For a unit that was believed to be a considerable weakness in the preseason to producing the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and another first team All-Big 12 performer is no small accomplishment. The OU d-line was consistently unit on a defense that was not always put in the best position to succeed. So to perform as exceptionally as they did is a testament to the season they had as a collective unit.
We'll hand out the individual grades after the jump.
Frank Alexander: A+
Final stats: 51 tackles, 18 for loss, 8.5 sacks, 1 INT
Alexander won a very well deserved Defensive Player of the Year award after an absolutely dominating season. Many in the preseason were saying that Big Frank needed to have this kind of season for the OU d-line to have success and clearly he did not disappoint. He very likely made himself a significant amount of money playing on Sundays after his 2011 season.
Ronnell Lewis: B+
Final stats: 59 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 INT
Before the incredibly disappointing news of Lewis' suspension prior to the Bedlam game this would have easily been in the "A" range. However, the stupidity of even putting yourself in a position to be suspended that late in the season before a game of that magnitude simply cannot be ignored. It's not yet known whether Lewis will be eligible for OU's bowl game, but the odds of him being available are not looking favorable. Lewis' physical abilities are virtually unmatched, but he's also not exactly a finished product for the NFL. So to just bail (allegedly) on his teammates like that is more than a little disappointing.
David King: B-
Final stats: 27 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 totally awesome scoop & score against Texas
King probably isn't ever going to be a guy that puts up mind blowing stats, but he's the kind of dependable player that every team needs. He is also the prototypical DE for a 3-4 scheme that DC Brent Venables is seemingly transitioning the OU defense into. The upcoming bowl game will be a good preview for what this defense will look like in 2012 with King very likely holding down one of the starting DE spots.
R.J. Washington: B+
Final stats: 13 tackles, 3 for loss, 3 sacks
Like several other players we've graded thus far, Washington's grade has to take into account what was expected of him coming into the year. Washington came to OU with a huge amount of hype as a five star recruit out of TX and before this past season had failed to make any contribution whatsoever. So the impact he was able to make as a reserve this year was a very welcome surprise. The daunting part, considering what this line is losing, is that he'll need to be even better next year.
Casey Walker: B+
Final stats: 15 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 sack
There were times where Walker was flat out unblockable and yet there were other times where you didn't even know he was on the field. A lot of that had to do with being asked to play a position he isn't really suited for, but he was good in 2011 he was outstanding. One just need to go back and watch the Texas game to see just how good.
Stacy McGee: C
Final stats: 20 tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks
At the end of the 2010 season, McGee was playing as well as an OU defender. So coming into 2011 big things were expected, especially for a position believed to be one of the weakest on the defense. He met those expectations with an early season suspension and never really reaching that same level of play he attained in 2010.
Final stats: 16 tackles, 1.5 for loss, 0.5 sack
McFarland is rapidly running out of time to live up to the hype he brought with him when he signed at OU. Next year will be his final season and I think it's more than fair to say that up to this point he's failed to get anywhere close to the Tommie Harris/Gerald McCoy level many projected for him when he arrived. This 2011 season was one where he played solid enough, but never really emerged as that force on the inside.