2014 Oklahoma Preview: What You Need To Know
Oklahoma DE Charles Tapper
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Oklahoma (Getty Images)
What You Need To Know...
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: This might not be the most consistent of Sooner attacks, but it’ll be solid. There’s plenty of excitement and hope for an offense that has a slew of massive holes to fill at running back and receiver along with the line. The quarterback situation is set with Trevor Knight being handed the keys after his brilliant Sugar Bowl performance, but the backup situation is a big, big problem with Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield not eligible until next season. The Sooners will end up being fine if one-time super-recruit running back Keith Ford can breakout and if a No. 2 receiver can rise up on the other side of Sterling Shepard. Daryl Williams is one of the Big 12’s best tackles, but center Gabe Ikard is gone and Tyrus Thompson has to be ready to shine on the other side of Williams.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: After a great season against just about everyone but Baylor, the defense should be dominant if the secondary can come together in a hurry. The Sooners are fine at safety with Quentin Hayes returning, but corner is a question mark early on. Fortunately, the front seven might be among the best in America with a prototype defensive line with Charles Tapper, Chuka Ndulue and Geneo Grissom leading a fantastic and deep group of talents. The linebacking corps is loaded, too,
even with the school's suspension of star tackler Frank Shannon. Pass rusher Eric Striker
is a devastating force, and there's depth to work into the rotation. Expect the Sooners to camp out in opposing backfields.
There's so much talent and so many great options, the coaching staff will find a
variety of ways to load up and throw a variety of options at opposing offenses.
The results should be tremendous.
Players You Need To Know
1. DE Charles Tapper, Jr.
It’s not like he came from out of nowhere, but he exploded in his true sophomore season coming up with 49 tackles and 5.5 sacks with nine tackles for loss after getting in a little bit of work and making two tackles as a freshman. At 6-4 and 273 pounds with excellent athleticism and speed, he moves like a basketball player and cuts on a dime. Now that he has the experience to go along with all the skills, the sky’s the limit to become unstoppable with all the attention being paid to the rest of the defensive front. The prototype end, he’s about to become a really, really big deal.
2. LB Frank Shannon, Jr.
It all depends on the appeals process. Suspended for a year by the school after
being accused of sexual assault, he could choose to appeal the ruling.
The former safety prospect bulked up and turned his speed and athleticism into a killer linebacker coming up with a team-leading 92 tackles with a pick, two sacks and seven tackles for loss. The 6-1, 238-pounder has hit the weights hard since first arriving in Norman and handles himself well in the middle with great range and hitting ability. He only earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors last year, but that should quickly change this season as one of the Big 12’s top all-around defenders making a season-high 16 tackles against Texas and 15 against Baylor – both losses. A guided missile, he’ll
be a highlight reel star if and when he plays again.
3. LB Eric Striker, Jr.
One of the team’s most versatile defenders, and one of the Big 12’s best pass rushers, the 6-0, 221-pounder will work at linebacker, but he might see time in different packages like a really big, really active safety. Meanwhile, he’ll be turned loose from time to time into the backfield after coming up with 6.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and 50 tackles. Good against the pass, too, he broke up three passes and has the speed and quickness to come up with plays in pass coverage. Very smart and very quick, he made a national name for himself with a dominant three-sack performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and now he’s about to explode.
4. OT Daryl Williams, Sr.
A superstar recruit when he came aboard, the 6-6, 329-pound tackle has grown and gotten bigger and stronger as a right tackle, and he could start at left tackle as the anchor up front. With good athleticism and strength, he can blast away for the ground game, but he’s at his best as a pass protector with the long arms and the frame to make rushers work to get into the backfield. Expect all-star honors and All-America consideration.
5. DE Geneo Grissom, Sr.
A phenomenal athlete with great size, he showed what he could do with a huge performance against Alabama with two sacks, a broken up pass, and two fumble recoveries returning one for the decisive score. A big play performer, he came up with a 54-yard interception return for a score against Texas, showing off his speed and athleticism in the body of a 6-4, 252-pound body. He finally busted out last season, making 41 tackles with 4.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss on the year, and with his combination of skills, he should build off his Sugar Bowl performance and be one of the Big 12’s best ends.
6. QB Trevor Knight, Soph.
Okay, No. 9, it’s all on you. Knight was named the starting quarterback to kick off last season, but he started out completing 11-of-28 passes for 86 yards with three touchdowns and a pick against ULM, and he didn’t do much for the passing game throughout the rest of the season, struggling with his consistency hitting 14-of-20 passes for 171 yards and a score with a pick against Kansas State, and followed it up by completing 3-of-7 throws for 28 yards against Oklahoma State. And then came the Sugar Bowl, and out of the blue he not only got the start, but he destroyed the Alabama defense on a 32-of-44, 348-yard, four score, one pick day that goes down among the best, and most shocking, bowl performances ever. Now can he do that on a regular basis?
Mobile, he’s not Johnny Manziel running the ball, but after Oklahoma was ripped apart in the 2013 Cotton Bowl by Texas A&M, it wanted someone who could do a little of everything for the offense, and that’s Knight, who ran for 445 yards and two scores with 103 yards in the opener against ULM and 123 against Iowa State. But with no experience behind him, he has to stay healthy and can’t take any big shots. At 6-1 and 201 pounds he’s not built to be a regular runner, and he has to be smart about getting down or out of bounds when he gets the chance. The pressure is on, and he needs to be fantastic.
7. WR Sterling Shepard, Jr.
Not necessarily considered the main man last season, he turned into a terrific part of the passing puzzle following up a 45-catch season with 51 grabs for 603 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns. The best recruit out of Oklahoma two years ago, and a great get for the program, the 5-10, 195-pounder has excellent speed and NFL potential, but he’ll need a little help. Trevor Knight has to be a consistent passer, and a No. 2 option has to emerge to take some of the heat off. However, when Shepard is on, like he was against Oklahoma State catching seven passes for 112 yards, and catching eight passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns against Tulsa, he’s deadly.
8. PK Michael Hunnicutt, Sr.
One of the nation’s best kickers since first stepping on the field, he tied the school record for field goals in a season hitting 21-of-24 as a freshman, and followed it up by connecting on 17-of-21 attempts with one getting blocked. He doesn’t have a massive leg, but he’s as reliable as any kicker in America with a record-setting 24 field goals in 27 attempts last season with one getting blocked. After missing a 52-yarder, he connected on his last ten attempts, and now he’ll be on the short list for the Lou Groza.
9. DT Jordan Phillips, Jr.
Back after suffering a back injury and missing all of last year, the 6-6, 334-pound run stuffer is back with the upside and the talent to be an anchor up front. A superstar of superstar recruits, he’s quick off the ball with the quickness to go along with his mass to eat up everything inside. He has yet to prove himself on the field, not doing much in his first season and missing all of last year, but the talent and upside are there to grow into a top pro prospect. Now he has to be healthy all season and be an anchor who dominates against the run.
10. DT Chuka Ndulue, Sr.
Versatile enough and flexible enough to work just about anywhere up front, the 6-3, 289-pound veteran is a tackle, but he could work as a 3-4 end and do a little bit of everything for the line. A good run stopper, he came up with 42 tackles with 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss after coming up with 45 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore. A good interior pass rushing prospect with the strength and quickness to control the line at times, he has all-star skills.
2014 Oklahoma Preview