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State of the Sooners: Oklahoma’s defensive line entering the 2013 spring game

by Jason Kersey Modified: April 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013
Junior Chuka Ndulue is playing defensive tackle through spring practices, a move which allowed the Sooners to stick with their four-man front. PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
Junior Chuka Ndulue is playing defensive tackle through spring practices, a move which allowed the Sooners to stick with their four-man front. PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s defensive line was senior-dominated in 2012, meaning the Sooner defense enters the 2013 season with very little experience up front.

Even so, Oklahoma’s defensive line often struggled last season to put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so perhaps an injection of new blood is just what the unit needed.

Continuing my unit-by-unit look at the 2013 Sooners, here’s a glance at Oklahoma’s defensive line entering Saturday’s spring game.

DEFENSIVE END
No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
85; Geneo Grissom; Jr.; 6-4; 254
99; Chaz Nelson; Sr.; 6-2; 244
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
98; Chuka Ndulue; Jr.; 6-3; 262
94; Torrea Peterson; Jr.; 6-3; 280
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
80; Jordan Phillips; So.; 6-6; 324
93; Jordan Wade; RFr.; 6-4; 306
DEFENSIVE END
No.; Name; Cl.; Ht.; Wt.
91; Charles Tapper; So.; 6-4; 253
84; Michael Onuoha; So.; 6-5; 235

Defensive line analysis: Oklahoma was widely expected to switch to a 3-4 defense — 2013 signees and even Phillips said as much — but now appears likely to stick with its traditional four-man front.

Ndulue’s move inside to defensive tackle allowed OU to do that. First-year position coach Jerry Montgomery said coaches are committed to keeping OU’s defense similar — schematically, anyway — to what it has been.

Ndulue probably still needs to add some weight, but his pass rushing ability could make his position change fruitful for OU. Phillips remains a raw talent, but has the potential for big things.

Grissom switched from defense to tight end, then back to defensive end last season. He now appears settled on the defensive line, and is a lock to begin the season as a starter. Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha each saw limited action last season and will likely see their roles dramatically increase in 2013.

The Sooners added lots of defensive linemen in their 2013 recruiting class. Most of them won’t arrive on campus until the summer, though, and there are still some lingering academic questions about junior-college transfer Quincy Russell and freshman Kerrick Huggins.

True freshman D.J. Ward — who transferred from Lawton to Douglass, then to Southmoore, between his junior and senior years, forcing him to miss an entire season of play — enrolled for spring classes, but is still awaiting clearance from the NCAA before he can practice with the team.

Once Ward gets cleared, he could make an impact with this unit, although there is the possibility his year off will make that difficult.

(UPDATE: The NCAA cleared D.J. Ward to practice Tuesday.)

Here’s a full schedule for the “State of the Sooners” series:
Monday, 11 a.m.: Special teams
Monday, 2 p.m.: Defensive backs
Tuesday, 11 a.m.: Linebackers
Tuesday, 2 p.m.: Defensive linemen
Wednesday, 11 a.m.: Offensive linemen
Wednesday, 2 p.m.: Tight ends
Thursday, 11 a.m.: Wide receivers
Thursday, 2 p.m.: Running backs
Friday, 11 a.m.: Quarterbacks


by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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