OU spring game notes: Defense

Defensive news and nuggets from OU's performance in Saturday's spring game.

Spring practice has wrapped up for Oklahoma and here are some news and notes from the Sooners defense from Saturday's spring game.

Evans emerging

The days of being a kick returner are over for sophomore linebacker Jordan Evans. He talked about how much he loved being a returner, but if he's going to be effective for OU, it's not returning kicks.

It will be in delivering big hits, and that's exactly what Evans did throughout the spring game. With the future status of Frank Shannon uncertain right now, Evans took advantage of his opportunity and left a big mark heading into summer.

"He knows what he has to do, and he's really hard on himself," linebacker Eric Striker said. "But I thought he played pretty well today. I have confidence in Jordan. When he came in for Texas Tech, he had a lot of pop to him."

Add about 15 more pounds of pop to Evans now as well. He finished with three tackles, including one for loss and also deflected a pass.

Three-man safety group

One of the questions entering the spring was about the other safety position. Quentin Hayes has the strong safety spot locked up, but who would join him?

Remains to be seen as both Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd showed signs throughout spring. Thomas is about as sure a tackler right now for OU, while Byrd certainly knows how to deliver the big hit.

"The free safety position – we have to continue to develop the playmaking abilities of Hatari or Ahmad, whoever that is," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "We rotated Ahmad between strong and free and have a three-way rotation with the ones. Q has solidified himself as our strong safety."

Hayes had two pass deflections, while Thomas had four tackles and Byrd had three stops. Neither Byrd nor Thomas are a weakness, but they're not consistent enough right now to be given the nod.

Add in Steven Parker into the mix in the summer, and the free safety spot is there on the table for whoever wants it.

Striker still a beast

Really no other word to describe Eric Striker, who once again made his presence known with back-to-back sacks in the second half of the spring game.

Whether it's at linebacker rushing the quarterback or nickelback dropping in coverage, OU has a real star on its hands with Striker despite being undersized.

"You don't want to over-coach him," Stoops said. "He has a scheme that he's trying to execute, but there's stuff that you can't coach. Great football players you shouldn't have to coach every inch on the football field. Eric has great instincts. He's not only a great player, he has a great feel for the game."

And knew when to let up. On both of those sacks, Striker could have leveled Trevor Knight into the middle of next week but was able to restrain himself to just touch Knight and end the play.

OU gets lucky break with Grissom

Watching it live, it didn't look good for Geneo Grissom. Running back Keith Ford cut block Grissom in the first half of the game, and Grissom didn't return.

The way he limped off the field and the look on his face indicated things weren't well. Turns out it was just a major scare as Bob Stoops announced after the game it's a sprained MCL for Grissom that won't require surgery.

Grissom has been lauded by coaches and teammates alike as having one of the best spring practices' of anybody and somebody who has made huge improvements since last season.

Depth a concern

No question the No. 1 defense looked like it handled its business throughout the spring game, but there are issues with the defense going forward.

Most notably with the depth of the defense, especially in the secondary. With Gary Simon and L.J. Moore both no longer with the team, things get thin in a hurry.

"Depth is always an issue," Bob Stoops said. "We are really think in the secondary. These players coming in next year, we are going to have them ready to play just like we did this year. And just like these young safeties played some last year, these guys coming in will have to help us this year."

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