It’s still a learning process for everybody to realize Eric Striker is not at Oklahoma anymore. The former Sooners linebacker was a terror on the field and one of the most interesting characters off of it.
Replacing Striker is not easy. Trying to be Striker is not easy. So that’s not the goal for Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, known also as Obo. The goal is not to be Striker but to start to blaze his own path in Norman.
“I’m not Striker,” Okoronkwo said. “Striker was a really special player, but I’m not him at all. I know I’m a great pass rusher, and I can be just as productive in my own way.”
His way includes being naturally bigger and stronger than his predecessor. Each year it feels like Okoronkwo has been a guy people have looked for to make big things happen because of how he has physically developed.
To make that next step, though, it wasn’t about physical. Okoronkwo had to mentally become the guy, and he knew it.
“I’m making being here (OU) as my No. 1 priority,” Okoronkwo said. “I’m in my playbook, watching film. I’m in bed, on my iPad and just watching film. I want this to become second nature.”
It needs to, not just for Okoronkwo but for the Sooners to continue their success from 2015 into this upcoming season.
Okoronkwo has always been labeled as an athletic freak ever since coming out of Houston Alief Taylor for the 2013 class. But it takes a while. Okoronkwo said it wasn’t a smooth transition for him initially in Norman.
He was thinking too much. He was trying to understand terminology he had never heard before. He was a clear step behind.
“I don’t have to think now. I can just play,” Okoronkwo said.
Linebacker has been circled by all fans as the No. 1 question mark for the Sooners on defense this season. Replacing three starters and looking at a dearth of experience for a pivotal spot on the field.
They’ve heard it. They know it. They relish it.
“We do take it personally,” Okoronkwo said. “We know what type of players we are. Jordan (Evans) is really leading the group. We don’t think there will be a dropoff at all with us.”