NORMAN — When OU last played, Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom were everywhere.
The pair combined for 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recovers — one for a touchdown — in the Sooners’ upset win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
This season, Striker and Grissom will once again be key pieces on OU’s defense — although with slightly different roles.
As a sophomore last year, Striker was primarily used as a rusher off the edge.
This season, he’ll still get after quarterbacks plenty, but will also drop back into coverage at times.
“It’s not a big deal like people are making it,” Striker said, though he added he’s excited to be in coverage.
Grissom seemed to find a home at defensive end last year after bouncing around. But now, Grissom is transitioning once again, moving to linebacker.
“Everyone asks me if I’ve found a home,” Grissom said. “It’s not really about finding a home. It’s just about finding a place where I can make plays for the team.
“I love it. I feel like it’s a great position for me and I can make plays there and help the defense.”
While Grissom and Striker are adjusting to shifted roles in the second season of Mike Stoops’ three-man-front defense, the linebackers on the inside are growing after getting to play as true freshmen.
Dominique Alexander quickly became an integral part of OU’s linebacker corps when Corey Nelson went down for the season just before the Sooners’ annual game against Texas.
Alexander wound up making a striking improvement from that point, finishing with 80 tackles.
“I think I’m a totally different player than I was last year,” Alexander said. “I’m a lot smarter. I’m also faster. I’m seeing things better. When I see it, I just shoot the gap instead of thinking about it. I can just play loose and play fast.”
The other spot is where there is the most question.
The status of last year’s leading tackler, Frank Shannon, is in doubt as he fights a year-long suspension imposed by the university after a Title IX sexual assault investigation.
The likely replacement there is Jordan Evans, who played in eight games last season but was slowed by injuries.
“We’ll see,” Stoops said. “Hopefully he made a big jump from his freshman year to where he’s at this year. He has a very high ceiling. Hopefully he’ll continue to progress because I think he can be an outstanding football player.”