Monday, February 25, 2013
Position breakdown: Defensive tackle
By Jake Trotter
NORMAN, Okla. -- Michigan defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery will become Oklahoma's defensive tackles coach. And he faces a tall task in Norman.
No position on Oklahoma’s roster has more questions marks than defensive tackle.
Sophomore Jordan Phillips is the only defensive tackle on the roster who has played significant time for the Sooners.
The top three in the rotation are gone (top four, if you count David King) to graduation, with almost no experience returning. With the exodus of Marquis Anderson and Damon Williams, OU also is left with just three DTs on its roster for the spring. And on top of all that, OU could go to a 3-4 scheme this offseason, which in theory would place three tackles instead of two on the field at once.
Whatever scheme OU ends up running, the Sooners will be counting on Jordan Phillips to emerge into a difference-maker. The most athletic DT OU has recruited in a while, Phillips flashed some of that potential as a redshirt freshman in 2012. But there’s a significant difference between sporadically flashing potential and being a difference maker. Phillips said during bowl practices he’s ready to be “the guy” at DT, and reports out of winter camp suggest he’s taken on more of a leadership role. Time will tell if he takes on a bigger role on the field, too.
OU’s other top returning tackle, Jordan Wade, showed up well during bowl practices, and the Sooners are hoping that translates for the former top 15 DT prospect into the spring. With the lack of other options, the Sooners really need Wade to hold a major role in the rotation, either as a starter or off the bench.
Time is running out for OU’s only other returning tackle, junior Torrea Peterson, who has yet to contribute, in part due to off-the-field issues.
Given the lack of returning experience and bodies, the Sooners really need junior college tackle Quincy Russell to make an immediate impact. Russell was supposed to be enrolled during the spring, but academic issues prevented that from happening. Russell has been quiet too the last few weeks, and in theory, he could choose to go to another school (which, frankly, would be a disaster). Likely, Russell is waiting to see who the Sooners bring in to coach defensive tackles -- just one of many reasons why the DT coaching hire is critical for Bob Stoops.
Potentially, OU could get by with a tackle rotation of Phillips, Wade, Russell and Peterson.
But it’s possible -- if not probable -- that at least one of the three incoming freshman tackles will have to chip in.
Charles Walker could be the diamond in the rough of this class. The No. 40 DT nationally didn’t have an impressive offer list, but his upside and size is intriguing.
The Sooners, however, will have to wait and see on Kerrick Huggins. The No. 39 DT prospect double-signed with Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College in case he doesn’t qualify academically.