NORMAN — Bob Stoops likes to bring it up often now, pointing out what little outsiders thought about his defensive line last season as Oklahoma switched into a three-man front.
But last year, Mike Stoops and the rest of OU’s defensive coaches had concerns about how the defensive line would come together.
The line, though, wound up being one of the strengths of the Sooners’ defense.
Charles Tapper turned into one of the top defensive ends in the league as a sophomore, Jordan Phillips was a dominant force inside until his season ended due to injury and Geneo Grissom settled in on the other side at defensive end.
Once again, the defensive line figures to be a strength for the Sooners.
Tapper returns and Phillips appears to be healthy after surgery on his back.
“I feel like having Jordan Phillips in there gives us a different guy that can make plays as a nose guard and take up a lot of space over the center,” Mike Stoops said.
“That’s a critical position on this defense.”
The other defensive end position will be filled by Chuka Ndulue, who started nine games last season as he rotated with Grissom.
Grissom, though, has moved to linebacker.
With Jordan Wade, who played well in Phillips’ absence last year, returning as the backup in the middle and reserve defensive ends Charles Walker and Matt Dimon drawing praise for their work behind the starters, the defensive line figures to have some depth.
“It all starts with the big guys,” Ndulue said. “If we’re not being dominant and getting driven into the linebackers, it’s going to be a long day for us. We just preach that it all starts up front.”
“If we’re dominating and playing on their side of the line of scrimmage, we can do something great.”