Przybylo: Revisiting OU 11 defense

Some were right. Some were wrong. Revisiting OU 11 on defense.

Back before the season, made a list of who would be the top 11 OU performers on defense. Now that regular season is in the books, time to look back and see how it all shook out.

No. 11 S Ahmad Thomas

Why he was No. 11: The feeling was Thomas was going to emerge as the second safety to start with Quentin Hayes. A great tackler, he would fit right in with the defense.

What he did in 2014: Finished third in tackles with 65 and recorded his first career interception but something was lacking this season. Will have to make a leap in the offseason to stick around in this spot next season.

Verdict: Too high. Thomas, for the most part, was able to show his tackling skills, but he was completely lost in coverage throughout the season.

No. 10 DL Chuka Ndulue

Why he was No. 10: Didn’t figure the senior to play too big of a role. Instead felt he would plug holes to lead to linebackers making majority of the stops.

What he did in 2014: Quality senior campaign for Ndulue with 45 tackles, five for loss and 3.5 sacks. Ndule made some big plays and effort was absolutely never a question with the senior.

Verdict: Maybe a little too low. Ndulue certainly had some great moments this season and was definitely one of the senior leaders for this team.

No. 9 S Hatari Byrd

Why he was No. 9: Even though Thomas was going to be the starter, Byrd was going to be the guy that makes the big plays. He was going to be a turnover waiting to happen.

What he did in 2014: Seemed like he would play a big role but only finished with 17 tackles. Had three golden chances for interceptions but didn’t get any and also forced a fumble.

Verdict: Way too high. Byrd had chances for several interceptions but never brought any of them in. He did lower the boom several times, but it’s tough to see where his future is going.

No. 8 LB Jordan Evans

Why he was No. 8: Thought Frank Shannon wouldn’t play for OU this season so it would be a chance for the sophomore to make his imprint with the program.

What he did in 2014: Second on the team in tackles with 87, including six for loss. Also forced two fumbles, recovered one and had an interception. Future looks bright.

Verdict: Just right. Evans had some great moments but most of them came toward the middle of the season. He wasn’t the impact player OU needed down the stretch.

No. 7 CB Julian Wilson

Why he was No. 7: Belief was he was going to turn that corner, pun intended, at cornerback. There was a reason he wanted to be a cornerback, and he was going to show why.

What he did in 2014: First few games looked pretty good, including a 100-yard interception return for touchdown. But second half of the season dropped off dramatically, closed with 39 tackles.

Verdict: Too high. You could argue Wilson was the biggest disappointment for the Sooners because the secondary, namely Wilson’s side, got picked on. No idea how much injuries played a role in things, but it was not the senior season he hoped for.

No. 6 LB Dominique Alexander

Why he was No. 6: Coming off a solid freshman season, things were just going to keep rolling in the right direction for Alexander, who put on a lot of weight to not get manhandled.

What he did in 2014: No. 1 tackler with 98 stops with six for loss and 1.5 sacks. Also forced a fumble. Very consistent but didn’t dazzle this season. Still fine tuning his linebacker game.

Verdict: Just right. Some people still don’t like that Alexander isn’t a hard hitter, but he has shown good speed, lateral movement and makes the majority of his tackles. It just doesn’t look very impressive.

No. 5 LB Geneo Grissom

Why he was No. 5: The position change was going to bring out the best in him. No longer dealing with offensive linemen, Grissom was going to be able to show his freakish athleticism.

What he did in 2014: Plenty of glimpses of what should have been a breakout season but never really materialized. He had 39 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks and an INT return for touchdown.

Verdict: Just right or a little too high. The injury sort of nullified where Grissom should be here in the final standings. He was a beast during the first part of the season, but then it seemed like OU forgot how to use him.

No. 4 DT Jordan Phillips

Why he was No. 4: With his back injuries a thing of the past, Phillips was going to emerge as that dominant presence in the middle.

What he did in 2014: When he was on, there aren’t many better than Phillips. He had 32 tackles, including seven for loss with two sacks. His problem is conditioning as he can’t always give 100 percent.

Verdict: Torn on this but going to say a little too high. Phillips made some huge plays, but he usually couldn’t bring it for an entire game. He seemed to tire in the second half of games when the defense really needed a lift.

No. 3 CB Zack Sanchez

Why he was No. 3: Best defensive back on the team, Sanchez was going to have a huge season in terms of creating turnovers and was also going to be a better tackler.

What he did in 2014: Sanchez was pretty solid this season with a team-high six interceptions and 13 passes defensed. His tackling improve in second half of season, and he should only improve.

Verdict: Perfect. Sanchez, after that shoulder injury healed, did everything you would expect from an All-Big 12 cornerback. He might be a little too vocal for the OU coaches, but he delivered on the field.

No. 2 LB Eric Striker

Why he was No. 2: Building off that legendary Sugar Bowl performance, Striker was going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing offenses.

What he did in 2014: Don’t keep track of “disruptions,” but Striker was a menace this season. Easily led team with 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Also recovered two fumbles and 56 tackles.

Verdict: Too low. Striker was the best player on OU’s defense, but even he didn’t quite make the impact everybody had hoped for. It seemed like he should been used more in the pass rush game, but he did what he could.

No. 1 DE Charles Tapper

Why he was No. 1: Untapped potential was going to be unleashed. He was going to make his claim as the best defensive end in the conference.

What he did in 2014: Fell off a bit from a solid sophomore season. Only three sacks when his goal was at least 10 but did have 7.5 tackles for loss. Finished with 36 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Verdict: Too high. For whatever reason, things didn’t click for Tapper during the season. He never had that game where it felt like he was dominating the way a lot of people thought he would in 2014.

Best pick: Sanchez feels like the winner here.

Worst pick: Byrd, Wilson, Tapper – heck, you decide.

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