Sooner defense preps to battle high-powered Big 12 offenses.
NORMAN, Okla. --
Below is the second half of the 2009 football preview that originally appeared in the spring football guide. The entire guide is available online
. For the first half of the preview covering the OU offense, please click here
|| The Defense
With the introduction of several new starters and injuries to key players,
it would be safe to acknowledge that 2008 had its share of growing pains
on the defensive side of the ball.
Likewise, it's impossible to deny the
By the time the season ended, the unit had rounded into one of team's
strengths, so much so that the defense is one of the reasons Oklahoma
is again forecasted as a top five team for the 2009 campaign.
Replacements must be found for departed safeties Nic Harris and Lendy
Holmes, but otherwise the group returns largely intact. The headliners
include All-American tackle Gerald McCoy
, 2008 Big 12 Preseason
Defensive Player of the Year Auston English
linebacker Travis Lewis
, who broke Brian Bosworth's OU freshman
record for tackles while claiming a team-high four interceptions.
Oklahoma's defense is fast and opportunistic. It's also much deeper than
it was at this time last season.
|| Defensive Line
An injury to English wound up 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.
Others to watch are David King
and R.J. Washington
, who redshirted last
The signing class also was replete with ends including Jarrett Brown,
Justin Chaisson and Terry Franklin.
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 McCoy, who will be a leading contender for both the
Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy.
His running mate last season, Adrian Taylor
, also returns.
the tackle positions are less certain. Cory Bennett graduated and
had back surgery, so half of the four-man rotation is
either gone or somewhat questionable.
got snaps at tackle last season and he returns along with
redshirt freshmen Stacy McGee
and Casey Walker
The incoming freshman class includes an outstanding prospect in
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.
Injuries forced OU to go deep into a thin linebacker corps last season.
The return of seven players along, with a stellar signing class, helps to
address the situation. The Sooners will still feature young depth and will
be looking to sign another strong class when much of this group departs
after the `09 season.
Still, the immediate prospects are much improved.
and Austin Box
are both recovering from injuries, but
figure to be full-go by the time August workouts commence. Reynolds
and senior Mike Balogun
are likely to hold down the middle, while Box is
a probable on either the strong or weak side.
On the strong side, Keenan Clayton
is the returning starter. The former
safety proved a valuable commodity as he could work in a nickel role in
passing situations. He'll be pushed by J.R. Bryant
On the weak side, All-America candidate Lewis is back after an
outstanding freshman season.
|| Defensive Backs
Both OU corners were new to full-time starting roles in 2008, but they
performed remarkably well and set up the Sooner defense to be strong
on the outside in `09.
returns at field corner with Brian Jackson
boundary. Players like Jonathan Nelson
and Lamar Harris
will look to
Both safeties, Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, exhausted their eligibility
last season so the Sooners will have new faces on the back end.
played extensively and is a likely candidate at one of the
spots with Sam Proctor
and Joseph Ibiloye
also hoping to compete.
Proctor saw duty with special teams last season while the rangy Ibiloye
redshirted. Others at safety include Desmond Jackson
The class of incoming defensive backs is strong enough that several of
those players may find their way onto the field. The list includes safeties
Kevin Brent and Javon Harris and corners Gabe Lynn, Marcus Trice and
Demontre Hurst, the latter of which may also work at safety.
The physical maturity and overall skill of the newcomers lend themselves
to a quick adjustment period.
|| The Special Teams
For the most part, the special teams will have a familiar look with a
number of returning players counted among the ranks. That does not
mean, however, that there will not be substantial competition for playing
handled the placements last season with Matthew
taking care of the kickoff chores. Both return, but will be
pushed by redshirt freshman Tress Way
Another who could enter the fray is Cameron Kenney, the junior college
transfer wide receiver. He also is likely to be considered at punter.
Mike Knall wrapped up his second full year as the team's punter last
season so the job is open. Way and Kenney will be among those trying
to secure this spot.
With the end of Juaquin Iglesias' career so ends the exploits of one of the
school's great returners. He finished with more kickoff return yards than
anyone in OU history.
Still, there are a number of very qualified returners. DeMarco Murray
proved dynamic in the role and Chris Brown
has been used some too.
It's safe to assume that other candidates will be reviewed as well, and if
history serves as a guide, Oklahoma will have a fast and elusive tandem
doing the work.
At punt returner, Ryan Broyles
and Dominique Franks, who combined
for 30 of the Sooners' 32 punt returns last season are back. Broyles will
likely get the bulk of the assignment.
Three players handled the duties last year and all three are back. Derek
is the most experienced, but Ben Hampton
, who has been used
primarily on placements, and James Winchester
also have experience.
returns after filling the role admirably last season. The
wide receiver was sure-handed and remains athletic enough to provide
- - - - - - -
2009 Spring Game
Oklahoma's annual spring football game is set for Saturday, April 11, with a kickoff time of 1:15 p.m. at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Purchase tickets online
, call or visit the OU Athletics ticket office. Fans can also vote for the participants in the first annual Varsity "O" Legends Flag Football Classic:
Spring Game Tickets
| Legends Classic
| Spring FB Central