NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive coaches believe Chuka Ndulue's position change will require some weight gain.
Ndulue — a 6-foot-3, 262-pound defensive end-turned-tackle — though, isn't so sure about all that.
“Right now I'm holding my own,” Ndulue said after Wednesday's practice. “I want to gain weight, but at the same time I don't want to sacrifice speed for it. If I gain weight, it's got to be the right weight.”
Ndulue arrived at Oklahoma a raw, 240-pounder who needed to pack on pounds to play defensive end collegiately. Entering 2013 spring practices, the junior was OU's best option to solidify its dangerously thin defensive-tackle unit.
He started nine games last season at defensive end, recording 43 tackles and five sacks as the only non-senior defensive lineman who received any significant playing time.
“He's in the tweener category,” said new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. “He's not tall enough to be a great edge rusher, but not big enough to be a great inside guy.”
After seniors David King, Jamarkus McFarland and Stacy McGee graduated — and younger defensive tackles Marquis Anderson and Damon Williams left the team — Oklahoma found itself with just three defensive tackles.
Junior Torrea Peterson, sophomore Jordan Phillips and redshirt freshman Jordan Wade are those three players; none have much game experience at all. Phillips played some in reserve duty last season, and is considered a raw talent with a high ceiling.
In the weeks before spring practices began, there was wide speculation that Oklahoma would switch to a 3-4 system.
After Montgomery arrived and Ndulue changed positions, Oklahoma has been able to stick — so far, at least — with their traditional four-man front.
“We want to be a four-down; that's who we are,” Montgomery said.
When the Sooners' opened spring practices March 9, Ndulue got his first taste of the rugged world inside the line of scrimmage.
“It's a big boys' game,” Ndulue said. “I like that a lot. I like hitting people. When I got there, I got to hit people a lot quicker.”
Still, Ndulue admits that it hasn't been an easy adjustment. Interior defensive linemen are often double-teamed by opposing offensive lines.
That's where adding strength and weight would come in handy.
“He's gonna have to put on 10 more pounds, but he's gonna be a good 25, 30-snap guy in there and can be very productive,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who added that he doesn't think Ndulue will switch between the end and tackle positions the way King did last season.
Asked again about gaining weight, Ndulue responded, “I'm fine. I don't think I've gained any. I'm 2-whatever I am. It fluctuates, my weight.”