4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE OKLAHOMA DEFENSE
– No, really. The Oklahoma defense won’t be so miserable this season. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is a big-time talent who knows how to help force takeaways and be more aggressive. Last year’s OU D was the worst in America against the pass, wasn’t anything special against the run, and ended up dead last in the Big 12 in total and scoring defense.
Seven of the top eight tacklers and nine starters are back. Now everyone needs to be a whole lot better, starting with …
– The line not only needs to hold up, but it has to bring more pressure. It didn’t do much to help out the beleaguered secondary without enough plays behind the line and with just 29 tackles. 6-2, 330-pound senior Neville Gallimore came up with 50 tackles and wasn’t bad at getting behind the line considering his size, and 6-3, 290-pound Dillon Faamatau will see plenty of time on the inside.
The pass rush has to come from Ronnie Perkins, a 6-3, 253-pound sophomore who came up with a nice first season with 37 tackles with five sacks and eight tackles for loss. He’ll combine with versatile 264-pound senior Kenneth Mann – who made 51 stops – on the end.
– Curtis Bolton is gone from the linebacking corps after coming up with 139 stops, but 238-pound junior Kenneth Murray returns as the leader and volume-tackler on the inside after coming up with 155 tackles. 6-2, 230-pound junior Bryan Mead will bring some size into the mix.
Losing fourth-leading tackler Caleb Kelly to an offseason injury hurts, putting the pressure on sophomore 221-pound sophomore DaShaun White and 6-1, 226-pound sophomore Levi Draper to become factors on the outside.
– There’s a ton of talent and experience returning to the secondary, but there’s a whole lot of work to do after allowing a nation-worst 294 passing yards per game and picking off a mere six passes.
Parnell Motley will play somewhere. The 6-0, 177-pound senior made 63 tackles with a team-high three picks, and junior Tre Norwood – if he’s healthy after hurting his knee – is a good-tackling corner with nice size and the experience to do more.
Junior Robert Barnes started at safety for most of last year – finishing with 54 tackles – but he’s going to be pushed for time. Sophomore Patrick Fields is a high-rising safety prospect who got his feet with 13 tackles in a half a season of work – he’s got great range and 5-11, 193-pound size – and fellow sophomore Justin Broiles is back after making 24 tackles in his first year.