Striker was a uniquely vocal leader, one that can’t be directly replicated. As one of the players stepping into Striker’s leadership void, senior safety Ahmad Thomas knows this better than most.
Replacing an outgoing group of experienced leaders like Striker, Charles Tapper and Zack Sanchez will be a difficult task, but Thomas and a small collection of defensive players are getting a jump on it even just three days into preseason camp.
“It’s a different type of leadership,” Thomas said. “. . . The difference is there’s nobody just yelling. Strike’s character was one-in-a-million. You can’t top that of you’re not really that person.
“I think the leadership is still the same. Everybody is trying to teach everybody, like the new guys, and trying to teach them what is right or wrong on and off the field. That’s what I got on and off the field.”
It’s not exactly quiet on the practice field, though. Don’t be fooled.
Striker is no longer bombarding his way into the locker room, blasting music through his head phones and waking everyone up at 5:30 in the morning with whatever random song he chooses to play – for a time it was “Hello” by Adele.
Tapper and Sanchez tended to lead on the louder side as well.
“When you go through a season with people like that, you learn from that,” Thomas said. “You start to step in when you don’t even know you’re about to step in. It’s just an emotion you feel from those type of people.”
Now, it’s senior defensive end Matt Dimon giving subtle pointers to redshirt freshmen Neville Gallimore and Kenneth Mann. It’s Romar leading by example with a respect that Charles Walker, a leader himself, said Romar has earned from everyone on the team because of “the little things he does.”
The principle of leadership hasn’t changed for Oklahoma heading in the 2016 season, it just sounds a little bit different – and looks a little different.
“Me and Charles (Walker) and Jordan (Evans), we all came in the same class. We keep our groups together, so when we lead our group, we lead by our example for the whole defense,” Thomas said. “It’s pretty cool to watch how everybody gels together. We have a new group of guys that came in, and they came together so fast.”