Oklahoma spring football is just around the corner. Coming off a disappointing 2014 season, all Sooner fans are looking forward to turning the page to 2015.
Every edition of spring practices bring along questions, but there has arguably never been a more fascinating and uncertain spring than the one OU is about to begin.
Sooners Illustrated is here to help. During these next 15 days, we are going to pose one major question each day regarding OU’s 2015 spring football issues.
The countdown will end March 6, the final day before OU’s first day of practice and coincidentally, OU’s second junior day event and OU basketball’s showdown vs. Kansas in a huge day in OU sports. After spring practice, we will revisit these same 15 questions and see what has been answered and what remains left to be figured out.
Question No. 2: Who is going to make the biggest defensive leap?There are plenty of candidates here.
Jordan Thomas should make a huge jump as a sophomore at cornerback opposite Zack Sanchez. The same can be said about Steven Parker or even Will Sunderland, who has a chance to start early in his career.
Defensive end Charles Tapper has to be better, but that’s not really making a leap. It’s more just becoming what he needs to be.
Oklahoma needs big improvements from everybody on a defense that was one of the worst in the Big 12 at defending the pass and finished 117th in the nation in passing yards allowed.
The player most likely to make the biggest defensive leap though is defensive end Charles Walker. A freak athlete who will find a spot at one of two vacancies on the line could be a game-changer for Oklahoma. He’s a better pass rusher on the edge than the departing Chuka Ndulue or even Tapper, who struggled through the first half of the season last year.
At defensive tackle, Walker could be even more disruptive that Jordan Phillips, who is likely a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Walker has just been waiting for a chance, and it’s been hard to keep him off the field – especially last year when he was all the rave during summer camp.
This year, Oklahoma can’t afford to keep Walker off the field. He could immediately become one of the Sooners’ most important players, providing a pass rush opposite Eric Striker and helping a still young secondary continue to grow.
Walker just seems poised for a big year.
There will be a lot of pressure on him and a ton of hype surrounding his first season as a full-time player. He’ll be counted on to almost produce as much as Ndulue and Phillips combined because of other question marks on the defensive line.
He’ll need to make a big leap. He appears to just need snaps.
Here’s the other top candidates:
Jordan Thomas, CB – He was better at the end of the season, as long as the Russell Athletic Bowl isn’t ingrained in your memory. He should hit the upward curve very quickly as a sophomore.
Steven Parker, S – Starting from Day 1 should help Parker, who will likely play closer to the line of scrimmage this season. Parker is a better in-the-box safety than a center fielder and could be one of Oklahoma’s leading tacklers next season.
Jordan Evans, MLB – Now, there’s a chance Evans isn’t even a starter – and an even smaller chance that he starts at outside linebacker. Evans has all the athletic tools to be a playmaker but with a year of starts under his belt, he’ll be more reactionary as a junior.
Will Sunderland, S – There wasn’t much that was impressive about the Sooners’ secondary last year, so there’s no reason to think that Sunderland, who played a very similar defensive scheme in high school, won’t be able to come in a play immediately. There’s really not much standing in his way as the deep safety.