OU spring practice: Week 1 defense

First week is in the books. Here's some news and notes on OU's defense so far this spring.

With the first week of spring practice in the books for Oklahoma, SoonersIllustrated.com is going to recap the week that was and what stood out the most on defense.

Defensive line growing

There are almost too many defensive linemen right now in Norman. Nobody would have said that at this point last year, but it's definitely created a logjam.

One thing that made a little more move was a temporary switch of Geneo Grissom from defensive end to an outside linebacker standing up. That has allowed Chuka Ndulue and Charles Tapper to be the defensive ends with Jordan Wade manning the middle.

After that, though, almost too many names to list. Charles Walker is seeing time at end, while guys like Matthew Romar and Torrea Peterson are filling at nose guard. Michael Onuoha and D.J. Ward are both trying to find their role. Will be interesting.

For as good of a season he had last year, Tapper said he's nowhere close to where he wants to be. He admits he's still learning the position every day. His technique will be the one thing, if he masters, that he believes will take him to the next level.

Bond with a solid first impression

For months all we've heard about is how outside linebacker Devante Bond is a bigger and stronger version of Eric Striker. Through the first week, he lived up to that billing.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and Striker didn't hesitate in saying Bond looked extremely comfortable in his first week despite not having played football last season.

Striker's role has changed a bit. With Julian Wilson out for the spring, Striker is seeing some time at the nickelback. Knowing how great of a pass rusher he is, tough to see that being a full time thing going forward.

Bob Stoops said he was happy with the physical developments of the linebackers, making special note of how much bigger sophomore Jordan Evans is going to be this season.

Three-way battle at corner

The most interesting competition is going to happen at cornerback between Dakota Austin, Stanvon Taylor and Cortez Johnson. With Zack Sanchez locking down one side of the field, it's a three-way race for the other spot.

After one week, slight edge to Austin. Sources said it was back and forth with Austin and Taylor in terms of who was playing better so not too much to determine yet.

Sanchez said he is enjoying his increased role as a leader, saying he's very comfortable being that guy. He has to be considering how quiet safety Quentin Hayes is.

Taylor said working with Aaron Colvin has helped him out so much heading into this season. On the field work ethic and off the field attitude were two things Colvin really helped teach Taylor as a freshman.

Thomas a jack-of-all-trades

It was always Trey Millard with this label on offense, feels like it's sophomore Ahmad Thomas going forward on the defense who will carry this role.

There isn't anything Thomas isn't doing right now on defense, and he said there's nothing he doesn't feel comfortable doing.

He has played some outside linebacker, some safety and some nickelback. Consensus has been he has done all of them well. Thomas addressed the media for the first time since being in Norman on Thursday, and it's obvious he feels pretty good about things.

Sophomore Hatari Byrd is starting to become more consistent as well at the safety spot. Striker brought up Byrd's consistency, but when asked about Thomas, Striker said Thomas has always been that consistent guy so it was nothing new.

Recruit watch

Aledo (Texas) High wide receiver Ryan Newsome made his second trip to Norman in two weeks, attending Thursday's practice. The Sooners are in a great spot with Newsome even if a commitment isn't likely to happen this spring.

Midwest City (Okla.) High safety Will Sunderland. Coming off winning the Rivals DB MVP last weekend, Sunderland was back at OU on Tuesday. While the media was allowed to see a brief part of practice, Sunderland and OU coach Bob Stoops were buddy-buddy the whole time. Don't be surprised to see Sunderland back at OU sooner than later.

South Grand Prairie (Texas) High cornerback Tony Nicholson made his first trip to Norman for Tuesday's practice. He said he loved it and said it was the best campus he has seen at this point. His offers are starting to trickle in and is currently ranked a three-star prospect.


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