Two and a half sacks so far this season for Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker seems unusually slow for a player that has spent as much time harassing quarterbacks as the OU sophomore has. His 6'0" 219 pound frame does not suggest someone who should have success against opposing offensive tackles that routinely have upwards of 100 pounds (or more) on him. And yet there Striker is every Saturday using his unique skill set and athleticism to beat the much bigger offensive linemen.
Going back to his days at Armwood High School in Seffner, Florida, Striker has always been a player who excelled at rushing the passer. He recorded sixteen sacks as a junior and another eleven his senior year which helped him set a new school record.
Now Oklahoma is asking him to do the same serving essentially as a defensive end and rushing the quarterback on most downs in the 3-3-5/3-4 defensive formation they've employed this season.
Despite being significantly undersized for the role he has been asked to play, Striker has used his speed and athleticism to beat would be blockers off the edge. He has that unique ability you really only see in players with that special ability to rush the quarterback to dip his shoulder to avoid the block, keep his feet, and most importantly not lose any speed.
He's a nightmare matchup for your typical big, lumbering offensive tackle, but because of his aformentioned size there are some limitations to his game at times. While he excels with that edge rush, when he develops an inside move and learns to set it up by faking that hard rush off the edge he'll become an even bigger headache for opposing blockers.
And all of that is to say just how important a role he will play in Oklahoma's game against this explosive Baylor offense on Thursday night.
Oklahoma's ability to get pressure on Bryce Petty will be absolutely critical to the success or lack thereof from this Sooners defense. And along with Charles Tapper, Striker is OU's best pass rusher so he will need to be the disruptive force he's been on many an occasion this season.
None of this will come as a surprise to a Baylor offense that is one of, if not the, best in the country and one that is extremely well coached. However, they do not appear as one that will allow an opposing defense and/or individual player to dictate what they want to do. So Striker could very well find himself in a one-on-one match-up for the better part of the game, which if the case is one he'll need to take advantage of on a consistent basis. Mind you, that's not to imply if he does find success Baylor will fail to adjust but it's obviously up to Striker to force that issue.
Against this Baylor passing attack, the play of OU's secondary was always going to be important. But their job becomes a lot easier if players like Striker and Tapper are able to put Petty under duress.
Seeing the numbers '1' and '9', in whatever order, in the Baylor backfield Thursday night would be a very good thing.