During the next two weeks, Sooners Illustrated will rank Oklahoma’s players.
While Sooners Illustrated publisher Bob Przybylo will breakdown the best Sooners, we are talking about the most important players here – based on the opinion of Sooners Illustrated writer Justin Hite.
There will definitely be some crossover between the two lists, but this list in particular is based on who Oklahoma needs to be at the top of their game this season.
Let’s get it rolling.
Tapper was asked to grade himself Saturday afternoon, and the results wouldn’t have pushed the sled up the hill. He gave himself a ‘C,’ and that might have been a bit of a stretch.
The loss of a productive Tapper was one of the biggest issues of the defense last season. There was no one opposite Eric Striker to put pressure on the quarterback, and Oklahoma needed it desperately.
They’ll need it again this season, especially with a departed Jordan Phillips and Chuka Ndulue – only Tapper returns as a starter on the defensive line. It’s finally time for him to live up to all of that athletic potential.
This year has to be different than last season, and everything that Tapper says seems to imply that it will be. He seems far more focused, and that is a good sign for Oklahoma.
The Sooners need a second pass rusher. The only other options are an unproven Charles Walker and Dwayne Orso. New starting defensive tackle Matt Romar won’t get nearly the same push as Phillips did. There won’t be a consistent threat from the defensive line unless it comes from Tapper.
“I look for Tap to break out and really re-emerge in this defense,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We need him to, and he will.”
Tapper had a drop off in every major statistic outside of pass deflected from his sophomore year to his junior season. Another three-sack season won’t cut it for Oklahoma. He has a combined 8.5 career sacks in his two full seasons as a starter.
Oklahoma will need at least a half dozen sacks and maybe double digit tackles for loss. That’s probably Tapper’s goal as well.