Oklahoma Sooners: Oklahoma Sooners

Big 12 media days takeaways

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:00
PM ET
DALLAS -- Big 12 media days have come and gone. Some of the storylines (Dairy Queen, fake watches) were silly. Others were far more serious. Here are some of the takeaways from this year’s edition of media days:

Baylor has a chip on its shoulder: Despite winning the Big 12 last season and returning the Big 12 offensive player of the year in quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor was voted second in the conference’s preseason poll behind Oklahoma. The Bears clearly felt a bit disrespected while in Dallas this week. "That comes with being Baylor," defensive end Shawn Oakman said. "We're gonna be great one day and y'all are gonna notice." The Bears were pretty great last season, stomping the Sooners 41-12 on the way to their first Big 12 title. "That game from OU last year, that should have showed you that that product was nowhere near as good as the product that Baylor was putting on the field," Oakman said. "The execution, the players from each and every position ... You could tell we were on a different level from OU." Still getting picked to finish behind Oklahoma has given the Bears extra fuel for this season. "In our minds, we’re still underdogs," Oakman said. "We play with a chip on our shoulder. You only get the respect if you earn it."

Stoops is loose as a goose: The loosest coach at Big 12 media days might have been Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. He was cracking jokes, photo-bombing his wife’s TV interview (she was there for a Mary Kay convention) and taking a break between interview sessions to grab a strawberry smoothie. He even chided Alabama coach Nick Saban for suggesting the Crimson Tide didn’t care about being in the Sugar Bowl. "So if I’m not in a national championship game, that means I’ve got a built-in excuse?" Stoops said. Such bravado could be a sign that Stoops thinks he has a pretty good team. With Trevor Knight at quarterback and nine starters back defensively, it’s not hard to see why.

TCU has a big problem: Though they had already left, the Horned Frogs were the story the second day of Big 12 media days. Defensive end Devonte Fields, who last week was voted the league's preseason defensive player of the year, was accused of pulling a gun on his ex-girlfriend. TCU acted quickly after the news surfaced, claiming it had "separated" from Fields. If any part of the allegations levied against Fields are true, it’s difficult to see him ever playing another game in the Big 12. That is a big loss for the league. And an even bigger one for TCU, which is attempting to bounce back from one of its worst seasons in the Gary Patterson era.

Strong believes in Ash: The biggest question mark in Charlie Strong’s first season as coach at Texas is quarterback. More specifically, quarterback David Ash. But even though Ash missed virtually all of last season with concussion issues, then the spring with a fractured foot, Strong said he was impressed with Ash when watching old game film. "When Ash is healthy, he played very well," Strong said. All signs point to Ash being the starter when the Longhorns open the season. Whether he can be consistent and be healthy could go a long way in dictating how Strong’s first season goes, too.

Bowlsby does not believe in the NCAA: According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, cheating pays. And the enforcement wing of the NCAA is broken. Bowlsby painted a bleak future for the NCAA, also predicting that Olympic sports could be in trouble down the line. "If you like intercollegiate athletics the way it is, you're going to hate it going forward," he said. "There's a lot of change coming." Because of its popularity, football will always be fine. But with lawsuits and athletic department expenses about to rise dramatically, Bowlsby thinks something will have to give.

Everyone’s mind is on the playoff, even if all minds don’t quite get it: The inaugural College Football Playoff was one of the big topics of conversation this week. The Big 12 coaches all believe the league is positioned strongly for inclusion, thanks to a robust nonconference slate of games and a nine-game conference schedule. Many players, however, weren’t well-informed about how the playoff will work. One didn’t know how many teams would be in it. Another thought every conference champ automatically advanced to it. And still another had no idea just how the playoff would be picked. The playoff is going to be an adjustment for college football fans. There is going to be an adjustment for the players, too.

Trickett was always the guy: According to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, Clint Trickett was always going to be this season’s starting quarterback. It was just a matter of him getting cleared medically. "We wanted him to be the guy," Holgorsen said. "We had to wait and see how he did coming off the shoulder surgery." Holgorsen said there was little the other West Virginia quarterbacks could have done this spring to unseat Trickett, who sat out while recovering from the shoulder injury. "He was the best option we had this year, he was the best option we had last year," Holgorsen said. "Once I was pleased with what I saw, it was a no-brainer to me."

Hill will get the ball a lot: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has had some talented offensive players over the years. But Gundy said it has been a long time since the Cowboys had a playmaker like juco running back Tyreek Hill. "He's very fast," said Gundy, comparing him to former West Virginia standout Tavon Austin. "He gets [past] that first level [of the defense] and no one is caching him." Gundy wants Hill to touch the ball at least 20 times a game. Whether he’s at running back or lined up in the slot, Hill is going to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State attack.

Snyder is still the man: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is 74 years old, just two years younger than former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who popped by media days Monday night. But Snyder is still coaching strong, with a team that was voted third in the preseason poll behind co-favorites Oklahoma and Baylor. Apparently everyone should eat only one meal a day.
DALLAS -- Winning football games holds top billing in most cases, but when discussing the most important objective to college football coaches, a great recruiting class is always high on the totem pole.

The Big 12 media days on Monday and Tuesday gave coaches a chance to share their opinions on their teams, their competitors and the future of college football. It also allowed each coach to talk about the positives and negatives of recruiting.

During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 71 Tyrus Thompson, tackle, 6-foot-5, 336 pounds, redshirt senior

Impact thus far: After a redshirt season in 2010 and limited action in 2011, Thompson has been an impact player for the past two seasons, starting 16 games in 2012 and 2013 combined. His versatility is an asset as the senior has played both tackle positions during his time in Norman, Okla.

Impact in 2014: Thompson should be a starter and key player for the Sooners offensive line, bringing experience, athleticism and production to the table during his final season in crimson and cream. It will be important for him to remain healthy throughout the year.

Long term upside: Thompson has all-conference potential if he raises his game to another level and remains healthy in 2014.

Evaluation grade for Thompson: A. When healthy, Thompson is an asset to OU’s offense. And his versatility takes his value to an even higher level. The Texas native stepped on campus as a four-star recruit and he’s met those expectations heading into his senior campaign.

Development grade for Thompson: A. A redshirt season in 2010 was the right decision for Thompson’s future. Now the Sooners get the payoff with a year of production from a savvy, veteran lineman instead of spot duty from a raw freshman in 2010.
video
Big 12 media days came to a close Tuesday in Dallas, yet the biggest news of the day came from nearby Fort Worth, where the future of TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year, is in doubt after he has "separated" from the Horned Frogs program. Meanwhile, on site, Texas coach Charlie Strong made his debut and Oklahoma arrived with plenty of confidence.

ESPN.com's Big 12 reporters Jake Trotter, Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon answered four questions in our roundtable to wrap up the final session, which included Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

What stuck out to you most?

Trotter: The biggest Big 12 story of the day actually didn't come from one of the five teams at media days Tuesday. Quickly, the buzz about the serious allegations levied against TCU defense end Devonte Fields made its way around the hotel with reporters and coaches alike. Later in the day, the Horned Frogs "separated" with the Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year, placing Fields' collegiate-football future gravely in doubt. That could have a major impact on the Big 12 landscape.

Chatmon: The way Kansas State players seemingly take on the personality of Wildcats coach Bill Snyder is a sight to see. Quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett, center B.J. Finney, linebacker Jonathan Truman and defensive end Ryan Mueller were personable, thoughtful and engaged during their answers yet still navigated their way through the landmines some college football players seem to step on during similar settings. The overriding message: K-State is confident yet hungry heading into 2014.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP ImagesNew Texas coach Charlie Strong said all the right things at his Big 12 media days debut.
Olson: Everyone came hoping for Charlie Strong to do or say something memorable at his Big 12 media days debut. Easily a dozen TV cameras surrounded his table Tuesday afternoon before he even showed up. Strong carried himself well and said all the right things, and the talking points -- such as "putting the 'T' back in Texas" -- he's been repeating since the spring went over well. He also threw Texas fans a bone by confirming David Ash is his starting QB. All in all, a pretty solid day for the first-year coach.

What's something new you learned?

Trotter: Even though Charlie Strong arrived at Texas via Louisville, he and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops know each other well due to their connection as former Florida defensive coordinators. "I think Charlie's a great coach," Stoops said. "He's an excellent person. We've really enjoyed the times I have been around him. So I gotta be careful. I can't wish him too much luck, but I know he'll do a great job."

Chatmon: Short conversations with Texas defensive end Cedric Reed and center Dominic Espinosa left me with the impression that Charlie Strong's vision for the Longhorn program is starting to take hold. Reed said he could see signs the Longhorns could be tougher mentally this fall with guys showing up to meetings on time (or even early), and Espinosa said the mental focus of the squad has been upgraded with players willing to do the extra things to get to the another level. UT might not have a 100 percent buy-in to Strong's ways, but it sounds like things are heading in the right direction.

Olson: I'm sorry, I just have to address one of my favorite quotes of the day here. When Bill Snyder was asked to assess how optimistic he is about his team in 2014, he paused and said warmly, "My degree of optimism is negotiated daily." Then he continued a winding answer about one-day-at-a-time expectation that concluded with a laugh and Snyder proudly saying, "Didn't tell you anything, did I?" He later acknowledged he is "as old as time and that's not going to change." Basically, Bill Snyder is the best.

Your favorite exchange of the day?

Trotter: I don't know if counts as an "exchange," but Stoops purposefully photobombed his wife's TV interview. He actually did it twice. Carol Stoops, a national director with Mary Kay, was at the same hotel for a Mary Kay convention. Stoops was laid-back all day, which is usually a sign he thinks he has a good team.

Chatmon: I walked up on Tyler Lockett doing a Q&A with another reporter who asked which three people he would like to have dinner with if he could choose anyone in the world. Lockett looked at me with a sideways glance and responded: "This guy." Once our laughter subsided, Lockett answered the question. I now have a new favorite player.

Olson: I pressed Quandre Diggs on the state of his relationship with Kevin Durant. This is a sore subject for the Texas cornerback, who's a vocal member of Team LeBron. He said Durant unfollowed him on Twitter due to Diggs' preference for LeBron. Diggs is hoping to repair that relationship with his fellow Longhorn soon, and he has plenty of respect for the MVP. But Diggs was adamant he will not be able to bury the hatchet until Durant gives him a follow again.

The most impressive person?

Trotter: Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs, Iowa State center Tom Farniok, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley and Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters were all very impressive. Diggs would make a great sports columnist someday. He has an opinion on everything. Worley, just a true sophomore, comes off like he's 10 years older than he actually is. Waters pulled off donning a bow tie, and he and Farniok were plenty sharp to extemporize on any player or team in the conference -- something many players in the conference struggle with.

Chatmon: West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley may be more impressive off the field than he was on it in 2013. The sophomore appears to be on the road to becoming one of the Big 12's best cornerbacks, but the way he handled our one-on-one session left me holding him in a high regard. He's just a sophomore, but he handled himself like a fifth-year senior. It's easy to see why Dana Holgorsen had the trust to bring a true sophomore into this setting. "Last season enhanced my work ethic, just knowing I didn't reach my goals. I told myself I wouldn't let that happen again," he said. This from a guy who started five games at cornerback as a true freshman in the Big 12.

Olson: Besides Diggs, who is absolutely money when it comes to spitting the truth in interviews, I had to say I enjoyed chatting with famed West Virginia punter Nick O'Toole -- better known as Boomstache by the Mountaineer faithful -- about his dedication to mustache maintenance. He went for the Rollie Fingers curled look Tuesday, with the help of a little wax, and was also sporting red USA socks. He is indeed a great American.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma's roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player's impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 70 Christian Daimler, tackle, 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, redshirt freshman

Impact thus far: Daimler redshirted during his first season on campus.

Impact in 2014: Daimler should play a backup role at tackle for the Sooners with veterans Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams manning the position.

Long-term upside: Daimler looks like a guy who can be a contributor for the Sooners but how much he can contribute in his four seasons remains unclear. He saw time at left tackle in the spring game with the Sooners' No. 2 offense, so he could be in line to compete to replace Tyrus Thompson in 2015.

Evaluation grade for Daimler: NA. It's too early to grade Daimler, who hasn't had the chance to play in a game yet. But he is showing early signs that he can be a contributor who develops into a starting-level tackle in the future if his development continues like it should.

Development grade for Daimler: F. Redshirting Daimler was the perfect move. Even though the injury bug hit the Sooners' tackle ranks, to the point they had to shift Bronson Irwin to tackle for the Allstate Sugar Bowl, it was still the right decision to place the redshirt on Daimler, who needed a season in the Sooners strength and conditioning program before he could be considered an option to play.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma's roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player's impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No 56 Ty Darlington, center, 6-foot-2, 286 pounds, junior

Impact thus far: He's provided backup depth behind All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard during his first two seasons in Norman, Oklahoma. Darlington played in nine games (one start) as a true freshman in 2012 then played in three games in 2013.

Impact in 2014: Darlington will battle to replace Ikard at the center spot and has plenty of experience at the position meaning he should, at the very least, provide a quality option. The Sooners will strive to put their best five offensive linemen on the field so Nila Kasitati could also be a option at the center spot in 2014.

Long term upside: Darlington should be a valuable contributor as a starter or quality backup for the next two seasons.

Evaluation grade for Darlington: B. Heading into his third year on campus, Darlington has already made an impact and started a game despite playing behind an all-conference center during both seasons. He hasn't been a major contributor but he provided depth and peace of mind as a underclassman and could rise to starter status this fall.

Development grade for Darlington: B. The only thing the Sooners could have done is play Darlington more during blowout games just to get him added game time and seasoning as he prepared to battle to replace Ikard during preseason camp in August. Outside of those moments, Darlington's development has been solid.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 55 Josiah St. John, 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, redshirt junior

Impact thus far: None. St. John redshirted during his first season on campus. A junior college signee, St. John was late to arrive in the summer and never really proved himself ready to impact the Sooners in 2013.

Impact in 2014: OU returns two strong starters in Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson, so a rise into the starting lineup would be a surprise. But St. John seems poised to be a solid backup option at tackle this fall.

Long term upside: He could contribute as a backup in 2014, then become a starter in 2015.

Evaluation grade for St. John: F. St. John may end up being a terrific evaluation but the reason to sign a junior college player is to get an immediate impact which hasn’t been the case with St. John. But it would be a surprise if this grade remains an F, particularly after St. John’s improvement since the end of the 2013 campaign.

Development grade for St. John: B. Considering the shuffling the Sooners had to do when the injury bug hit the tackle spot last season, St. John clearly wasn’t ready to make an impact in 2013. Thus, a redshirt season was probably better than just throwing him out there and wasting a season of eligibility. Now they could potentially get a full season of production in 2015 and a quality backup in 2014.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 54 Nila Kasitati, guard/center, 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, junior

Impact thus far: Injuries have been the only thing that have really kept Kasitati off the field during his time in Norman, Oklahoma. After a redshirt season in 2011, he was beginning to force himself into the lineup until an early-October ACL injury against Texas Tech as a redshirt freshman forced him to miss the rest of the season. Last season he returned to play in all 13 games including seven starts at right guard.

Impact in 2014: His versatility makes it a near certainty he will be a key member of OU’s offensive line. Kasitati can play center and guard so don’t be surprised to see him line up at either position in 2014 as the Sooners strive to get their top five offensive linemen on the field.

Long term upside: He should be a core member of the offensive line during the next two seasons.

Evaluation grade for Kasitati: A. He wasn’t a five-star recruit but he’s had a significant impact since his redshirt freshman season. Kasitati brings a toughness and aggression to the lineup that helps set the tone for the entire offensive front.

Development grade for Kasitati: A. The Sooners have done a good job with the junior, particularly during his redshirt freshman season when they inserted him into the offensive line rotation before his injury. When he’s healthy, he tends to make an impact for OU.

Crimson Countdown: G Tony Feo

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
11:00
AM ET
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 53 Tony Feo, guard, 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: A junior college signee, Feo made an impact on special teams during his first year on campus. He played in 12 games as a mainstay on OU’s punt unit, even recording a tackle against Texas Tech.

Impact in 2014: If he doesn’t earn a spot in the rotation, Feo should provide depth at guard and serve as a special teams mainstay for the second-straight season.

Long term upside: At the very least he should contribute on special teams for the second-straight season.

Evaluation grade for Feo: A. A late addition to OU’s Class of 2013, Feo has done exactly what he was brought in to do. The Sooners pursued him to provide depth and protection in case the injury bug crippled the guard position.

Development grade for Feo: B. He played in his first game as a Sooner so the opportunity to play has been given to the California native. And it’s very possible he could see additional time on offense during his final season.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 48 Aaron Ripkowski, fullback, 6-foot-1, 257 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Ripkowski may have made the biggest impact during the Bob Stoops era for a player with one reception for 3 yards and one touchdown during his first three seasons. He’s played a key role in the Sooners offense since his redshirt freshman season. He made an immediate impact as a extra blocker in short-yardage situations during his first two seasons then as a fullback as a junior, particularly after Trey Millard's injury. He’s played in 33 games with eight starts heading into his final season.

Impact in 2014: Expect Ripkowski to be a critical contributor for his fourth straight season. His blocking, durability and production cements his spot in the offense, even with true freshman Dimitri Flowers looking like a key contributor in 2014.

Long-term upside: He will leave Norman as one of the top walk-ons during the Stoops’ era.

Evaluation grade for Ripkowski: C. When you consider his contribution during his time in the program, Ripkowski should have gotten a scholarship from the outset. OU eventually did reward his impact with a scholarship after it was clear he had earned it.

Development grade for Ripkowski: A. As soon as OU recognized Ripkowski could help win games, the Sooners put him on the field. Scholarship or no scholarship, they found a role for him alongside Millard early in his career and he’s rewarded them with stellar production.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 44 Jed Barnett, punter, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Barnett became the Sooners’ starting punter during his first season in 2013. He averaged 41.7 yards per punt on 65 punts including 22 punts inside the 20-yard line and 11 punts of 50 yards or more. His 12.3 punts inside the 10-yard line rate ranked second in the Big 12. But his 35.25 net yards per punt average was ninth in the conference.

Impact in 2014: Barnett should continue to be one of the better punters in the Big 12 but his net yards per punt average will need to improve before he can cement his name among the Big 12’s best this fall.

Long term upside: He’s shown the ability to be one of the nation’s top punters if he can improve his net punt average because his accuracy in pinning opponents deep in their own territory is already among the nation’s best.

Evaluation grade for Barnett: A. He’s done exactly what the Sooners recruited him to do. He stepped into the starting punter role and is an asset, particularly when OU is trying to pin their opponents inside their own 25-yard line.

Development grade for Barnett: A. Even though they signed him from the junior college ranks, OU didn’t just hand Barnett the job. He’s won it and never looked back.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 40 P.L. Lindley, defensive end, 6-foot-2, 262 pounds, junior

Impact thus far: Lindley has made an impact but has not been a major difference-maker during his first two seasons on the field. Last season saw his biggest impact with 10 tackles and one fumble recovery in 10 games played (two starts). As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Lindley played in seven games as a special teamer and finished with four tackles.

Impact in 2014: Lindley could continue the role he carved out in 2013 as a option for the Sooners with his bulk and strength against run-heavy offenses. He can easily slide into OU’s 3-4 look when the Sooners need to get bigger and stronger, but other players will be vying for that role this fall, so he will have to fight to keep his spot.

Long-term upside: If he wants his role to expand he will need to prove he can excel against any offense, not just offenses looking to run the ball.

Evaluation grade for Lindley: B. Initially brought in as a linebacker, Lindley moved to defensive end as OU looked to get faster and more athletic. He might not have been a great evaluation at linebacker, but he has shown versatility and enters his junior season having started a pair of games as a sophomore which cannot be overlooked.

Development grade for Lindley: A. The move to defensive end has been great for Lindley and the Sooners even though the position is littered with talent. Lindley still fought his way into playing time even if it was a specialized role. He would have been unlikely to do the same if he had remained at linebacker.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 39 Nick Hodgson, kicker, 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Hodgson’s junior season was the first year he made a significant impact. He became OU’s kickoff specialist under new special teams coach Jay Boulware and excelled in his new role. Hodgson led the Big 12 in touchback percentage (62.3 percent) and yards per kickoff (63.7).

Impact in 2014: There’s no reason to remove Hodgson from his kickoff specialist role, as he’s proved to be among the Big 12’s best with his kickoffs.

Long-term upside: One area of improvement would be his ability to place kickoffs inside the 25-yard line whenever the Sooners want to try to pin teams deep.

Evaluation grade for Hodgson: C. The senior is a walk-on who has made an impact but hasn’t made the Sooners look silly for not offering him a scholarship out of high school. The Sooners generally ask kickers to prove themselves before a scholarship offer is considered, and Hodgson was no different.

Development grade for Hodgson: B. Give OU credit for recognizing Hodgson was the best kickoff specialist on the roster and using him even though Michael Hunnicutt is one of the top kickers in the nation.
In 2008, the Big 12’s strongest position was quarterback with a deep roster that featured Heisman winner Sam Bradford, Heisman finalist Colt McCoy and national passing champ Graham Harrell, among several other noteworthy QBs.

Five years later, the league’s top position turned out to be cornerback, headlined by eventual first-round picks Justin Gilbert and Jason Verrett.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 defensive end will have the best 2014 season?

  •  
    22%
  •  
    24%
  •  
    34%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,812)

This season, the Big 12’s best position is looking more and more like it will be defensive end, notably thanks to Kansas State’s Ryan Mueller, Texas’ Cedric Reed, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper, Baylor’s Shawn Oakman and TCU’s Devonte Fields -- all of whom have All-American potential.

Mueller was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year after finishing second in the league with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Only Jackson Jeffcoat, the departed Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, topped Mueller in either category.

Just one spot behind Mueller, Reed finished third in the league with 10 sacks, and was a second-team All-Big 12 pick. Even though his teammate Jeffcoat racked up all the accolades, many coaches around the league felt Reed was the tougher assignment.

Tapper was another tough assignment, and the only underclassman defender to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. Tapper was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds during the spring, underscoring why he’s such a nightmare matchup for opposing offensive linemen.

Speaking of nightmare matchups, Oakman presents just that with his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame. Despite being a part-time player last year, Oakman still finished sixth in the conference with 12.5 tackles for loss. According to coach Art Briles, Oakman was unblockable during spring ball and could be in for a monster breakout season.

Fields already broke out two years ago, when he was the AP’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman. A suspension followed by season ending foot surgery turned Fields’ sophomore campaign into a disaster. But by all accounts, Fields was his old self again this spring, and seems primed to have a dominating season.

But which of these defensive ends will have the most dominating 2014 season?

We put the question to you via our weekly Big 12 poll.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 36 Dimitri Flowers, fullback, 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, true freshman

Impact thus far: Flowers is an early enrollee who participated in spring football and impressed coaches and teammates with his smooth transition into the program.

Impact in 2014: It would be a surprise if Flowers doesn’t have a significant impact as a true freshman. He was getting first-team reps during the spring and his versatility has drawn comparisons to Trey Millard, a four-year starter in crimson and cream.

Long-term upside: Flowers is so similar to Millard it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him have a similar career as a four-year starter and all-conference level player. Obviously its early to heap those type of expectations on a player who has never played in a game at OU, but Flowers was exceptional during the spring and the Sooners love to utilize players with his skills. Even if he never reaches the heights attained by Millard, he should be an impact player during his career.

Evaluation grade for Flowers: B. The only reason this isn’t an A is because Flowers hasn’t done anything on Saturdays yet, so it’s all based on praise and conjecture to this point. But if he continues on his current path the Sooners will have unearthed another versatile gem, which is not easy to do considering they had to project him into this role.

Development grade for Flowers: NA. It's too early to give a development grade for a player who has never had the opportunity to play in a game. But all signs point to the Sooners throwing him right into the mix this fall.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Stoops Talks Sugar Bowl Win
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops talks about his team's victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and why it felt good.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video