2013 Oklahoma Preview - Defense
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Posted Jun 7, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Oklahoma Sooner Defense

Oklahoma Sooners

Preview 2013 - Defense

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- 2013 Oklahoma Defense | 2013 Oklahoma Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: It was a rocky year for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, made worse by the meltdown in the Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M. There's talent, upside and athleticism across the board, but after finishing ninth in the Big 12 against the run and dead last in tackles for loss, there's work to do. The pass rush was inconsistent, there weren't any plays in the backfield, and the run defense went bye-bye way too often. It could be an issue to change things up with no thumpers at linebacker and likely to rely again on defensive backs to make most of the big plays. Stoops will play around with more of a 4-3 than a 4-2-5, but the line has to do its job to get into the backfield with new options on the outside and some playing around with the interior.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Aaron Colvin, 61
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue, 5
Interceptions: Aaron Colvin, 4

Star of the defense: Senior CB Aaron Colvin
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DE Geneo Grissom
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Jordan Phillips
Best pro prospect: Colvin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Colvin, 2) DT/DE Chuka Ndulue, 3) LB Corey Nelson
Strength of the defense: Tackles, Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

Will the defense play more 3-4 or 4-3 or 4-2-5? Either way, junior Chuka Ndulue will play a big role somewhere on the inside after spending last season on the end. At 6-3 and 262 pounds, he's built for the outside making 43 tackles with five sacks, but now he's going to try to provide an interior pass rush using his good strength and quickness off the ball. He might not be like a true tackle against the run, but with raw speed and athleticism he should be a disruptive force who pressures the passer. Adding more side behind him inside is Torrea Peterson, a 6-3, 280-pound junior who can to OU as a four-star recruit and a world of upside, but he only has three tackles for his career and didn't see the field last season.

Adding the bulk inside is 6-6, 324-pound Jordan Phillips, a huge presence in the interior with a great wingspan and frame to engulf ball-carriers. He didn't do too much last season making just 12 tackles as a reserve, and he has to watch his weight and not balloon up to 330 or bigger, but the superstar of superstar recruits in the 2011 class has a world of talent and athleticism for the interior. He'll work in a rotation with 6-4, 306-pound Jordan Wade, a big, strong interior pass rusher who was a fantastic get for the program last season and now should grow into a potential anchor.

6-4, 254-pound junior Geneo Grissom is a big-time athlete with a terrific burst off the ball, but he has yet to unleash the speed and quickness into the backfield making just eight career tackles with a tackle for loss. Even though he hasn't been able to get to the quarterback yet, the pressure is on to become a pass rushing star on one side, while 6-5, 235-pound sophomore Mike Onuoha needs to quickly grow into a star at left end after seeing a little action making four tackles in four games. A pass rusher, he needs to be a speed rusher and a disruptive force to hold off Rashod Favors, a 6-1, 262-pound junior who started out his career at linebacker making ten tackles last season, but now will be tried out at end.

Watch Out For … the new guys. It's not a stretch to suggest that OU might see a massive change at some point considering all the talent coming in. The best on the lot is freshman defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins, a 6-3, 289-pound interior presence who's a terrific athlete for his size and a dream of a 3-4 end. 6-4, 315-pound JUCO transfer Quincy Russell is more prepared to step in and produce after being named a NJCAA All-American at Trinity Valley CC. A huge tackler and big presence against the run, he might instantly be part of the rotation, but the team is already solid at …
Strength: Tackle. Ndulue might not be a space-eater, but he should be effective as part of the rotation on the inside. Phillips had a great offseason and should be the new leader up front. An anchor to work around, he appears ready to take his game to another level.
Weakness: Outside pass rush. Ndulue was one of the line's few good pass rushing ends, and now he's mobbing. Overall the line was shockingly soft against the run and didn't do nearly enough to get to the quarterback, and now it'll be a fight to start manufacturing more disruptive plays.
Outlook: The line is loaded with four and five-star talents, but now everyone has to start playing like it. The tackles will turn out to be a plus, and there will be times when the Sooners will simply outathletic an offensive front, but after finishing dead last in the Big 12 and 112th in the nation in tackles for loss, and an awful 89th against the run, there's lots and lots of work to do to turn promise and potential into production.
Unit Rating: 7


Senior Corey Nelson didn't build on his outstanding sophomore season, but he did a nice job on the way to all-star honors making 45 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. The 6-1, 215-pounder is an undersized outside linebacker, but he moves like a safety with enough toughness to hold up against the run and be sent into the backfield on a regular basis. A favorite of the coaching staff, he can play just about anywhere seeing time in his career in the middle and as a nickel defender. There's too much athleticism to not be more disruptive, and he should end up around the ball more.

Ready to rise up and be a statistical star is 6-1, 230-pound sophomore Frank Shannon, a 6-1, 230-pound former safety prospect who's now a prototype guided missile with outstanding range and a world of talent. A spot starter as a freshman, he made 38 tackles with two sacks and three tackles for loss, and now he should be one of the team's leading tacklers in the middle. He'll be backed up by 6-0, 198-pound sophomore Eric Striker, a woefully undersized speedster who'd normally be a safety but will work as a linebacker for the Sooners after making six tackles as a true freshman.

Seeing time somewhere in the outside rotation, or possible more as a starter in the 4-3, is rising junior Aaron Franklin, a 6-1, 217-pounder who grew from being a good special teamer into a nice part of the puzzle making 19 tackles with a sack. He came up with a strong offseason and will likely start out the year behind Nelson, but he could be too athletic and too good to keep off the field.

Watch Out For … Jordan Evans. OU turns safeties into linebackers, so there's a chance for four-star prospect Hatari Byrd to eventually move up, but Evans is a pure linebacker even at 6-3 and 210 pounds. While he's not a superstar recruit, he's dangerous with a non-stop motor to complement his quickness.
Strength: Terrific speed. It's always a bit dicey when you use beefed up, tough guy safeties at linebacker, but the Sooners can fly at the position. Range and athleticism isn't an issue.
Weakness: Linebackers. It's sort of odd for a program like Oklahoma, but there aren't a slew of true linebackers and there's little to no size to play around with. That's partly by design in a reaction to the high-octane Big 12 passing attacks, but anyone who tried running last year with even the slightest semblance of power didn't have much of a problem.
Outlook: More often than not the Sooners will utilize a 4-2-5 alignment to get as many good defensive backs on the field as possible against all the great Big 12 passers, but unlike last year there will be a bit more coming from the linebackers with more options tried out as the season goes on. Overall, getting to the ball won't be a problem, but coming up with tough stops will be a concern.
Unit Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

In the Big 12, the Sooners need to get big plays out of the defensive backs on a regular basis, and veteran Aaron Colvin has to be the leader of the pack. The 6-1, 181-pound corner is a tough, physical defender who followed up an 84-tackle season with 61 stops with four picks and a team-leading 11 broken up passes. A regular at strong safety a few years ago, he's a proven playmaker on the outside with excellent all-around skills with a great combination of speed, size and hitting ability. He'll be flanked on the other side by 6-2, 198-pound sophomore Cortez Johnson, a tall, talented transfer from Arizona. Like Colvin, Johnson is very physical and very tough – he'll handle himself well against the run.

Replacing Tony Jefferson at safety is going to be a problem, but the hope is for senior Gabe Lynn to become a bigger star in the secondary to pick up the slack. The 6-0, 199-pounder was Scout's No. 1 ranked corner a few years ago with 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 34 tackles last season with no career picks and just six broken up passes in three seasons. At free safety, he should be able to roam around and come up with big plays, but he could see time at corner if absolutely needed meaning former wide receiver prospect Trey Franks would likely step in after missing all of last year. The junior has 41 career catches for 459 yards and a score.

6-0, 181-pound junior Quentin Hayes didn't see any action last season and started out his career as a special teamer making three tackles. The former four-star recruit will get a long look at strong safety where he might not have the raw bulk, but he has the range to help out against the run. However, he'll have to hold off two talented two freshmen. 6-1, 205-pound Ahmad Thomas could see time anywhere in the secondary, but he has the size and hitting ability to be a natural safety. Thomas is good, but 6-1, 195-pound Hatari Byrd is a better prospect. The Fresno native is like another linebacker, but he tracks the ball well and could end up as a nickel defender right away.

If it's not Byrd at the nickel it'll likely be Julian Wilson, a 6-2, 191-pound blazer who's built like a top corner but has the range and hitting skills to put up huge stats as a safety after getting two starts and finishing with 29 tackles with three broken up passes.

Watch Out For … the new corners. It's not just Johnson, it's the true freshmen who might need to make an instant impact. Stanvon Taylor and L.J. Moore are tremendous athletes who might allow the coaching staff to play around with the combination. The 5-11, 175-pound Taylor was the Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year as both a receiver and a defensive back. At 6-1 and 175 pounds, Moore is a good-sized get out of Fresno who worked a bit as a running quarterback as well as a defensive back. He can move.
Strength: Versatility. Write down the Oklahoma secondary depth chart in pencil. This is a very big, very physical group of interchangeable parts who can move around to get all the right players on the field at the same time.
Weakness: Depth. The secondary lost several key parts, and it's going to be hard to fill in the gaps. The coaching staff has to hope that several parts of the puzzle are ready for primetime, needing Hayes and Wilson to be fantastic, while relying on a few newcomers to play key roles.
Outlook: The secondary did a solid job overall until the Cotton Bowl fiasco, giving up just nine touchdown passes – with four coming against West Virginia – in the regular season. However, interception production could be a problem with Colvin and his four the only returning picks on the team. Even so, this is Oklahoma and there are more than enough big, athletic, talented defensive backs to go around. Colvin and Johnson have to lock-down, and the safeties have to rock more against the run.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Junior Michael Hunnicutt has been fantastic since taking over two years ago, tying the school record for field goals in a season hitting 21-of-24 shots as a freshman and following it up by connecting on 17-of-21 field goals with one getting blocked. He doesn't have a massive leg, but he's more than fine inside 50 yards.

The punting game was terrific last season with Tress Way averaging over 44 yards per kick, but he put eight in the end zone. It'll be a battle for the starting job between junior Jed Barnett and redshirt freshman Jed Steed, two huge kickers with big legs. Barnett, originally a California Bear, comes in from Laney College where he averaged 41.3 yards per kick putting 14 inside the 20.

The return game was among the best in the nation, but Justin Brown is gone after averaging 13.6 yards per punt return. Jalen Saunders only got five chances, but he made the most of them with an 81-yard score and a 17.6-yard average. Brennan Clay averaged 25.4 yards per kickoff return, Roy Finch averaged 31 yards per pop with a score, and they're both back.

Watch Out For … Barnett. Steed is a huge option who can blast away, but Barnett was brought in specifically to take over for Way and be the main man from Day One. However, Steed will get his chances.
Strength: Return game. Seventh in the nation in kickoff returns and eight in punt returns, OU was phenomenal at generating field position, and now all the pieces are back.
Weakness: Sure-thing punting. This is nitpicking, but Way was such a steady and consistent weapon that it's asking a lot to get the same production right away out of Barnett or Steed.
Outlook: The punt coverage team improved by leaps and bounds and the kickoff coverage team was great, rounding out the already sound special teams. The return game is outstanding and Hunnicutt is a star, so if the punting game comes through, OU will have a major advantage.
Unit Rating: 9

- 2013 Oklahoma Preview | 2013 Oklahoma Offense
- 2013 Oklahoma Defense | 2013 Oklahoma Depth Chart