NORMAN — Oklahoma opened its 2014 season with a 48-16 rout of Louisiana Tech, so it’s time to update my list of the top-10 Sooner football players. I last updated it April 24 after the spring game.
What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below.
1. Eric Striker, Jr., LB: Striker’s role has expanded, allowing the Sooner defense to run a true 3-4 system with Geneo Grissom moving to outside linebacker. How well the junior plays in pass coverage will go a long way toward determining how good this Oklahoma defense can be — and how good an NFL prospect Striker can be.
2. Sterling Shepard, Jr., WR: Shepard caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and nearly hauled in a second score, when an official ruled he didn’t get a foot inbounds early in the third quarter. Shepard also debuted as a punt returner and was impressive, averaging 17.5 yards on two returns.
3. Geneo Grissom, Sr., LB: Grissom’s move to outside linebacker appears to be a really good fit. The senior deflected a pass on Louisiana Tech’s first drive last week. His athleticism in that spot is going to make Oklahoma’s defense even better.
4. Daryl Williams, Sr., OT: Williams had an impressive offseason and developed into the offensive line’s clear leader. By the end of this season, he could be one of the elite offensive tackles in the country.
5. Charles Tapper, Jr., DE: Tapper recorded three tackles — one for loss — and a sack in the Sooners’ season-opening victory. He was an All-Big 12 selection last year and should only get better in 2014.
6. Zack Sanchez, So., CB: Sanchez intercepted a pass and played really well overall in the season opener. He continues to show how underrated he was coming out of high school.
7. Trevor Knight, So., QB: Knight wasn’t spectacular in the season opener, but played pretty well overall. He turned the ball over twice — an interception and a fumble — but appears to be getting better about getting down and out of bounds to avoid big hits. Anyone expecting him to replicate his Sugar Bowl MVP performance every single week is unrealistic, but Knight will certainly get better as the year goes on and he gets more in-sync with his new offensive weapons.
8. Dominique Alexander, So., LB: Alexander didn’t put up big numbers against Louisiana Tech, but is an integral part of the Sooners’ defense and will only get better as he gets more and more experience. Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
9. Keith Ford, So., RB: Ford didn’t start the game, but ended up being the most productive of Oklahoma’s running backs. He was the team’s leading receiver against Louisiana Tech and scored two touchdowns on the ground. If I had to rank the three running backs based on Saturday’s game, I’d go Ford, Samaje Perine then Alex Ross, but all three are very good players.
10. Jordan Phillips, So., DT: Phillips’ back held up well in the season opener. He was a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line and could end up being a special, special player by the time his career is over. He’ll rise on this list as he plays more and proves he can stay healthy.