Eric Striker hasn’t lost his smile and never will. He spends his Tuesday nights talking about former presidents, Adele’s newest song and a mid-term grade that’s he’s waiting to get back.
He’s on pace for his best statistical season in terms of sacks, tackles for loss and even had the first interception of his career this season – which he almost took back for a touchdown against Texas Tech.
Striker has always been a catalyst. He ignites the Oklahoma pass rush, consistently hauling down opposing quarterbacks or giving his teammates free shots by flushing the pocket. He’s getting more sacks this season, but Oklahoma’s pass rush as a unit has flourished. The Sooners are just two sacks short of its total from last season.
The Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12 Conference) are on pace to best last year’s tackle for loss total as well.
“We all take pride in helping each other out,” Striker said. “Whoever gets it, gets it. It doesn’t matter. It’s a win for everybody. Whether it’s me or Tapper or Matt or Matt or Charles to Devante, we all win at the end of the day.
“At the end of the day, it’s helping your team out.”
But it’s Striker that Oklahoma has altered its schemes for on occasion. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops adjusted the Sooners’ four-man defensive front in order to keep Striker on the field.
He’s dropping into coverage more and supporting the run as well, partially trying to show he can be more than just an elite collegiate linebacker.
“He uses the tools that he has,” Stoops said. “He’s a unique player. He’s a specialty player. When he continues his career hopefully, that’s just what he is. He’s a football player. He does everything well. He has great change of direction, get velocity.
“When he plays, he plays hard all the time. He always seems to find the football. He just does so many good things right now.”
Oklahoma had two sacks in each game last year against its final four opponents. Striker was a big part of that. He had a least half a sack in all but the loss to Baylor.
Striker actually had both of Oklahoma’s sacks against TCU.
This week, the pass rush has a chance to feast. It is averaging nearly four sacks per game on the season and has 15 in its past three games. Iowa State is last in the conference with 26 sacks allowed and has allowed more sacks than all but six teams across the country.
Striker no doubt has a pretty big smile for this weekend.
“Eric Striker gives this defense some juice, I guess you could say,” Oklahoma middle linebacker Jordan Evans said. “He’s very energetic. He makes big plays when the big plays are needed. He gives us an extra edge. When Striker’s on your side you always feel good about yourself.”