Expectations are high for Oklahoma in 2014 coming off a strong finish to the 2013 season. A lot of key parts have moved on, making way for new names to take their place.
With spring practice beginning over the weekend, Sooners Illustrated is looking at five names to watch on defense this spring.
His legend began during the bowl practices with every player mentioning what a force Walker was during that time. It increased last week when he posted his OU-timed 4.67-second 40-yard dash as a defensive lineman. Now we'll see what he can do on the field. The defensive line was thought to be the weakest part of OU's lineup last year and is now thought to be among the best in the conference. Tough to argue with the way the group closed out the season. And if Walker ends up being as good as the whispers of his teammates indicate, got another one to watch.
Bond arrived to campus in January, and the word on Bond has always been he's a bigger and stronger and just as fast version of Eric Striker. There's nothing to not like about that scenario. OU isn't deep at linebacker so Bond definitely has the chance to come right in and make an impact despite the fact he didn't play a down in the 2013 season. If Bond develops and gives OU another solid pass rusher on the outside with Striker, this defense got just got that much better.
Interesting time for Byrd right now. His running mate, cornerback L.J. Moore, has elected to leave the program. His cousin, four-star wide receiver Michiah Quick, is months away from heading to Norman as well. And the safety position is wide open for Byrd, now a sophomore, to step in and become the starter. He didn't get a lot of time on the field in 2013 and most of it came during the early part of the season, but Byrd's work ethic has never been questioned before and hasn't been an issue so far.
It's a free-for-all for that second cornerback starting position. Zack Sanchez has one side of the field locked up, but who is going to join him? Sophomores Taylor and Dakota Austin will battle junior Cortez Johnson for the spot. Entering 2013, Taylor was considered to be a favorite as an instant impact maker for the class. He did start one game early in the season and also came up big on special teams during the latter part of the season. This year his impact needs to be at corner.
Came out of nowhere to become the Big 12's defensive freshman of the year. Alexander isn't the biggest of linebackers, a trait very common right now for OU's group, but he made big plays and became a consistent contributor down the stretch. With two months off, one very intriguing thing to see will be if the linebackers have put on any more weight. Their speed is no doubt an asset, but their lack of size makes things difficult as well.