Spring is finally over for the Oklahoma Sooners. It’s time to look toward preseason camp and the 2016 season. But first, we’ve got to look back in order to look forward.
Oklahoma capped its spring practice season with the Red-White game, showcasing a handful of good and a handful of bad as well.
Over the next week, Sooners Illustrated will break down each position. We’ll see what we’ve learned and what we still need to find out. We’ll cap it with a post-spring depth chart prediction.
Here it goes.
What we know?
There are some changes on the edge for the Sooners, through personnel and scheme. It has become apparent that Will Johnson will take Eric Striker’s place. Obo Okoronkwo will step in at “Jack” in what will likely be the primary and only consistent true outside linebacker spot.
Johnson gives Oklahoma more coverage options but is clearly a far inferior pass rusher than Striker. Okoronkwo will be undersized compared to Devante Bond and Geneo Grissom – the two outside linebackers that preceded him.
Chanse Sylvie was will serve as Johnson’s back-up at the nickel/’Sam’ linebacker. In the Red-White game, Sylvie – an early enrollee – showed that he can be as good of an early player as he was a recruiting leader.
Walk-on Dalton Rodriguez, who is playing linebacker for the first time in his career, also looked pretty good in the Red-White game. He’s probably too far down the depth chart to turn into a fan-favorite on defense.
Beyond that, there are major questions for what has arguably been Oklahoma best position over the last two years.
What we need to know?
For the first time in recent years, there are more questions than constants at outside linebacker for Oklahoma. That’s because of a linebacker recruiting class that has been called the “strongest” group that has ever come to Oklahoma, according to head coach Bob Stoops. Incoming freshmen Caleb Kelly and Mark Jackson give Oklahoma prototypical size on the edge, and Stoops that that both will “have an impact” in their first seasons on campus.
The big question? How badly does Oklahoma need Kelly and Jackson to be ready to play as freshmen? The hope for the Sooners is that there isn’t much of a need. If Kelly starts over Johnson and Jackson starts over Okoronkwo, then the Sooners are in pretty big trouble. Now, if just one has to start – or Kelly moves over to ‘Jack’ – then that’s not much of a problem.
The scheme change is certainly designed to slow down the Big 12 Conference passing offenses and even the Houston Cougars in the non-conference season. Playing Ohio State will show a lot about how balanced the Sooners’ scheme will be.
What the coaches are saying?
“I believe it’s the strongest linebacker group we’ve ever had come in. We have to get those guys ready to play. They were all in today. I saw three of them walk in together — Caleb Kelly, Jon-Michael Terry and Mark Jackson — every one of them was 6-3, 6-4, 235, 240. They’re big, strong and a good looking group, physically. I believe every one of them will have an impact next year.” – Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops