NORMAN, Okla. -- An injury to Auston English in 2008 wound up being a blessing in disguise when it forced Oklahoma to get Frank Alexander to the field quicker and more frequently than had been anticipated.
Alexander was more than up to the task and now returns for his sophomore season pushing to maintain a starting job. English is back too, along with two-year starter Jeremy Beal to make this a well-stocked position in both experience and talent.
"We're fortunate to say the least in that we have had a number of good players develop into great players," said OU defensive ends coach Chris Wilson.
"We feel very good about the four-to-five guys we have in the rotation right now and then on our next level of younger guys, we feel good about getting them into the system, letting them develop and having them contribute in the future."
Two players who redshirted in 2008, David King and R.J. Washington, are currently locked into a tight battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the defensive end rotation. Junior Pryce Macon rounds out the returning defensive ends group after seeing action in seven games last season.
The signing class also was replete with ends including Jarrett Brown and Justin Chaisson.
There is an expectation that Oklahoma will be capable of exerting considerable pressure off the edge. Of course, the same may be true up the middle with a talented corps of defensive tackles. The ring leader is All-American Gerald McCoy, who is a leading contender for both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. His running mate last season and a very capable player himself, Adrian Taylor, also returns. While the two put the position in great hands, they still look to continue to improve under OU defensive line coach Jackie Shipp.
"We want to be better than we were last year. It's the same thing, working on technique and effort and gaining more knowledge of the mental part of the game. If they improve on those things, they'll continue improve," said Shipp.
From there, the tackle positions are less certain. Cory Bennett graduated and DeMarcus Granger had back surgery, so half of the four-man rotation from 2008 is either gone or somewhat questionable. Granger looks to return to prominence this season while in a battle with three other returning defensive tackles and a new face to the program.
Cordero Moore got snaps at tackle in 10 games last season. He returns along with redshirt freshmen Stacy McGee and Casey Walker. The incoming class includes an outstanding prospect in Jamarkus McFarland. All four, along with Granger, are in a tightly contested race for the backup positions behind McCoy and Taylor.
Oklahoma has been rock solid at the defensive tackle position for some time and there is no indication of anything less in '09. The same can really be said for the entire defensive front.