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OU football: Looking into the crystal ball

By Jake Trotter Modified: January 12, 2009 at 10:48 am •  Published: January 12, 2009
This week, Oklahoma's collective fan base will be watching closely as Heisman Trophy quarterback Sam Bradford decides whether to leave early for the NFL or return for another year of school.

But whatever Bradford chooses, the 2009 Sooners will shift from offensive juggernaut to a team reliant on a defense that should be the best in the Big 12.

While the offense will be decimated by graduation on the line and at wide receiver — not to mention the possible loss of Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham to the NFL — the defense could return up to nine starters and loads of depth on the front seven.

Though the defense struggled at times this past season, especially after losing middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds to season-ending knee surgery, the Sooners closed strong, holding three of the nation's top-six scoring offenses — Texas Tech, Missouri and Florida — to season lows in points.

Those late-season performances underscored the individual improvement of several young players who should only continue to get better next season.

With Frank Alexander, Jeremy Beal and Auston English at defensive end; Adrian Taylor, DeMarcus Granger (if he heals) and Gerald McCoy (if he returns) at defensive tackle; Mike Balogun, Austin Box, Keenan Clayton, Travis Lewis and Ryan Reynolds (if he heals) at linebacker; and Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson at cornerback, the Sooner defense should be a force to be reckoned with in 2009.

By Jake Trotter

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