a standout on a team loaded with division-one talent, and was named as an AP Class 5A second-team All-State selection. 247Sports ranks Dimon as the 60th best player in Texas, and the No. 22 defensive end in the country. Both will enter a crowded group, but both also have a chance to play as a freshman.Obo Okoronkwo (6’2, 220) of Houston (Taylor) is also a commitment in this year’s class. He’s ranked as the No. 65 player in the state of Texas.
What the Sooners lack in experience, they will make up for with young, promising players. The thing that should excite Sooner fans, is that the open competitions will bring out the best in each player.