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NCAA Football

Oklahoma Sooners Spring Practice: Previewing the Defense

The Oklahoma Sooners closed out the first portion of spring practice last Thursday, with a full scrimmage before departing for spring break.

The Sooners will have nine practice sessions remaining after players return from spring break, including the annual spring game, held on April 14.

We took a look at the offense for the Oklahoma Sooners last week, so this week, we’re previewing the defense.

Defensive end: The main question for the defense surrounds the defensive end position. Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis are both off to pursue their NFL careers, and so the Sooners are left to replace a pair of starters at defensive end. Seniors David King and RJ Washington are the odds on favorites to replace Alexander and Lewis. Washington has received a lot of praise from head coach Bob Stoops for his work in the offseason.  Washington began to emerge as the season progressed in 2011, after failing to live up to expectations in previous years. Junior college transfer Chaz Nelson figures to work his way into the rotation this spring, along with sophomores Chuka Ndulue and Geneo Grissom.

Defensive tackle: This position has been a question mark before the season the past two years, but this year, it’s a strong point because of the depth the Sooners have at the position. Seniors Stacy McGee, Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland headline the group. Any two of those three should be the starters for the 2012 season, and their senior leadership will be a major factor. Four tackles from the Sooners’ 2011 recruiting class will have to learn fast, because they will definitely see time on the field this year. Marquis Anderson, Jordan Wade, Jordan Phillips, and Torrea Peterson will all be counted on to produce. The learning curve shouldn’t be too steep, though, since there are three seniors in front of them. However, this will be a huge year, since those four will be starting in just a year.

Linebackers: Travis Lewis is gone, and while that will certainly be a blow for this linebacking group, it’s not going to be the end of the world. Junior Corey Nelson has shown he is an extremely talented player, and he’ll slide into Lewis’ spot nicely alongside junior Tom Wort. The Sooners are certainly not lacking in depth at this position, and all of the group is talented. Jaydan Bird and Joseph Ibiloye are the favorites to grab the third starter position this spring, but that could obviously change before the season starts. Wort and Nelson are the leaders of the unit, but behind them, it’s anyone’s guess as to who the best players are. New defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and new linebackers coach Tim Kish have to be happy with what they have to work with here.

Secondary: There are a lot of questions here, but not necessarily negative ones. The players are all there, it’s just a matter of who is going to play where. The biggest question is finding a suitable cornerback to play opposite senior Demontre Hurst. That question may be answered by answering the questions surrounding the two starting safeties. It appears junior Tony Jefferson will be at one safety spot for sure. However, the other could be filled by incumbent starter Aaron Colvin, or senior Javon Harris, who lost his starting position last year after major gaffes against Baylor. If Harris can reclaim that position, look for Colvin to slide over to the other cornerback position. If not, junior Gabe Lynn could be the other cornerback, or possibly junior college transfer Kass Everett.

New defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has a very strong track record for building dominant defenses in Norman. During his first tenure, the Sooners finished outside the top 10 in total defense only once: the first season Bob Stoops was in Norman.

Oklahoma has a lot of talent on this side of the ball, and the main question is, “Who is the best option for us at this position?” If the Sooners can answer that, and buy into what Stoops is doing with them as a unit, there’s no doubt this unit could be as good as those that have prowled Owen Field before it.