One of the main questions facing the Oklahoma defense entering the 2016 season is at the linebacker position. An athletic core that developed into such a dominant force over the last few seasons saw the exodus of stars Eric Striker, Devante Bond and Dominique Alexander along with Frank Shannon and P.L. Lindley. With some uncertainty looming over this group, especially concerning the pass rush, the Sooners must now look to some new names that they hope will emerge as stars, and hope they emerge fast.
Along with All-Big 12 senior and now-captain Jordan Evans, sophomores Tay Evans and Curtis Bolton return this season and look to anchor the middle of the LB core. And while a few names are in the mix to head the pass rush and replace Striker and Bond, the most likely candidate to take the reigns is redshirt junior Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (pronounced Oh-BO-ny-uh Oh-kor-RON-kwo) or known to most fans as “Obo”.
What’s remarkable about his coaches and teammates highlighting Obo’s speed and quickness off the edge in the video above (via Sooner Sports) is that he stands at a menacing 6’2” 245 lb., a size closer to a young Von Miller than the prolific “tweener” Striker. The Sooners recruiting at many positions has been lightning following last season and linebacker is no exception, so the unit looks to be shaping up well with #SoonerSquad17 and beyond. But the former defensive end Okoronkwo, with his startling combination of size and athleticism, could become the anchor at this spot for the next couple of years if he can produce in games like we’ve heard he consistently has in practice this offseason.
Playing in nine games last season and behind Lindley along with Striker and Bond, the Sooners will need Obo to stay on the field this year to anchor and help bring on this young outside linebacker group, which also features promising redshirt freshman Ricky DeBerry and star-in-the-making true freshman Caleb Kelly, who from California just looks too good not to see the field immediately. If this group can gel quickly, it has the talent to become one the nation’s most exciting and dangerous through this and future seasons to come.