During the next two months leading up to the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Sooners Illustrated will breakdown the Oklahoma Sooners roster, starting with Jarvis Baxter (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Marquise Overton (No. 98) and the incoming freshmen.
We’ll look at last year’s performance, the best-case scenario for this season – without projecting injuries – and what each player means to the short-term or long-term success of the Sooners.
No. 9 – LB Tay Evans (6-foot-2, 239 pounds)
What happened last year: As a depth linebacker behind one of the most consistent linebackers in the Big 12 over the last few years, Evans didn’t have to see much action. He played late in games and didn’t make any negative plays that had Sooners fans thinking, ‘Why is he in the two-deep?’
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 7. But now, Evans comes to the forefront after Dominique Alexander left early for the NFL Draft and relatively unexpectedly. Everything changes for Oklahoma because of it. The Sooners needs Evans to step up, maybe not be perfect, but he has to be serviceable. Oklahoma will learn almost all it needs to know about Evans (in big games) through the first two weeks of the season. Houston will put Evans in difficult position defending the pass, and Ohio State will challenge him more in the run game – although he’ll be tested all over the field against the Buckeyes. Evans can not be the weak link in the defense because the Sooners are replacing both outside linebackers too, and both of those spots will have less roster experience than Evans.
Best-case scenario for this season: Fans don’t even think about the loss of Alexander, who is likely a step down from Evans in terms of tackling. Evans will be tested much of the season in space, so he quickly learns how to cut down on angles and becomes a much better pass defender than most expect. Tackling is Evans’ biggest strength, and he presents a significant jump in run support to Alexander. He finishes the year with double-digit tackles for loss and 90-plus tackles – missing only a handful all year.