The personalities are strikingly different. Eric Striker, who is always up for a good laugh, is the boisterous, loud, willing-to-say-anything leader of the Oklahoma defense. Devante Bond is more of the quiet type but just as lethal on the pass rush.
On Tuesday as Striker spoke to a crowd of more than a dozen media members, Bond stood silently behind him – his helmet propped up on his head supported by his dreadlocks. He didn’t say a word, when some teammates might throw in a joke or a silly question.
Striker touched on topics from Muhammad Ali to West Virginia. Bond just watched, smiling occasionally.
The two could be more different but not by much. It’s their similarities that make them the perfect match, though.
“They are interchangeable parts,” said Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, who is roommates with Striker but sees Bond at the apartment every weekend. “They have to know what each other is doing on every play. The fact that they have the same job, just on different sides of the field, helps them out a lot.”
Striker first saw Bond on film, catching a glimpse of the incoming junior college player’s ability off the edge. He knew that Bond was near the top of his conference in sacks and tackles for loss. Bond came in just wanting to do the best he could, hopeful that he could reach Striker’s elite level at some point.
Striker was a Sports Illustrated first-team All-American, committing to Oklahoma in June of 2011 – almost eight months before National Signing Day. Bond nearly went from California to Miami before winding up at Sierra Community College and then Oklahoma.
On the field, those differences evaporate into an array of sacks and tackles for loss.
“We've both got the same attributes,” Striker said. “I don't think there's much different there. We bring speed off the edge. We can drop in coverage. That's a good deal right there.”
The pair has combined for four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 17 tackles through the first three games of the season. The numbers have been great, but it seems like the only thing that can slow them down is each other.
In a way, they are too good at what they do. Oklahoma can’t find a way to keep them on the field at the same time when it drops in to pass-oriented defenses. It tried against Tulsawith a one-down-lineman look.
“You want both of us on the field at the same time,” Striker said. “But sometimes you've gotta run a scheme that's best for the opponent. We've just got to alternate, do what we've got to do. . . . No doubt we would like both of us on the field at the same time.”
They can both be in the film room at the same time and have been together for much of the season. Bond’s emergence has taken an occasional chip or double team away from Striker on the pass rush, and Bond is in single coverage enough. In the film room, they work more closely in unison.
Striker gives a heads-up to Bond on the upcoming play. Bond shows Striker the nuances of an offensive lineman’s steps. The aid goes back and forth and makes the other better.
In turn, it makes the duo better at the same time.
“We're looking out for each other, anything that we missed or I missed, he'll tell me what he thought about it,” Striker said. “We'll kind of give each other that feedback. “
Having two elite pass rushers is always a bonus – for Oklahoma, for Striker and for Bond.
“He’s helped me a lot,” Bond said. “Competing every day, we help each other just preparing game film. It definitely helps. We just feed off each other.”