Some Sooners will have more of an impact than others and will be counted on to be the foundation of the 2014 squad. Last week we counted down the most important players on offense with quarterback Trevor Knight atop the list.
This week, we’ll count down the five most important players on defense, taking into account their expected contribution, the quality of their backups and their previous production. On Thursday, we continue the countdown with No. 2.
Defensive end Charles Tapper could be primed for a big season.
2013 role: Tapper had his breakout season with 49 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He made a major jump as a sophomore, starting 12 of 13 games and earning first-team All-Big 12 honors.
Expected 2014 role: Tapper should be a mainstay on the defensive line for the second straight season. If he makes a jump from his sophomore to junior season that mimics his progress from his freshman to sophomore season, Tapper will be chasing All-American honors.
Why he’s important: Much like Jordan Phillips, Tapper brings a combination of athleticism, size and strength that is difficult to match. Any time a defensive line features an NFL talent, that player is almost impossible to replace. Tapper is an NFL talent. Offensive coordinators will have to game plan to deal with the junior this season, allowing other members of OU’s talented line to get one-on-one opportunities, and when Tapper gets a one-on-one opportunity of his own, the Sooners will love their chances. Bottom line, he’s important because he has the physical ability to do things other people cannot.
If he was missing: OU would have to try to find a way to replace his impact and disruptive nature. His absence would require the Sooners to find other ways to create chaos for opposing offensive lines, and it would probably take multiple Sooners to do it. His teammates along the defensive line, plus pass rushing linebackers like Eric Striker, would probably end up running into more blockers on their path to the backfield than before. Not only is Tapper a productive player, he opens things up for his teammates, making him one of OU’s most important pieces.