Here are five storylines to be watching this next month on the defensive side of the ball.
Is there an answer at defensive tackle?
It was a huge question last year, and it definitely remains a top issue this year for first-year coach Jerry Montgomery. The status of junior college signee Quincy Russell remains a question mark as most believe he can fill a big hole in the middle. If that isn't resolved, it's going to be up to Jordan Wade or Jordan Phillips to step up their game this season. It will also be interesting to keep tabs on where Chuka Ndulue ends up as he has been bouncing back and forth between defensive end and defensive tackle.
What role will linebackers play?
Another burning question for OU's defense. Senior cornerback Aaron Colvin didn't hesitate in saying he believes Corey Nelson is going to be one of the best in the country and that Frank Shannon is going to be something special. No group underwent a more massive change last year with Mike Stoops returning as defensive coordinator and Tim Kish in his first year. Now in year two, the chemistry has to be there for OU's defense to be productive. The Sooners cannot win utilizing a 4-0-7 defense like they resorted to at one point last year.
Who will grow up the fastest?
The secondary is anchored by Colvin, who might very well be the unquestioned leader of the defense. But after that, a lot of unknowns. Cornerback Cortez Johnson should lock down the other spot, but the two safety positions are up in the air. Is it possible true freshman Hatari Byrd or Ahmad Thomas finds a home at safety? Not out of the question. Julian Wilson and Gabe Lynn have experience at safety and nickelback, and Colvin has raved about how hard Lynn has worked. But Byrd and Thomas have impressed early and they could be thrown into the fire earlier than expected.
What Class of 2012 defensive end makes an impact first?
Neither was ranked incredibly high coming out of high school, but OU fans were still excited when defensive ends Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha signed for the 2012 class. This could be the year everybody finds out why as Tapper and Onuoha have quietly handled their business and could be poised for big things. Both saw time last year and their role will certainly increase this season. It will be something to watch to see if one starts to separate from the other during camp or the early part of the season.
Will OU tinker its defensive scheme?There were whispers of a change from a 4-3 system to a 3-4 in the spring. And recruits have mentioned the fact OU plans to utilize the 3-4 scheme against spread offenses. So when is this wrinkle going to be shown and how effective will it be? Mike Stoops has done wonders with OU defenses before, but this might be his toughest task yet. On paper, the talent level doesn't feel as stacked as previously years so perhaps a change is in order. If Stoops can find the answer, OU fans will have reason again to smile regarding the front seven.