Post-Spring Breakdown: Part V

This is the fifth part of the post-spring practice breakdown. The previous four featured the spring offensive updates, including breakdowns of the quarterbacks, offensive line, backfield and receiving group. In this one, Sooners Illustrated will provide the first defensive breakdown, the defensive line. The linebackers and defensive backs are still to come.

1. Rush threat is solid: OU has always been known to have a great defense, and in 2009, it looks like the Sooners will return to having that powerful defense. It starts up front with the big bruisers. OU returns all four starters from the end of the season last year, including Frank Alexander and Jeremy Beal at defensive end, and Adrian Taylor and Gerald McCoy in the heart of the defensive line. All four are agile and have the ability to get into the backfield and disrupt plays. Last year, the four combined for 23 sacks. Throw in a healthy Auston English, who had 4.5 sacks before his injury, and the front four is deadly.

2. McCoy continues to be the leader: McCoy's importance to the team is more than his ability to wrap up a quarterback and throw him down or get into the backfield and disrupt a play. He leads the team with his character, and that is a stabilizing item to have on any part of a team. He provides the extra motivation and incentive to keep battling when the Sooners have troubles up front. That carried the Sooners through all the injuries to their defensive line a year ago, and it figures to keep the Sooners rolling in 2009. But he does provide tremendous stability also in the form of his performance. Last year, he had 30 total tackles, 11 for loss, 6.5 of which came on sacks. He even had an interception return for 12 yards, so McCoy's leadership both in performance and character are pivotal next season.

3. Defensive line is deep: Consider I haven't even mentioned DeMarcus Granger, who was injured and missed the Sooners' bowl game for the second year in a row. Now, think about the other five players on the line, Alexander, Beal, Taylor, McCoy and English. And Cordero Moore improved last year and in spring ball. The Sooners have a lot of depth at the line position, and that is yet another stabilizing factor for the group next year. While a couple of major injuries could put the Sooners in a precarious situation, it appears they have talented enough players to back them up.

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