USA TODAY Sports
The Sooners may return much experience at the defensive end position, but they do return a bunch of raw talent.
Departures: David King, R.J. Washington
Additions: Matt Dimon, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, D.J. Ward
Storyline: The story here, along with the defensive line as a whole, may be more about the scheme than the personnel. As many of you know, there has been talk almost since the 2012 season ended that Oklahoma could be making the transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
At this point no one knows what this defense is going to look like next year, so for the purposes of this preview we're simply going to present to you the players who are listed at defensive end. The obvious reason for that being what this defense would need from the defensive end position would be very different in a 3-4 versus a 4-3.
In terms of actual on-the-field storylines, the clear talking point with respect to defensive end has to be the inexperience. There is no shortage of talent, but with Ndulue being essentially the lone exception in terms of any returning player with anything even remotely approaching significant experience.
It is a position of increased importance given the lack of production in 2012 being a primary reason for many of Oklahoma's defensive struggles. The Sooners finished tied for 69th in the country last year with just 24 sacks. While the defensive ends are not wholly responsible for that stat, their play and consistent lack of pressure in the pass rush certainly played a large part.
That is something which will need to change in a big way in 2013 because the Sooners won't have the same all-conference like secondary to cover up for all those mistakes again.
Battle To Watch: The assumption is that coming off last season Geneo Grissom is the most likely to start opposite Ndulue, but don't sleep on Charles Tapper. The Baltimore product came to Norman as an incredibly raw prospect, but impressed the coaches enough to play, albeit sparingly, as a true freshman.
Tapper possesses that rare kind of athleticism you don't typically see in a defensive end and that which Oklahoma really hasn't had for quite some time. Ideally, the Sooners wouldn't need Tapper to be a primary contributor until 2014, but they likely won't have the luxury of waiting on him to harness his raw talents. It could very well be a situation, especially under a new defensive line coach (Jerry Montgomery), in which Oklahoma is simply forced to throw him into the fire and let the chips fall where they may.
Overview: In somewhat of a rare instance for this Oklahoma program, this is a position group where we are actually going to learn quite a bit about during spring ball. Even Ndulue, while experienced, isn't really all that proven as a guy who can consistently get to the quarterback. So there is a lot to prove for these guys and plenty of playing time up for grabs.
The Sooners will be aided by all three freshman coming in although D.J. Ward will be the only one on campus in time to participate in spring practices. That said, don't forget the name Matt Dimon.
Dimon isn't necessarily going to 'wow' you with his athleticism like a Tapper or Michael Onuoha will, but he has a relentless motor and could be physically ready to play as a true freshman. He won't be here until this summer, but he shouldn't need long once he's arrived to make an impact.