OU 11 - Defense: No. 4

An elite middle linebacker is the Sooners fourth-best player, or is it a returning defensive lineman?

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.


No. 4

Bob Przybylo: Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. All reports say he’s 100 percent recovered from his back surgery so No. 4 might actually be too low when it’s all said and done.

It’s tough to quantify what Phillips’ return to the team is going to mean. He only had seven tackles in four games. But if you watched any part of those four games, then you know full well what a force Phillips was.

If Phillips was that effective with a lingering back issue, no doubt OU fans are salivating at what a fully healthy Phillips can after also being given a medical hardship redshirt season.

Jordan Wade did a great job of filling in for Phillips last season, but there’s no doubt how giddy the OU faithful are going to be if Phillips and Wade are OU’s one-two punch at tackle.

Still wouldn’t look for Phillips to pile up big numbers. But if he does his job like he did last year, no doubt his presence is going to be felt.

Justin Hite: Middle linebacker Dominique Alexander. Starting last year was an accident – something Oklahoma never planned or intended. But Alexander did it anyways and was the defensive newcomer of the year in the conference.

Imagine what he could do when starting is on purpose.

There’s no doubt that Alexander could be one of the more productive linebackers in Oklahoma history once his career is finished. While it’s tough to see him with more than 530 career tackles (all-time lead Daryl Hunt finished with that total), it’s not out of the likelihood for him to eclipse 400 and even close in on Brian Bosworth’s 413 total – knock on wood for injuries and the like.

Alexander is a special talent. Still a little undersized but he is a player that show remarkable ability as a true freshman to come into a starting role and record four games with double-digit tackles. He had 19 against Texas alone.

There’s an intuition to his play that isn’t seen in most freshmen middle linebackers.

If fellow linebacker Frank Shannon misses extensive time for any reason, Alexander will be counted on to play an even bigger role. He’ll likely be up for it.

But poor play from Alexander this year will hurt the Sooners. There’s decent depth at the middle linebacker position, but Alexander is special.

Sooners’ fans definitely know his name, but if there’s a player on the defense who could surprisingly jump off the page on a nationwide scale, it’s Alexander.

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