Lately, the outside narrative for the Oklahoma Sooners has been that they’re all offense and no defense. In a matter of one week, that narrative is starting to shift after a strong showing from the defense against TCU on Saturday night. They say great defense starts up front. Well, if that’s the case, redshirt sophomore Du’Vonta Lampkin is a guy who takes up virtually the whole front all by himself. Yet even at 6’4” and 335 pounds, it’s his talent that really stands out on the field.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Houston native’s size is certainly nothing to be overlooked. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger defensive lineman in the conference (UPDATE: I just looked it up. He’s the largest DL in the Big 12). in the conference. With his immense stature comes a natural, raw power. During fall camp, defensive tackle coach Ruffin McNeill said Lampkin is “one of the most powerful individuals I’ve ever coached in my 37 years of coaching.” That’s quite substantial praise, and after watching him play, I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration.
Coach Riley also spoke about Lampkin in his Monday press conference, noting how his potential has only been slowed because of reasons related to his maturity. Early in the season, Lampkin missed some time for academic reasons. Ever since then, Lampkin has done all the right things and is becoming a steadily growing force in the middle, coming at a time when the Sooners could use the defensive push.
The TCU game was a coming out party for Lampkin. It may seem as though he played like man possessed, but really he played like a Du’Vonta Lampkin firing on all cylinders. His final stat line of four tackles, one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss aren’t record-breaking figures by any stretch, but the kind of impact Lampkin can have on a game may never show itself on a box score. Speaking of his one sack, though, take a look at this powerful bull rush against the hapless TCU center:
This play is the perfect example of how powerful Lampkin truly is. First of all, the center is Austin Schlottmann, a 6’6” 300 pound senior lineman with a strong track record. Lampkin manhandles Schlottmann by driving him back a whole 10 yards. In doing so, he disrupts TCU QB Kenny Hill’s drop back and with one outstretch of his goliath-like arm he grabs Hill and brings him to the turf. This is the kind of play you’ll normally see on a high school highlight film because the disparity in strength is so great between any given players. It’s more of a rarity in college where the caliber of athlete is typically more level.
Here is another example of the strength Lampkin brings to the fold in the trenches. TCU running back Kyle Hicks takes the handoff and starts to cut up field, but before he knows it he’s being engulfed by Du’Vonta the behemoth.
Now Kyle Hicks is no slouch of a runner, nor is he slight of build. Even at 210 pounds, Lampkin wraps him up and slings him backwards like a man wrestling a child. It’s not only impressive on film, it’s a game changer on the field. The rest of the defense feeds off of plays like this.
Going forward in his career, Lampkin can play an even bigger role on defense with his ability to make plays while getting blocked. Much like his bull rush play, here he creates separation from the center and gets to the running back in the backfield.
Just making the running back change direction or reconsider other running lanes is enough to be a difference maker in college football. By adding in the tackle, Lampkin can become a consistent game changer.
With Oklahoma having its goals set firmly on a playoff run, the continued growth and presence of Du’Vonta Lampkin will be critical. The offense can and most presumably will do its part. That means it’ll be up to guys like Lampkin and the rest of the defense as a whole to replicate their dominating performance from Saturday night, holding up their side of the championship equation.
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