Oklahoma’s defensive line is certainly the deepest it’s been since Mike Stoops’ return as defensive coordinator.
It’s also one of the deepest at any time during Stoops’ time in Norman.
“You get Jordan Phillips back and we can go two-deep and not really slide much,” Stoops said. “Tap (Charles Tapper) and Geneo Grissom are difference makers. The other guys will be difference makers as they continue to grow. Chuka (Ndulue)’s the old reliable horse in there that holds down the fort.
“They all work together extremely well.”
Phillips injured his back early last season and never returned. He’s sitting out spring practices as well.
“His recovery has been on point,” Stoops said. “He’s not ready to play right now. We haven’t pulled him out for any precautionary reasons. He just needs that time. It’s the same with Adam Shead. We want them to be ready to go at the beginning of summer so they can get in shape and be ready to practice for us in August. That’s really what we’re worried about.”
GRISSOM SETTLES IN
After a big Sugar Bowl, there are high expectations for Geneo Grissom this season.
Grissom bounced between offense and defense before finding a home at defensive end last season.
“I think the light turned on for Geneo,” Stoops said. “He’s made a lot of improvements.
“It just takes time for you to get comfortable and to be able to make those plays and feel that confidence and that’s what some of the younger guys are struggling with right now. We finally saw that athletic ability that Geneo can possess.”
WALKER MIGHT TAKE TIME
Among the players going through spring practices that didn’t see much or any playing time last season, defensive tackle Charles Walker has garnered plenty of attention.
Walker made waves with his performances in bowl preparations and has continued that momentum in the spring.
Still, Stoops said, there was plenty of room for improvement.
“We’re not seeing him and his full ability yet,” Stoops said. “I don’t anticipate we will until next fall or until he gets some more repetitions in this system. It’s hard for your skill set to really show up. … When you’re thinking all the time it’s very difficult and learning how to take on blocks, until you get enough quality reps that you can really just go out there and play, I think he’s a guy that continues to improve.”
Stoops said it might take some time for Walker’s skills to show themselves on Saturdays though.
“You’re asking a lot,” he said. “Eric Striker wasn’t Eric Striker until this year if you remember right. Maybe that was our fault not playing him more the year before, but it takes awhile. Hopefully Charles, the light will turn on and you’ll see him start to make plays.”
JOHNSON WORKS THROUGH ISSUES
Cortez Johnson went through preseason workouts as the starting cornerback before a one-game suspension opened the door for Zack Sanchez to take over.
Sanchez quickly became a fixture in the secondary and Johnson didn’t see regular playing time.
Johnson said Thursday his off-the-field issues weren’t done after the suspension and he never recovered.
“My fault,” Johnson said. “It was all on me.”
Johnson said his issues involved family matters and poor study habits.
“I had a talk with Coach and we got things straight. I’m back on track,” Johnson said.
With Aaron Colvin’s departure opening up a spot opposite Sanchez, Johnson is trying to make the most of another opportunity.
“He knows I can be a great player,” Johnson said of Mike Stoops, who coached Johnson as a freshman at Arizona. “He brought me up here. Making bad decisions like I did last year wasn’t a great step to take. I learned from that. He kinda took me back in and gave me another shot. I’m trying to take advantage of it.”