'09 Defensive Players to Watch

With just less than eight weeks to go before the season opener against BYU and just more than three weeks until players report for the start of fall practice, it's time to start spotting some things to look for.

Previously, Sooners Illustrated provided you with the three most intriguing players to watch for when the Sooners have the ball on opening day.

Senior left tackle Trent Williams will have to pull the load not only as a senior leader, but he will be protecting junior quarterback Sam Bradford's blind side.

Bradford must lead the Sooners not necessarily with identical numbers as in 2008, but with the consistency and precision in his game.

He is definitely the most crucial player in the Sooners' run for an eighth national championship, while he might not be the most intriguing because everyone already knows what results he's capable of producing.

Finally, junior running back Mossis Madu must solidify his game in the slot position in order to bolster OU's receiving corps.

Now, it's time for the three most intriguing players on what will be a stacked defensive side of the ball in 2009.

3. Junior defensive tackle Gerald McCoy:
This is now officially McCoy's defense. He possesses the type of leadership any tough-minded defensive coach wants to have on his team. And he has become quite a force up front and will need to be that force again this year for the Sooners in order to get a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He's the type of player that has the ability both athletically and mentally to be a strong force on the field in key moments.

2. Senior middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds:
Last year in the Sooners' 49-17 win over Baylor in Waco, he became the first ever Sooner linebacker to earn a perfect grade under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. A week later, he suffered a season-ending injury when he tore his ACL against Texas. If Reynolds is still the player he was before tearing his ACL, there's reason to believe this might be the best linebacking corps in the nation. So, he's a very important player to watch when the season begins.

1. Sophomore strong safety Sam Proctor:
He's a player who looked like he might step into the starting rotation in 2008. After impressing during spring ball in 2008, he slowly fell off some in the summer and ultimately lost his chance at a starting safety spot at the beginning of last year. Now as the No. 1 man on the depth chart at the strong safety position, it will be interesting to see how he complements experienced corners, junior Dominique Franks and senior Brian Jackson.

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