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. 31 – LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (6-foot-2, 238 pounds)
9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 sacks
What happened last year: After redshirting three years ago, Okoronkwo has played in 22 of 26 total games over the last two seasons. He didn’t see as much action last year as he did as a redshirt freshman, but he looked like a better and more well-rounded player last year. In his career, Okoronkwo has four sacks and five tackles for loss compared to just 17 tackles. He showed last year, he’s capable of being the Sooners’ next pass rusher. Next, he’ll have to live up to that belief.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 6. As the probable starter to replace Oklahoma’s departed pass rush, Okoronkwo has a fair amount of importance to the Sooners. The fact that there is a trio of young outside linebacker directly behind him means that if Okoronkwo fails, it won’t necessarily hurt Oklahoma that much – only him. Ricky DeBerry, Caleb Kelly and Mark Jackson will all be antsy to get playing time, even though they have a combined single year of experience on a collegiate roster. Okoronkwo has to fight them off for his sake, not Oklahoma’s.
Best-case scenario for this season: Okoronkwo has the experience – if not the pedigree or hype – to stave off the talented young trio behind him for at least a season. If he finishes with double-digit sacks and/or tackles for loss, there’s a chance he holds them off all year. If they don’t pass Okoronkwo this year, he’ll probably remain the starter as a senior. It’ll be a pretty heavy rotation, either way. Okoronkwo has to play well because he could get passed on the depth chart very easily.