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. 97 – DE Charles Walker (6-foot-2, 299 pounds)
36 tackles, 10 TFLs, 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble
What happened last year: In two years since his redshirt year, Walker has missed six games due to injury but played in every other game. Last year was the big breakout season for Walker, who is on the top of the Sooners’ list of players definitely leaving for the NFL Draft after this season. He climbed so quickly, despite not being a starter, that him missing the Orange Bowl was considered a big reason for the Oklahoma loss. He quickly became indispensable, even as a backup. His combination of size and quickness is unmatched on the Sooners’ defensive line, and he was a first team preseason All-Big 12 defensive lineman.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 9. Because of that, and a gigantic hole at pass rusher, Walker might be the most important player on the Sooners defense. Steven Parker and Jordan Thomas have each other to rely on, and linebacker Jordan Evans won’t have to completely dominate any one facet of defense. But for now, Walker is the Sooners’ only proven pass rusher. Walker’s six sacks last season are one-third of the Sooners’ returning total numbers. Oklahoma needs Walker to be dominant and finish as an All-Big 12 first-teamer at the end of the season. Eric Striker, Charles Tapper and Devante Bond combined for 34 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. Walker must fill up some of that stat sheet replacing the Sooners’ top pass-rushing trio.
Best-case scenario for this season: The best-case scenario is clear, and it ends with Walker traveling to New York City for the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. He has the skills to go to the league, and he just might have left this year if not for an injury before the Orange Bowl. Matthew Romar will take on a lot of manpower, and it’s likely that Walker will demand a double team on every occasion as well. He needs to beat double teams, and he needs to finish with a bump in sacks. Depending on the rest of the team’s contribution, Walker will need to finish with between seven and 12 sacks. He has to make plays. Walker has to be a game-changer – not just a consistent force.