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2012 Oklahoma Preview - Defense
Oklahoma CB Demontre Hurst
Oklahoma CB Demontre Hurst
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 15, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Oklahoma Sooner Defense


Oklahoma Sooners

Preview 2012 - Defense


- 2012 Oklahoma Preview | 2012 Oklahoma Offense
- 2012 Oklahoma Defense | 2012 Oklahoma Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Welcome back, Mike Stoops. The defense didn’t exactly fall off the map after Stoops left to take the Arizona job in 2003, but it seemed to lose its killer instinct. That should be back now as he takes back his old defensive coordinator gig inheriting a loaded defense full of veterans. Finding a sure-thing pass rush from the ends is a must after losing most of the key parts, but the tackles are strong and deep and there’s plenty of athleticism and promise on the outside. The veteran linebacking corps is fast, fast, fast led by tone-setter Tom Wort in the middle, but it’s the secondary that should be the biggest strength with five good veterans and an outstanding corner tandem in Demontre Hurst and former safety Aaron Colvin to work around. Overall, the defense has to be consistent and has to avoid the meltdowns in key moments like it suffered in losses to Baylor and Texas Tech, but Stoops should turn this group into a killer.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Aaron Colvin, 84
Sacks: Corey Nelson, 5.5
Interceptions: Tony Jefferson, 4

Star of the defense: Junior LB Tom Wort
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE David King
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Corey Nelson
Best pro prospect: Junior S Tony Jefferson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) CB Demontre Hurst, 2) Jefferson, 3) CB Aaron Colvin
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Mike Stoops
Weakness of the defense: Sure-Thing Pass Rusher, Secondary Consistency

Defensive Line

Where is the pass rush going to come from? Frank Alexander led the team with 8.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, but now it’s up to two new starting ends to step up their games. 6-5, 286-pound senior David King is more like a defensive tackle or a 3-4 end than a speed rusher, but he’s strong, experienced and just active enough to find his way into the backfield from time to time making two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and 31 tackles last year as a spot starter and key backup.

Senior R.J. Washington also saw time in every game, saving his best for last with two sacks in the bowl win over Iowa. The 6-3, 256-pounder is far quicker than King making five sacks with five broken up passes, but he only made 16 tackles. His job will be to get behind the line, but he’s not bad against the run.

The anchor up front should be senior Jamarkus McFarland, a 6-2, 288-pound veteran who was one of the nation’s top overall recruits and was expected to be the next great OU tackle right away. He has been fine, but nothing special so far working in a rotation on the inside last season making 21 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. He has the size, the NFL strength and the quickness to do far more.

6-2, 309-pound senior Casey Walker started eight times finishing with 17 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. Banged up for a stretch, he managed to come back and be a nice part of the rotation adding more pure bulk to the interior. While he’s not expected to be an interior pass rusher, he’s active and he knows what he’s doing holding down the middle of the interior.

Consider senior Stacy McGee a co-starting defensive tackle after getting the call four times last season and with a ton of experience. At 6-4 and 299 pounds he has good size and is imposing enough to hold up against the power teams, and he’s one of the team’s quicker big men making 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and 22 tackles. He’ll rotate in at both tackle spots and should get a few starts. While McGee is a quick option, 6-6, 318-pound redshirt freshman Jordan Philips is the bulk. He slimmed way, way down with the lighter weight making him more active this offseason. The superstar recruit of last season is a great athlete for his size and soon he’s expected to be the main man everything works around on the inside.

JUCO transfer Chaz Nelson was an All-American last season at Garden City CC making 96 tackles with 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. A great all-around talent with 6-2, 239-pound linebacker size, he’ll potentially be a disruptive force, but it should be up to a pair of sophomores to do most of the backup work rotating in on the outside. 6-3, 256-pound Chuka Ndulue got in a little bit of time last season making three tackles, but he has the raw speed and athleticism to be turned loose as a pass rushing specialist. 6-4, 247-pound Geneo Grissom made five tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss as a reserve, but he’s a tremendous athlete with pure pass rushing skills.

Watch Out For … Phillips. A potential monster on the inside, he has the size, quickness and athleticism to become a killer in the interior. He’s still a work in progress, but once it all comes together, look out.
Strength: Tackles. McFarland and Walker might not be all-stars, but they’re good veterans who can hold up well against the run. There are strong backup options waiting in the wings to get into the rotation.
Weakness: Sure-thing pass rusher. Most of the sack production from last year’s line is gone, and while OU always finds guys to step in and produce on the outside, the pass rush was terrific last year and now someone has to step up and shine.
Outlook: The whole is better than the sum. There’s good size and lots and lots of upside for all four spots, but there isn’t a Tommie Harris or Gerald McCoy to do jumping jacks over. The run defense will be solid and it’ll take a village to crank up the plays into the backfield, but they’ll come.
Unit Rating: 8

Linebackers

Gone is tone-setting tackling-machine Travis Lewis from the weakside, but there’s more than enough talent across the board to make the linebacking corps special. Junior Corey Nelson is a 6-1, 219-pound safety playing linebacker with enough toughness to handle himself without a problem. The coaching staff has praised him up and down for the last few seasons as a playmaker no matter where he works. He’ll be used from time-to-time as an strongside linebacker for most of last year, a middle linebacker against Texas Tech, a nickel defender and an end with phenomenal athleticism and a nose for the ball making 59 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. His numbers should go through the roof in a full-time role.

The emotional leader of the defense will once again be junior Tom Wort, who beefed up a bit to get to 237 pounds on his 6-0 frame. The man in the middle made 71 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss with two picks highlighted by an 11-tackle day against Iowa State. The CFN Freshman All-American has 4.45 speed and can be a dangerous pass rusher, but he struggled a bit when put on the outside and now has found a home in the middle.

6-3, 218-pound senior Joseph Ibiloye isn’t a sure-thing to get the starting job on the strongside with plenty of experience and great range making 18 tackles with a tackle for loss. He has safety speed and hitting ability, but he’s going to have to fight off redshirt freshman Frank Shannon, a prototype 6-1, 230-pound guided missile who was projected to be a possible safety before hitting the weights and getting to his current weight. The talent is there to be the next OU star linebacker.

At 6-2 and 236 pounds, senior Jayden Bird is a bigger option than Wort in the middle with decent experience and tremendous 4.5 speed. Mostly known as the guy who famously switched his signature from Kansas to OU at the last possible second, he’s a decent reserve making 16 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss last year. 6-1, 212-pound sophomore Aaron Franklin was a good special teamer making four stops, but he’s an outside linebacker with excellent speed and smarts earning Academic All-Big 12 honors.

Watch Out For … Shannon. He might not crack the starting lineup, but he’s active enough and talented enough to be a key part of the equation somewhere. The potential is there to be a statistical superstar.
Strength: Speed. Everyone in the OU linebacking corps can move and swarm around the ball. It’s an undersized group for the most part with beefed up safeties who hit like a ton of bricks. Few teams have the speed to blow by.
Weakness: Size. It’s not a small group of linebackers, but most of the key parts hover around 220 pounds. No one does much pounding on them, and speed and athleticism make up for most of the issues, but it would be nice if there was one big thumper to rely on.
Outlook: There’s an excellent blend of athleticism and experience to make this one of the Big 12’s better linebacking corps. Wort is a terrific veteran to work everything around while Nelson should be in for all-star honors. The group could stand to be a little better against the run, but it won’t miss many plays.
Unit Rating: 8

Defensive Backs

The Sooner secondary is loaded with terrific veterans, but it has to be stronger after giving up 241 yards per game and getting beaten way too often. It will all start with senior corner Demontre Hurst, a second-team All-Big 12 performer making 55 tackles with a pick and 11 broken up passes. The 5-10, 183-pounder is a good tackler and has grown into the starting role with safety-like hitting ability and a nose for the ball. A smart, lock-down defender, he’ll take away one side of the field.

Junior Aaron Colvin is a bigger corner option on the other side at 6-0 and 181 pounds. A strong safety throughout most of last year, he started at one corner spot against Kansas State and proved he could handle himself anywhere with a team-leading 84 tackles with six broken up passes and 4.5 tackles for loss. Coming back from a shoulder problem, he’s one of the most talented all-around defenders in the secondary with the ability and skills to play any of the four spots.

Just as versatile is veteran Tony Jefferson, who at 5-11 and 212 pounds was an undersized linebacker on the strongside for most of last year and a free safety the rest of the time including the final two games. The junior lightning bolt was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the year two seasons ago making 65 tackles, and last season he upped his game finishing third on the team with 74 tackles, four picks, 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He’ll more than likely spend all his time at free safety.

Senior Javon Harris has been a key part of the safety mix for the last few seasons starting host of last year at free safety, but now he’ll primarily see time at strong safety after making 47 tackles with three picks with two of them coming against Florida State. The 5-11, 206-pounder is a lineman-strong tackler who can be a rock against the run.

Junior Gabe Lynn was Scout’s No. 1 ranked corner a few years ago with 6-0, 199-pound size to go along with next-level speed and athleticism. While he has been a decent part of the puzzle, he hasn’t been special with 22 tackles in a backup and nickel role last year with two broken up passes. He’ll see a little time at corner, but he’ll mostly be a key factor in five DB sets.

5-10, 180-pound JUCO transfer Kass Everett was a terrific high school running back out of Philadelphia before playing in the secondary for Pierce College. A very quick, very promising corner, he’ll work in a variety of ways, mostly in nickel and dime packages.

Watch Out For … the starting four to remain relatively set. There was a ton of movement last year with Hurst the only one to stick in one spot for the entire season. The coaching staff did what it had to against various Big 12 bombers, but this season there are enough good veterans to maintain their set defined roles.
Strength: Experience. The versatility is a plus if injuries strike, especially because of all the veteran talent across the board. Throwing Lynn into the mix, OU has five excellent defensive backs who all know what they’re doing. However, the call has gone out to stop …
Weakness: Giving up big plays. For the most part the secondary put the clamps down throughout last year, and it was helped by a phenomenal pass rush, but it got burnt to a crisp by Robert Griffin III and was picked clean by Texas Tech.
Outlook: There always seems to be a key meltdown here and there by the OU secondary, but for the most part this group should be as rock-solid as any in America with Hurst, Colvin and Jefferson all all-star talents. There’s good depth, lots of experience and plenty of speed to make this the strength of the defense by far.
Unit Rating: 9

Special Teams

Sophomore Michael Hunnicutt took over early and tied the school record for field goals in a season nailing 21-of-24 shots. With a big leg, he nailed a 53-yard bomb against Kansas State to kickoff a run of ten straight made field goals to close out the season after missing two key field goals against Texas Tech. A weapon, he should be the difference in at least one tight game.

Senior Tress Way is a terrific veteran punter who averaged 42 yards per kick and put a tremendous 34 shots inside the 20. An all-star blaster, he’s great at pinning teams deep and getting the team out of jams. Expect him to be deep in the hunt for the Ray Guy award.

Ryan Broyles was the main punt returner last year before getting hurt, and receiver Kenny Stills struggled to pick up the slack late in the year averaging just 4.8 yards per try. Running back Roy Finch is the top returning kickoff returner, but he averaged just 20.3 yards per try while Dominique Whaley struggled averaging just 16.8 yards per attempt.

Watch Out For … The return game. It wasn’t exactly a strength last year averaging just 8.67 yards per punt return and 21.61 yards per kickoff return. It might take a little bit to find the right options, but the Sooners have more than enough speedsters to give it a try.
Strength: Way and Hunnicutt. The Sooners have one of the best kicking games in America with a sure-thing kicker in Hunnicutt to rely on and a blaster of a veteran in Way to get the team out of jams.
Weakness: Punt coverage. Kickoff coverage was an issue two years ago, but that was fixed allowing just 19.9 yards per try. Last year, even with Way blasting away, the Sooners allowed 11.6 yards per punt return.
Outlook: If the returners can do a little bit more, OU’s special teams will be among the strongest in the nation. The kicking game will be great and the coverage teams will be solid and improved.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2012 Oklahoma Preview | 2012 Oklahoma Offense
- 2012 Oklahoma Defense | 2012 Oklahoma Depth Chart