Linebacker door open at OU

OU's 2016 linebacker class is supposed to be legit, and it will have a chance to contribute immediately.

It was clear in watching the Oklahoma spring game Saturday, the defense is going to have to answer a lot more questions than the offense right now.

When it comes to defensive line and linebacker, the spots are there to be won and for guys to make an impact.

Guys on campus already, but also for the guys expected to arrive in the summer. When you look at OU’s 2016 class, the strength is at linebacker.

When you watched the game, the lack of depth at outside linebacker was concerning. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knows help is on the way.

“Just looking at whether it’s Jon-Michael Terry, Mark Jackson or Caleb Kelly, they are all big, long guys,” Stoops said. “It was good to see them walk through the doors today. That’s an area that we need to improve, I don’t think there’s any question, at our outside linebacker position.”

That’s not a knock necessarily on players like Ogbonnia “Obo” Okoronkwo or redshirt freshman Ricky DeBerry. Truth of the matter is you need depth and experience. And OU entered this spring without much of either.

Eric Striker and Devante Bond had been so solid and consistent in those spots the last couple of years, but Saturday was another reminder about turning the page.

“It needs to improve as a group and whoever that is … that’s why we played the way we did a year ago because Striker was invaluable and Bond … just their ability and reliability to rush the quarterback,” Mike Stoops said. “That’s a pretty big priority.”

It also illustrates just how crucial that final week before signing day was for OU. The Sooners knew it was going to come down to a signing day decision for Kelly, a five-star prospect, between OU and Notre Dame.

If Kelly had picked the Irish, the tune might be a little different right now in Norman. Then you have Jackson, who was committed to Texas A&M for months and months before flipping to OU two days before signing day.

It’s not fair to put the burden on Jackson of being Striker, but truthfully, Jackson is three inches taller and will be about 20-30 pounds bigger. Expectations are going to be high.

And no guarantee it will be outside, but Jon-Michael Terry is one to watch as well. Head coach Bob Stoops couldn’t stop gushing about the potential of Terry on signing day.

“I would anticipate a lot of those linebackers playing, hopefully coming in and to contribute,” said Mike Stoops on Saturday. “To what extent? I don’t think we’ll really know until they come in and step on the field for the first time and see what they can do.”

Summer cannot get here soon enough for Stoops to get some depth at the position and for guys like Jackson and Kelly to try to make a strong initial impression.


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