Season OU 11: 1/3

Two defensive players top the list one third of the way through the year

Here’s a little something special. Each week Sooners Illustrated will rank the top 11 players from Oklahoma’s past week’s performance, but this week, we’ll give you the OU 11 for the first third of the season.

Players are assigned a point value equal to the rating given by Bob and Justin during the first four games. (Top player on either list gets 11 points, 11th player gets 1). That makes for a maximum of 22 points.

Here’s the OU 11 for the first section of the season:

1. Eric Striker: Without question, Striker is atop this list. He’s probably the most disruptive player in the Big 12 Conference. He leads the team in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. He’s third in sacks, but he is directly responsible for another half a dozen sacks by his teammates.

2. Geneo Grissom: Grissom has been ultra-diverse and is one of only two players on the team with a forced fumble, an interception and a sack. He’s also fourth on the team in tackles. Grissom has really been a special addition to the defense – moving to outside linebacker. He has freed up Striker to make even more plays.

3. Sterling Shepard: Shepard was the Sooners’ best offensive skill player before the season started, and he has done absolutely nothing to disprove that belief. He has a team-high 436 yards, and it’s not even close. His two touchdowns are just one fewer than the rest of the team’s receiving touchdowns combined.

4. Daryl Williams: The offensive line has to get some credit for Oklahoma’s early-season success on this list, so it only seems right that the best offensive lineman on the team receives some kudos – no pouting, everyone else is really good, too. Oklahoma is averaging 5.9 yards per carry. That deserves a tip of the hat.

5. Jordan Phillips: Phillips’ biggest contribution to the Sooners’ defense can’t be found on the stat sheet. No knock on ‘Big J’ for his size, but he is like a planetary mass. Everything gets pulled toward him on defense. Everyone has to focus on him. Everyone on the offense has to know where he is. That leaves everybody else to make plays.

6. Quentin Hayes: Hayes has been an incredible surprise for the Sooners’ secondary this season. The unit had some inexperience, especially at safety, but Hayes has stepped in like a three-year starter. He is the other Oklahoma player with a forced fumble, an interception and a sack – along with Grissom. He leads the team with three sacks.

7. Samaje Perine: Perine erased any worry anyone might have had about Oklahoma playing without top running back Keith Ford, didn’t he. From his first game, Perine has played the part of the bull in the Sooners’ backfield, and he’s never stopped. He leads the Big 12 in rushing yards and is the only player in the conference averaging more than 100 yards per game.

8. Dominique Alexander: Like Phillips, Alexander is best unheard and unseen. He leads Oklahoma in tackles with 30 and has two behind the line of scrimmage. He is a stabilizing force in the middle of the defense.

9. Trevor Knight: Knight said all offseason that he was to be a distributor. So far this season, he has been just that. Although being a distributor keeps you from being high on this list. Most would like to see him run a little more, but it’s hard to be upset with a 58.5 completion percentage and more than 1,000 yards in the first four games. It has led to four victories.

10. Chuka Ndulue: Ndulue leads all defensive linemen in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and quarterback hurries. That’s saying a lot for a unit that probably has two future NFL players on it, and Ndulue isn’t one of those two. He has benefitted the most from all the talent around him, but it takes skill to pull that off.

11. Keith Ford: He’s played in fewer than three games and still is third in the conference in rushing touchdowns. He has a receiving grab, which totals a team-high six scores. Remember, he has missed almost a game-and-a-half.

Honorable mention: Julian Wilson, Alex Ross, Jordan Evans

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