As expected, the Sooners welcomed back defensive tackle Casey Walker to practice on Monday. Walker had left the team for two weeks because of a personal issue and did not suit up in either of OU’s first two games.
“He wasn’t as winded as he thought he’d be,” teammate David King said of Walker, who was running extra sprints after practice.
With Walker back, David King, who had been moved to tackle and started there in Walker’s absence, worked exclusively at defensive end Monday. Walker reassumed his starting position at the nose guard, and Jamarkus McFarland, who had been starting at nose guard, slid over to the three technique -- where Stacy McGee was starting before his preseason suspension.
The likely starting front four against Kansas State in two weeks will be King and R.J. Washington at defensive end, McFarland at the three technique, and Walker at nose guard.
“The more size you’ve got where you can hold your ground at the line of scrimmage and they don’t get any push and not able to mash you – that’s what you like to have,” said defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright.
Walker’s return means the Sooners will no longer be undersized on the defensive line. And that’s especially huge against a team like Kansas State that is sure to test OU’s mettle in the trenches.
• With King back at defensive end, Chuka Ndulue, who started OU’s first two games, likely will return to a reserve role along with sophomore Rashod Favors. Wright indicated that’s the foursome he’s going to play over the next few games, as true freshmen Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper continue to develop.
“They’re not ready to play at this caliber yet,” Wright said. “Hopefully they will be by midseason. Hopefully they’ll be to the point where we get four, five, six games into the season, they come along and see what the speed of the game is, how much faster it is, how much more physical it is. There’s a heck of a transition there.
“They’re mature kids. But they’re not mature football players. There’s a growth process they have to go through before they’re ready to take on somebody like Kansas State.”
• Safety Jesse Paulsen got one of the best calls of his life this summer.
“I was back home training,” Paulsen said of the phone call. “Coach (Bob) Stoops gave me a call and said, ‘We’re going to give you a scholarship.’ I was pretty emotional about it.”
A scholarship for his senior season wasn’t the first thing that popped into Paulsen’s mind when he got the phone call from the Sooners’ head man.
“I was expecting him to yell at me for something I did or something like that,” Paulsen said with a chuckle. “He just called me out of the blue.”
Paulsen was a contributor on special teams in 2011 and had performed well in the spring. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops repeatedly mentioned the former walk-on when discussing the depth at safety.
• Defensive end Michael Onuoha has been a pleasant surprise this fall. The true freshman has made a smooth transition to college football and appears to have played his way out of a redshirt season in 2012.
“It’s a lot different than high school,” Onuoha said. “It’s almost like the pros out here, even though I don’t know what that’s like. It’s a lot faster than high school.”
Onuoha was considered a raw prospect with terrific athleticism but he had a strong basketball background and didn’t have an extensive football resume. But the Edmond, Okla. native impressed the Sooners coaching staff immediately and he earned his first playing time against Florida A&M.
If Onuoha and fellow true freshman Charles Tapper can continue to develop at defensive end, it would allow the Sooners to use the versatile David King in various different ways without worrying about their overall depth at defensive end.
• Cornerback Aaron Colvin has been a strength of the Sooners defense through the first two games. His coverage has been excellent and he has recorded nine tackles and three passes defensed in his first two games back at cornerback after playing safety as a sophomore.
“I give myself a 'B,'” the junior said. “I feel like I’ve played pretty well, the second game I graded out well, I got a 97. I’ve been playing well but there’s still a lot of things I can work on.”
Colvin is likely talking about interceptions. He has been excellent in coverage and if that continues he should have opportunities to intercept the ball as the season progresses.
“I feel like I’m having pretty good coverage but there are some things I’m working on,” he said.
• Senior cornerback Demontre Hurst has played in many big games. But after thinking about it, Hurst agreed that the looming showdown against Kansas State will be the biggest game he’s played in at home, after Florida State in 2010, and Texas A&M in 2011 because of the revenge factor (the Sooners lost in College Station the year before).
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “Gonna be a wild game. A true dogfight.”