NORMAN — Oklahoma’s Eric Striker established himself as one of college football’s elite pass rushers last season, and solidified that distinction by tormenting Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and quarterback A.J. McCarron in the Sooners’ 45-31 Sugar Bowl upset.
Striker recorded three of Oklahoma’s seven sacks in the game, but is now working more in pass coverage so far through the Sooners’ 2014 spring football practices.
The junior is practicing in the nickelback spot along with sophomore Ahmad Thomas while returning starter Julian Wilson recovers from shoulder surgery this spring.
Striker spoke with reporters recently about his new responsibilities, the OU defense and matching up with quarterback-turned-tight end Blake Bell in practice.
Q: What’s it like playing some in pass coverage?
A: It’s just something to get used to. I’ve been better as practices go on, so it’s something new to learn. It’s fun. I’m getting more comfortable.
Did you cover guys in high school?
No, I didn’t really cover that much in high school, either, so it’s new for me.
Pass rushing is more fun though, right?
It is more fun. I’ll be doing the pass rush thing in certain situations. But as far as the base defense, I guess I’m not pass rushing as much. But that’s OK with me.
Have you matched up much with Blake Bell?
Blake’s been holding, man (laughs). Nah, I think Blake’s been doing good. He’s been locking on and holding, but he’s doing real good. He’s got me a couple times.
What’s it like to finally get a shot at him? He can’t wear that blue jersey anymore.
It’s cool. He’s really transitioning well. He’s got the quarterback mentality at tight end, of course he’s gotta be more physical, and it’s something I can tell through the practices. He’s gotten way more physical.
Did last season give you and the other defensive players more confidence?
We’ve got a little more confidence. Attitude. But it’s still work at the end of the day. Everything’s not gonna be perfect, but I think we’re more comfortable. We’re so far ahead of where we were last year because we kinda switched our defense up, and now we’ve got our defense in.