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.
Bob Przybylo: Outside linebacker Eric Striker. When talking about Striker, last season all the talk was basically how he had the coolest last name for a linebacker.
There’s a lot more to talk about with Striker now, following his incredible outing he had against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Nobody improved his profile more than what Striker did that night in New Orleans.
Now the question is what will he do for an encore? And does he almost have too many expectations because of what he did? He’s still an undersized linebacker so the intriguing thing to see is if any of the other conference schools have made an adjustment to how to block him.
The one thing Striker does better than almost any other OU player on defense is having that innate knack for making things happen. His football instincts are so good that it’s tough to question his ability.
Striker isn’t about to have 14 more games like he did against the Crimson Tide, but he’s going to make more than enough plays to still remains one of the fans’ favorites this season.
Justin Hite: Cornerback Zack Sanchez. This pick isn’t about talent or expectation. It’s all about necessity.
Barring injury, the Sooners’ front seven might be the best in the country. But the secondary is lagging slightly behind.
As a freshman, Sanchez was named an All-American, but Oklahoma will need more from him this year. He’s no longer a first-year player, and the Sooners need a dominant cover corner. If the intense pass rush is going to work, Sanchez will need to be able to shut down one side of the field.
A national championship relies on Sanchez being even better than last season.
He’s up for the task after having improved dramatically in man coverage during the spring. His 5-foot-11 frame isn’t perfect as a corner, but he’s big enough to match up with most wide receiver in the country – outside of 6-foot-4 or taller giants. He’ll need to become a defender other quarterbacks are afraid to test, instead looking elsewhere or pausing just long enough for the pass rush to reach them.