Oklahoma Sooners: Damon Williams

Position breakdown: Defensive tackle 

February, 25, 2013
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.

During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. We'll analyze each player’s impact on the program since he arrived on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term impact. Starting with No. 1 Tony Jefferson, the daily series will go in numerical order until our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 95 Damon Williams
Defensive tackle, 6-foot-3, 293 pounds

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The Sooners had several stars emerge this spring who garnered plenty of attention in the past few weeks, led by receiver Trey Metoyer and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.

But Saturday’s spring game proved that Metoyer and Phillips weren’t the only Sooners who took advantage of the opportunity to impress the coaching staff. Here’s a look at five players who had solid spring performances, yet went largely overlooked:

Linebacker Joseph Ibiloye: The senior quietly had a solid spring at the linebacker spot, running with the No. 1 defense to start the spring game. Ibiloye had three tackles in the game despite leaving early with a shoulder injury.

He brings good size and speed to the table and will push Corey Nelson for the starting linebacker spot. Don’t be surprised to see Nelson get plenty of playing time but Ibiloye’s solid spring should give new linebackers coach Tim Kish some options at linebacker.

[+] EnlargeTrey Franks
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJunior receiver Trey Franks quietly had a strong spring for the Sooners.
Defensive tackle Damon Williams: With all of the attention on Phillips this spring, few fans talked about Williams, another redshirt freshman interior defensive lineman. He quietly moved up the depth chart and saw plenty of action with the No. 1 defense in the spring game, recording one tackle.

Injuries to Stacy McGee and Casey Walker have provided an opportunity for OU’s young defensive tackles, and Williams appears to have seized the opportunity.

Receiver Trey Franks: Metoyer, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds got all of the attention during the spring, but Franks was productive and took his game to another level heading into his junior season.

His quickness and speed could create nightmares in the slot for Big 12 defenses, particularly with Metoyer, Stills and Reynolds on the outside. The key for Franks is to continue to progress this summer without taking a step backward on or off the field.

Offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson: As the lone returning tackle with significant game experience, it seemed to be a forgone conclusion to pencil in Lane Johnson’s name into the starting spot at left tackle. Thompson had other ideas, and with a very strong spring he opened the spring game with the No. 1 offense.

“Tyrus Thompson has really come along,” Sooners tackles coach Bruce Kittle said. “It’s pretty even right now. We’re really pleased with him and feel like he’s game-ready. We’re in really good shape over there.”

Thompson is a redshirt sophomore who has the versatility to play either tackle spot in the Sooners' offensive attack.

Center/Guard Nila Kasitati: Kasitati might play the deepest position on the entire roster, particularly when Ben Habern returns from his neck injury.

But don’t be surprised if Kasitati forces the coaching staff to find a way to get him some time on the field. He’s talented, athletic, versatile and aggressive. The Sooners rotate their linemen so Kasitati could earn time in the rotation thanks to his ability to play multiple positions.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips amazes his teammates almost daily.

And not just with his natural ability to blow past opposing offensive linemen.

“He’s the only 300-pound guy I’ve ever seen do a standing backflip in his pads,” said fellow defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland. “And he can dunk with two hands, which is amazing.”

At 6-foot-6, now 330 pounds, Phillips looks like a tackle. But more than a tackle, he’s an athlete.

Last season, an academic snafu caused the Towanda, Kan., to arrive in Norman a couple of weeks after fall camp had started, ultimately leading him to redshirt. All it took was one practice, however, for Phillips to make his presence known. As the Sooners were warming up, Phillips did a standing backflip in front of the entire team -- forcing position coach Jackie Shipp to do something he never thought he’d have to do: outlaw backflips among his players.

“Coach Shipp was like, ‘Don’t do that no more. That’s too scary,’” McFarland recalled. “But he can do it.”

Shipp hasn’t outlawed dunking, but that could be next. Phillips is maybe the only OU defensive lineman able to throw down a two-handed jam. Despite weighing well over 300 pounds, Phillips, who averaged a double-double his final two seasons of high school, is also one of the best basketball players on the football team.

“I’ve seen him shoot from half court like they’re free throws,” McFarland said. “He’s amazing to watch. He can do whatever, honestly, I believe he could do baseball or swim.”

What the Sooners need most from Phillips is to eventually emerge as a difference-maker up front. The steady trio of Casey Walker, Stacy McGee and McFarland figure to anchor the tackle position for a third straight year. But all three will be gone after this season, which will leave a sizeable void down the middle of the defense.

The Sooners have other promising tackles. Redshirt freshman Marquis Anderson is more of a combo lineman in the mold of David King, able to play either tackle or end. Mid-semester addition Jordan Wade, meanwhile, is an intriguing prospect, though still probably a year away from seriously contributing. Then there are sophomores Damon Williams and Torrea Peterson, who, as McFarland puts it, are both capable of being “low-pad, run-stuffers.”

But none possesses the athletic tool belt Phillips does.

“He has amazing ability to do pretty much anything he wants,” McFarland said. “All he has to do is put his mind to it.”
Even though they didn’t have a dominant player at the position this season, the Sooners didn’t declined to take any defensive tackles in this class

This week, Bob Stoops explained why.

"It's kind of like managing your salary cap,” he said. “We can't have all our scholarships in just defensive tackles. They don't play any special teams. We have eight or nine of them, right? That's four deep if we have eight. No other position is four deep.”

OU returns Jamarkus McFarland, Casey Walker and Stacy McGee from last year’s defense. Jordan Phillips and Marquis Anderson both redshirted. There’s also Damon Williams and Torrea Peterson, assuming he’s allowed back with the team. The Sooners technically added one more defensive tackle in Jordan Wade, who signed last year, but didn’t qualify academically.

“He's all of 6-4, 315, just looks awesome,” Stoops said. “Will need to have a big winter here to get in shape, but he's an excellent athlete. He's added to that group, but again you only get so many spots."


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