There are a ton of intriguing players on both sides of this OU squad. Between the early enrollees, the defensive scheme change and the need at the skill positions, it will be hard to keep track of all the storylines as spring ball draws to a close.
Here are a handful of names to keep an eye on in Mike Stoops’s defensive unit. Some of them might start, while others are just trying to break into the rotation. Either way, circle these players in your Saturday program.
LB Jon-Michael Terry
I’ve already mentioned this redshirt freshman as a potential breakout star for the Sooners this season, and nothing has happened this spring to change that narrative. But that’s a crowded group Terry is competing against.
Between Kapri Doucet, Ricky DeBerry, Emmanuel Beal and Kenneth Murray, Terry has been challenged every day this spring. But when the first-team defense takes the field, I expect to see Terry out there with them. It will be exciting to finally watch him play between Caleb Kelly and Obo Okoronkwo in a suddenly star-studded OU linebacker corps.
CB Parnell Motley
Jordan Parker’s unfortunate spring-ending injury makes Parnell Motley the next man up for OU on the outside. After years of struggling with cornerback depth (remember P.J. Mbanasor?), OU would love to think that Motley can be a reliable insurance policy.
Motley played mostly special-teams last year, but the Sooners need him in the rotation. He reportedly has had a fantastic spring—time to show Sooner Nation that the pass defense won’t be 2016 all over again.
4) Thomas says that fellow CB Parnell Motley is having a great spring and that "he might be better than me before it's all said and done."— Lee Benson (@LeeBensonNews9) March 29, 2017
LB Addison Gumbs
While my list of offensive players to watch was filled with OU newbies, the defense is looking for more than just depth. Addison Gumbs, however, might be able to make an impact right out of the gate as an early enrollee.
There’s really not a path to starting reps for Gumbs, barring injury. But Gumbs is in contention to back up Obo Okoronkwo at the Jack LB/DE position, per the Football Brainiacs. Gumbs is already pretty big at 6-3 and 218 pounds. The real question will be if he looks like a viable pass-rusher. If defenses can relax when Obo’s off the field, that will be a problem. An effective Gumbs behind him would a) keep Obo fresh and b) free up Caleb Kelly. Right now, losing Obo would be a disaster. The Sooners have had all spring to imagine life without him, so let’s see what Gumbs can do.
S Will Sunderland
Between Sunderland and Kahlil Haughton, someone will have to step up and replace Ahmad Thomas in the Sooners secondary. Steven Parker’s been out all spring, too, meaning plenty of reps for both those guys. Is this the year Sunderland finally lives up to his enormous potential?
If Sunderland and Haughton don’t make it work, the Sooners have Chance Sylvie waiting in the wings. If one of those three players can pull down an interception or make an athletic play, you can bet he’ll have the media and coaching staff in his corner when fall camp starts. Sunderland has the clearest path to playing time, but he’ll have to take advantage of it.