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. 87 – DE D.J. Ward (6-foot-2, 250 pounds)
14 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery
What happened last year: Ward served as a depth defensive lineman behind Charles Tapper and Matt Dimon. He was good enough to keep his role, but the growth behind him began to put pressure on the veteran, who went to local Moore Southmoore (Okla.) High School.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 3. Because of that, Ward has likely fallen in the depth chart. Neville Gallimore, Austin Roberts, Du'Vonta Lampkin have all seemed to pass Ward, who has played in 19 games over the last two years but only has 19 career tackles. He’ll be nothing more than another depth defensive lineman this year.
Best-case scenario for this season: There’s a chance that Ward holds off Gallimore behind Dimon or Lampkin behind Walker. It’s not likely, but if Ward could serve as the top back-up and hold off the young group for another season, he would probably feel pretty good about that on an individual level.