"Right now, Jeremy Beal and Auston English have earned starting positions," said OU defensive ends coach Chris Wilson following practice on Thursday.
No one really figured to challenge Beal, and while English had to battle it out with sophomore Frank Alexander, English ultimately won his starting spot as well.
"Auston's hard to keep off with all the experience that he's had," Wilson said. "He's had a great camp. Frank—I was hoping, you know, he would push—and he's done a great job, but again the experience of Auston English has just been tremendous."
English is a guy that, after redshirting in 2006, suffered a hairline ankle fracture in 2007 and missed three games last year due to a sprained knee, so his health is an issue of concern, but he brings a veteran personality to what is already a very experienced defense.
"I believe [he is full health]," Wilson said. "I feel like I've got a better guy. I feel like I've got a guy who gets it. He knows how to practice, and the one thing you can't teach is his leadership and his experience. That's been really fun to watch."
He attributes that belief that he's better in large part to his strength, specifically his upper body strength.
"He's more explosive," Wilson said. "He's more stronger at the point of contact I believe than he was a year ago. That's something that we have talked about in the off season, and him and Jerry Schmidt have really focused on, so hopefully that will add to more opportunities to keep him on the football field."
As far as Beal, he's just been solid—extremely solid—since the Sooners have reported to fall camp.
"You know, you never like to overstate something, but I've been as pleased—and this is my 16th season, you know, coaching football—and he has had as good of a camp as anyone I've been around," Wilson said.
And it's mainly the things really good defensive players do by their junior and senior years.
"And I mean from every day getting better, [it's been impressive]," Wilson said. "You know, a guy who's not making the same mistakes. He's improving every day. We can talk about something in the meeting room, and it carries over to the football field. So, I've been really pleased with him, and we just got to keep pushing forward."
Now, there's only one more question facing the group.
With Alexander in the third spot, there's still a battle for that fourth spot in the rotation.
"Now, what we're looking for is to find that fourth, possibly fifth guy with R.J. Washington," Wilson said. "Obviously, R.J. Washington took advantage of his situation when David [King] was out for a couple weeks by getting those reps, so it's a tight race to see who's going to be that fourth guy."