OU Countdown: D.J. Ward

Defensive end returns after surgery slowed him last season

During the next two months leading up to the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Sooners Illustrated will breakdown the Oklahoma Sooners’ roster, starting with Dominique Alexander (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Dwayne Orso (No. 99) and the incoming freshmen.

We’ll look at last year’s performance, the best-case scenario for this season – without projecting injuries – and what each player means to the short-term or long-term success of the Sooners.

No. 87 – DE D.J. Ward (6-foot-2, 251 pounds)

5 tackles, 1 PBU

What happened last year: Ward played in six games last season, mostly in mop-up during Big 12 Conference play and slightly more significantly in non-conference action. He also spent last year recovering from a splenectomy, a surgery to remove an inflamed or ruptured spleen.

Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 4. Ward spent most of last year adding weight after his illness took part of it. He added 20 pounds and has been getting rave reviews from the coaching staff since the spring. Oklahoma will need those to be true because Ward seems like the No. 2 option at defensive end behind Charles Tapper, who had his fair share of struggles last season. He’ll be competing with Matt Dimon for that spot though. It’ll be a pretty wide open battle and might even be a rotation – again, behind Tapper.

Best-case scenario for this season: With the talent-laden freshmen class on the defensive line, Ward could really benefit from a strong season in order to put himself in position to stay in the rotation or even start next year after Tapper graduates. That jump would require him to win the back-up job outright. For Ward, it’s best for him to be the sole back-up. Oklahoma might prefer that Ward and Dimon split time.

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