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OU mid-season report: Defense

Questions still swirl around OU's defense at the halfway point of season.

Oklahoma is halfway through the regular season. The 4-2 record is not what fans were hoping at this point of the season, but the Sooners appear to be getting back on track as winners of their last three games.

It’s the midway point, which means it’s time to evaluate how OU has fared in the first half of the season. Sooners Illustrated will examine the offense, defense and special teams all this week.

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Defense

MVP: LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

Welcome to the big time, Mr. Obo. Okoronkwo overcame a bit of a shaky start to now becoming the most consistent and best performer for the Sooners. He has 37 tackles, 7.5 for loss and is by far the team leader with six sacks. What we’ve seen in the last three weeks has been a progression from being on the cusp to starting to reach that potential. He’s not Eric Striker. No, he’s bigger and seems to have more variety to his game right now. He has registered at least one sack in each of OU’s three Big 12 games and is someone the opposing offense needs to account for on every play, especially passing situations. The redshirt junior was hoping for a bang this year. He’s done it so far.

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Breakout performer: DT Jordan Wade

Ol’ Mr. Reliable. Players and coaches call him “Bear” and might not be a more appropriate nickname for someone like Wade. His numbers are never going to pop out at you, but his production and disruption in the middle should. Somehow he kept the position afloat with Que Overton out for the season and Matt Romar dealing with lingering concussion issues. Somehow Wade keeps pulling himself up off the turf no matter how tired and banged up he is. He’s someone who became out of sight and out of mind in 2014, 2015, but has delivered in spades as a senior. Defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux seems to be the one coach who truly appreciates what Wade brings to the table.

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Biggest surprise: Concussions

Not a good one, either. From Romar to Charles Walker to Will Johnson to the career-ending ones for Tay Evans, concussions have been a huge part of the OU defensive outings in 2016. It has been a factor on offense, too, but it’s more prevalent on defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops doesn’t really have an answer for it right now. With defenses taking around 80-100 snaps per game, the likelihood of concussions happening are higher than ever. Then you get someone like Ahmad Thomas, who had never had one before in his life, get one in the first quarter vs. Texas. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. OU has been able to make it work, but it has been one heck of a grind in this department.

Bob Przybylo/Scout

What to watch: Consistency in the secondary

OK. Is Jordan Parker the answer at the other cornerback? Going to find out a lot this weekend against Patrick Mahomes and Texas Tech. You know what you have in Steven Parker and Ahmad Thomas at safety. Cornerback Jordan Thomas has started to become that playmaker again for the Sooners on his own little island on the other side of the field. It’s all about that other corner spot. It wasn’t Dakota Austin. It wasn’t Parrish Cobb. It started to be Michiah Quick until a sprained MCL took him out. Now the call goes to Jordan Parker. He fared well in his first start but KSU didn’t have the firepower to do anything else. Find out a lot more about Parker and Kerry Cooks’ group this week and going forward.


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