OU 11 - Defense: No. 8

Is it an improving safety in this spot or a linebacker on the rise?

Football season is almost here for Oklahoma. And SoonersIllustrated.com is eager to get you ready for what could be a memorable 2014 season.

During the next two weeks, Bob Przybylo and Justin Hite are going to reveal their top 11 players on offense and defense and how those players will impact what happens on the field this fall. Let the countdown and debates begin.

Defense

No. 8

Bob Przybylo: Linebacker Jordan Evans. Admit it, you didn’t think he was going to make this list? Based off what has happened since the end of last season, tough to imagine a 2014 season where Evans isn’t a big-time contributor.

Evans had one game to make an impact last season and all he did in that was lead the team in tackles against Texas Tech. An injury slowed him down, but it was clear this spring that was a thing of the past.

Not only has Evans seemed more confident, he is a heck of a lot bigger now. He returned kicks in high school, it’s safe to say he’s not a kick returner anymore.

Regardless of what happens with Frank Shannon, this should be a big sophomore season for Evans. And if Shannon doesn’t play another down with the Sooners, then it’s going to need to be a huge sophomore campaign.

The Class of 2013 at linebacker didn’t look all that hot, but OU looks like it has found a couple of quality in-state guys in Evans and Dominique Alexander.

Justin Hite: Safety Quentin Hayes. If there is a chance for a breakout on the defense this season, Hayes is your man. He could be even better than his 75 tackles and two interceptions last year.

Along with any scheme transition come new roles for players. You could see Hayes or fellow experienced defensive back Julian Wilson stepping into the box more. Simple math adds up to more chances for Hayes, who is an improving in coverage and in run assistance. Although his running buddy Hatari Byrd could see just as much action, Hayes versatility is what sets him apart the most.

He’s high on this list because there’s no guarantee he’ll be on the field the whole season. Hayes has spent three of his four years as an unproductive roster spot.


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