In the weeks leading up to the Cotton Bowl, SoonerNation will take a look back at how the Sooners performed position-by-position and give each group a grade based on that performance. Today, we examine the defensive end position.
Highlights: Senior David King capped a solid career with a solid senior season. The second-team All-Big 12 selection finished the regular season with 25 tackles and proved to be OU’s most valuable player on the defensive line because of his versatility to play tackle, too.
Lowlights: The Sooners struggled to get pressure on opposing QBs all season and finished 61st nationally with just 24 sacks. OU had 40 sacks last season. Senior R.J. Washington came up with a huge strip in the victory at TCU, but drifted in and out of the rotation. Chuka Ndulue was solid at times, but he and Washington each struggled with their run fits. Teams such as Kansas State, West Virginia, Baylor and Oklahoma State took full advantage as the Sooners finished with the No. 83 run defense in the country.
Surprises: Rashod Favors, who converted to end from linebacker during the offseason, emerged as one of the top four players at the position. He finished with two sacks and two tackles for loss while appearing in nine games. He’ll have a chance to play more alongside Ndulue and Geneo Grissom next season if he can fend off promising freshman Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha.
Grade: C. The Sooners expected a drop-off replacing Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander, but were hoping that Washington could help supply some of the same pass rush. Instead, Washington had just 1.5 sacks as the OU front four struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks without the help of the blitz. Outside King, the ends were poor in their run-defending as well. The unit has some up-and-coming talent in Tapper, Onuoha and incoming freshman Matt Dimon. But it might be a while before the ends position is truly dominant again, as it was in ’11.