ard Stephen Good must begin to live up to some of his recruiting hype. The good news is that position coach James Patton has recruited a quintet of talented prospects. Look for Mustang native Bronson Irwin, who has enrolled early and will participate in spring drills, to push Good, Tyler Evans and Tavaris Jeffries for playing time at guard.
→Projected starters: Brandon, Good, Habern, Evans, Jones
The strength of the team, Beal and Alexander could form the top defensive end twosome in college football. Both players are ferocious coming off the edge. R.J. Washington is loaded with potential, but David King will probably fill the role of third end.
Adrian Taylor has a tough road ahead to recover from his gruesome broken ankle in time for next season. If he’s unable to, OU could have some serious depth issues. Jamarkus McFarland made rapid progress and has a chance to succeed Gerald McCoy as OU’s next great defensive tackle. But after that, there are question marks. Stacy McGee made some improvement last season, but is yet to see the field for a meaningful snap. Same goes for Casey Walker. The Sooners are bringing in four defensive tackles, but will anyone of them be ready to contribute as freshmen? This is a potential trouble spot.
The young talent here is overwhelming. Rising junior Travis Lewis led OU with 109 tackles in what he says was somewhat of a disappointing season for him. Ronnell Lewis proved against Stanford he has the ability to blow up the best of rush offenses. Fellow freshman Tom Wort was the story of spring drills and seemed destined to be a part of the rotation until tearing his ACL in the preseason. His rehabilitation is ahead of schedule, and he will vie for a starting role. Joe Ibiloye has similar skill sets to that of graduating senior Keenan Clayon; a safety in a linebacker’s body. The trick will be figuring out where to play everybody. The guess is that defensive coordinator Brent Venables will leave Travis Lewis on the weak-side, start Wort in the middle and rotate Ronnell Lewis and Ibiloye on the strong side in run/pass situations. Capable veteran Austin Box and incoming high-profile freshman Justin McCay make this group not only talented, but deep.
→Projected starters: Travis Lewis, Wort, Ronnell Lewis
While inexperienced here, the Sooners may not be as bad off as most teams would be replacing both cornerbacks. Freshman Demontre Hurst is a talented and exciting young prospect and will take over at one of the spots. The other could be filled by junior Jonathan Nelson, who won a starting job at strong safety late this year. Nelson is smart and athletic and was a corner before moving to safety this season.
→Projected starters: Nelson, Hurst
Quinton Carter may be the hardest-hitting safety OU’s had since Brandon Everage. He’s on the cusp of stardom and may get there in his final season. Proctor was beaten out by Nelson, but is a solid player and could resume his starting role if Nelson swings back to corner. Like Hurst, freshman Marcus Trice is an intriguing prospect. So is Kevin Brent, who underwent shoulder surgery last summer that forced him to redshirt. Both players could see time in dime and prevent packages.
→Projected starters: Carter, Proctor