Oklahoma's defense could be pretty salty again next year as key members of what has possibly been the best defense of the Stoops era are deciding to return for another season. Adrian Taylor announced he'd be returning next season and now Dominique Franks is the next to say he'll be returning to Norman to play ball in 2010.
"I'm not worried about it at all," Franks said. "I'm coming back."
"I'm done with it. I'm just focusing on this last game. That's all I'm worried about," Franks said. "I'm not worried about talking to anybody or being at that next level."
Keenan Clayton, Auston English,and Ryan Reynolds are all gone due to graduation but only Clayton and Jackson were every down every game players. Reynolds and English missed time because of injury but in their place Austin Box and Frank Alexander performed very well. Both were key contributors to shutting out Oklahoma State on the final weekend of the season and both will be around next season as well.
In addition to Taylor and Franks linebacker, defensive end Jeremy Beal and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are among the top underclassmen who could be throwing their names in next spring's NFL draft. It's widely speculated that McCoy is gone and while there's been absolutely not official word from him I'd be surprised to see him in crimson and cream in 2010. Instead we'll be looking at Jamarkus McFarland who while not yet at the level of McCoy did show flashes of greatness this year as a true freshman.
It's been rumored that Jeremy Beal is leaning towards staying as well even though he's not talking. The only thing that he's said is that he's focused on Stanford and will address that once the bowl game is over. That doesn't give me a lot of confidence to be honest but until he gives us something solid to go with all we have is speculation.
"I'm thinking about Stanford and getting better every day at practice," said Beal, who was chosen to the All-Big 12 first team. "I'm not thinking about the NFL."
"We've still got one more game and I'll think about that after the Stanford game," he added.
Travis Lewis hasn't stated whether he's staying or going either but he's at least given us the criteria for his departure. Lewis wants to be a first round draft pick and says he won't leave Oklahoma early unless that is guaranteed.
"It'd have to be pretty high. I have high standards for myself and everybody wants to go in the first round to take care of your family for the rest of your life," Lewis said. "Whether it's this year, next year or the year after. I've got two more years to play. I think eventually I'll be there."
"It's all about me and patience-how patient I am staying here and bettering myself to get to that No. 1, that first round."
There will be plenty of new faces on next year's defense but the key to success is blending the new guys with veteran leadership. Marcus Trice is going to make a push at replacing Brian Jackson, Ronnell Lewis, Tom Wort and Austin Box are going to battle for the middle linebacker position and depending what others do, we may see more. The thing is, the more we see guys like Taylor, Franks, Lewis and Beal the more experience and leadership we'll see on the field to go along with young talent. In a nutshell the learning curve will be smaller and that's exactly what we're looking for.