Oklahoma Sooners: Rashod Favors

During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 29 Rashod Favors, defensive end, 6-foot-1, 253 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Favors' impact has been minimal during his first four years on campus and featured a position change. After a redshirt season in 2010, he played in one game in 2011 as a linebacker. ... In 2012, he had the lone production of his career with 10 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, in nine games played. ... In 2013, he played in 12 games, largely in a special teams role. He’s played in 22 career games with zero starts heading into his final season in crimson and cream.

Impact in 2014: Expect Favors to play a similar role to 2013 when he saw spot duty on defense and played a special teams role. He should be a contributor but it would be a surprise if he earns a start this fall.

Long term upside: He’s a contributor, not a game changer, but his experience could prove useful as a senior.

Evaluation grade for Favors: D. He’s a contributor, but entering his senior season without a start drops this grade below average. Favors has played in 22 games as a Sooner, which cannot be overlooked, but more is expected from a Sooners’ signee.

Development grade for Favors: C. Favors flashed some pass-rush ability early in his career but wasn’t moved to the defensive line until his junior season. Yet it’s hard to say he hasn’t gotten opportunities because he has gotten some chances on defense, but other players have simply outperformed him.
The injury bug has hit Norman, Okla. this spring.

Oklahoma will be without several players during its spring game on Saturday but none of the injuries are major.

Nickelback Julian Wilson, defensive lineman Rashod Favors, defensive tackle Quincy Russell, receiver Sterling Shepard, receiver Durron Neal, tight end Blake Bell, guard Adam Shead, tackle Tyrus Thompson, guard Nila Kasitati and guard Tyler Evans will miss the action due to various injuries but none of them require surgery and head coach Bob Stoops said he expects all of them to return after a short hiatus.

Those injuries have opened the door for several young players on the roster.

“They’re getting more snaps and having to step up,” Stoops said.

Here’s a closer look at how those injuries could open up spring game opportunities for several players on the roster.

[+] EnlargeEric Striker
Robin Alam/Icon SMIOLB Eric Striker has been taking some reps at nickelback this spring.
Wilson: The senior has missed the spring anyway, allowing Ahmad Thomas, Eric Striker and others to get the reps at nickelback. Thomas is showing great versatility and carving himself a role on the defense. Striker, a returning All-Big 12 second teamer, will be on the field regardless, it’s just a matter of where. Both guys get the chance to prove they can fill a variety of roles on Saturday.

Favors: Several young defensive ends including Mike Onuoha are showing good upside this spring and Favors' injury gives them more chances to impress in the spring game. Onuoha was right alongside returning Big 12 first teamer Charles Tapper as the future at the position before a shoulder injury forced him to miss his sophomore season while Tapper starred. He could be hungry to prove he could have made a similar impact. Matt Dimon and D.J. Ward are other young defensive ends who could end up providing quality depth this fall.

Russell: This injury hurts Russell in the race to earn playing time in 2014 and opens up additional opportunities for redshirt freshman Charles Walker to show he’s ready to make an impact in the fall. It also gives the opportunity for another redshirt freshman, Matt Romar, to show Walker isn’t the only youngster looking to force his way into the lineup along a veteran defensive line.

Bell: More than anything Bell’s injury robs us of the opportunity to see the Belldozer play tight end before the fall. And, quite frankly, that’s all anyone is going to think about when it comes to Bell’s absence on Saturday. The overriding question about Bell is not if he can win the starting tight end job, it's can he prove to be one of the best 11 players on offense? That answer will define his playing time and it won't come until the fall.

Shepard and Neal: Redshirt freshman Jordan Smallwood, K.J. Young and Dannon Cavil could have lost all right to complain about a lack of opportunities with these injuries. Don’t be surprised if Smallwood is one of the stars of the spring game, Young is silky smooth and Cavil brings a unique size and athleticism to the receiving corps. Sophomores Derrick Woods and Austin Bennett will also get the chance to shine after limited duty as freshmen in 2013.

Offensive line: Injuries have hammered the offensive line throughout the spring, so being thrown into duty in the spring game will be nothing new for guys like tackle Sam Grant, tackle Christian Daimler and guard Kyle Marrs. They’ll get the chance to get a bunch of reps against a deep defensive line and potentially secure a reputation for themselves before a talented group of offensive line signees arrive in the summer looking to rise past them on the Sooners' depth chart.
You’ve seen them while prepping your fantasy football team. Or reading ESPN Insider Chad Ford while getting ready for the NBA Draft. The “tier system” is an effective way of making sense, differentiating and analyzing a cluster of players. Everyone from pro sport general managers to college coaches out on the trail recruiting employ this method.

With this is mind, SoonerNation has parsed out Oklahoma’s roster into 10 separate tiers. Here they are:

Tier 1: The Elite (Guys who could play for almost anyone)

Ranking Oklahoma's position groups 

June, 17, 2013
The last several days, ESPN Insider Phil Steele has been rolling out the rankings of his top individual position units in the country. In that vein, SoonerNation has ranked OU’s position units for the upcoming season, from best to worst:

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During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term impact. Starting with No. 1 Kendal Thompson, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 99 Chaz Nelson.

No. 29 Rashod Favors
Defensive end, 6-foot-1, 262 pounds, junior

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Defensive end Geneo Grissom wants the Oklahoma defensive line to ignite emotions from within opponents this fall.

“I want to make sure, when we step on the field, O-linemen are scared,” Grissom said. “I want our D-line to invoke fear in opposing O-lines.”

[+] EnlargeJordan Phillips
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSophomore Jordan Phillips is entrenched as a starter at defensive tackle for the Sooners. Can he become a star in 2013?
The Sooners' defensive line took some positive steps in that direction during the Red-White spring game at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Defensive linemen accounted for four of the five sacks in the game, including two from defensive tackle Rashod Favors and one apiece from Grissom and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.

“I thought the D-line overall did a really good job,” coach Bob Stoops said. “I thought they got good pressure, and for the most part, playing the run, I thought they did a pretty good job.”

The Sooners' quarterbacks spent a good part of the scrimmage on the run evading pressure, a sign the defensive line is improving.

And in a game that featured 112 total offensive plays, OU’s defensive front limited the big run, with Brennan Clay’s 35-yard scamper ranking as the longest ground gain.

“We did what we had to do,” Grissom said. “You always feel you can get better and do better, but we were completing our assignments and doing what we’re being taught to do.”

The Sooners' defensive line isn’t quite there yet. While OU’s front was disruptive at times, it struggled to get pressure at times and got off to a slow start in the first quarter.

“We still need to develop playmakers up front,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “But I thought they got better as the game went along.”

(Read full post)

NORMAN, Okla. -- As Oklahoma’s defense undergoes a transformation this spring, new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery reiterated the point to junior defensive end Rashod Favors. His words provided a summary of the change in mindset for the Sooners' defensive line this spring.

“I need you to come off the football and knock the line of scrimmage back,” Montgomery told Favors during practice in a "Mic'd Up" video posted at SoonerSports.com. “You’re reading. We’re not playing last year’s defense, you gotta be aggressive.”

[+] EnlargeJerry Montgomery
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMINew defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who recently arrived from Michigan, is hard at work teaching OU's new approach.
Clearly, change is in the air.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has expressed the desire for the Sooners defense to play more aggressively during the second year of his second stint as defensive coordinator in Norman, Okla. And that change is desperately needed after a season in which the Sooners finished No. 70 nationally in sacks per game (1.7), No. 112 nationally in tackles for loss per game (4.3) and No. 80 in turnover margin (minus-0.3).

Last season, the Sooners' defensive line played a two-gap scheme, removing the aggressiveness from their front four while looking to funnel plays to their secondary with safeties Tony Jefferson (119 tackles) and Javon Harris (86 tackles) roaming the defensive backfield and finishing first and second on the team in tackles.

“When you do what we did a year ago, you’re asking guys to take up two gaps and all you’re doing is being a plugger,” Montgomery said. “Your production is going to be down. You’re going to muddy things up, and linebackers come clean it up. That’s what that is made to do.”

This spring, the Sooners' defensive line is adapting to a one-gap scheme, which will allow its defensive linemen to play more aggressively and (hopefully) become more disruptive in opponents’ backfields.

(Read full post)

The Oklahoma Sooners open spring practice this weekend with change in the air. Let's take a closer look.

Schedule: The Sooners begin spring ball Saturday, the first of 15 NCAA-allowed practices. OU will hold its spring game April 13.

What's new: What’s not? Bob Stoops brought in three new assistants, seven defensive starters are gone, and for the first time in six years, the Sooners have a quarterback competition. After back-to-back three-loss seasons, this is lining up to be the most important -- and most intriguing -- spring of the Stoops era in Norman.

All eyes on: The quarterback derby, which will be the dominant storyline of the spring. Junior Blake Bell, sophomore Kendal Thompson and freshman Trevor Knight are all vying to replace four-year starter Landry Jones. Bell is the favorite because of his age and experience in the “Belldozer” package, but insiders around the program believe Knight is capable of unseating him. Whatever happens in the spring, don’t expect a starter to be named. Stoops waited until the fall to declare Sam Bradford his starter in 2007, and figures to do the same here.

New faces: The Sooners welcome four mid-semester enrollees, and all four have a chance to make immediate impacts. Toronto native Josiah St. John, the No. 1 junior-college offensive tackle in the country, figures to be no worse than a key backup. Wide receiver Dannon Cavil, who grew up a Texas fan, has great size and should vie for a rotation spot at outside receiver. Defensively, Ahmad Thomas will be given every opportunity to start at safety, and defensive end D.J. Ward, the top player coming out of the state of Oklahoma, could boost a defensive front that ranked 108th nationally in tackles for loss last season.

Question marks: With only 11 starters back, the Sooners have plenty. On top of the quarterback battle, OU must overhaul virtually the entire defense, with All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin the only returning impact defender. Defensive tackle and back safety are especially tenuous. The Sooners have only three defensive tackles on the roster to practice with at the moment, and no one other than Colvin has a down of experience at back safety. Mike Stoops will have to be creative just to get through the spring, until reinforcements arrive over the summer.

Don’t forget about: Wide receiver Trey Metoyer, who was the star of last spring as a true freshman. Metoyer, however, failed to carry that momentum into the fall, lost his starting job and eventually fell out of the rotation. A new year and new quarterback should re-energize Metoyer, who has all the tools to become a dominant outside receiver.

On the mend: Guards Tyler Evans and Nila Kasitati, who are both coming off season-ending knee injuries. Both, however, are hoping to be at least limited participants in the spring, which would spur them into summer workouts.

Position breakdown: Defensive end 

February, 22, 2013
NORMAN, Okla. -- Nowhere have the Sooners done a better job compiling young talent defensively than at defensive end.

But two questions loom going into the spring. Will that young talent be ready to contribute to a defense in need of impact performers? And how will the Sooners use their defensive ends?

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State of the position: Defensive end 

December, 20, 2012
After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s defensive ends in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the defensive ends on the roster or the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future at the position for Oklahoma. Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one current commitment who could be the future at defensive end.

Next in line: Geneo Grissom. The sophomore’s raw athletic ability and physical gifts were never in question heading into the 2012 season. After injury-filled first two seasons in Norman, Grissom started the season at tight end before moving to defensive end in the middle of the year. He immediately began earning playing time and saw significant action in November. He appears poised to be a core member of OU’s defensive end rotation in 2013.

Keep an eye on: Charles Tapper. His combination of strength and athleticism has impressed teammates since he stepped on campus last summer. The former standout basketball player has just scratched the surface of his upside on the gridiron and will have plenty of opportunities to become a key part of OU’s defense as a sophomore. His development could be a key to the overall production and depth at the position.

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OU position grades: Defensive ends 

December, 19, 2012
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.

GradeHighlights: 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.

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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.

[+] EnlargeDavid King
AP Photo/Mark LambieDavid King, bottom, will return to defensive end after starting two games at defensive tackle.
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.

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One of Oklahoma’s most effective defensive schemes in 2011 was the “Endy” package, which placed four defensive ends on the line simultaneously in obvious passing situations.

With Frank Alexander and David King coming up the middle and Ronnell Lewis and R.J. Washington breaking around the edge, the set was a handful for offenses to deal with.

But with Alexander and Lewis now in the NFL, ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said the Sooners are not in a position at the moment to use the set.

Only King has made a career start at defensive end, and he’s been moved inside to tackle to compensate for the suspension to Stacy McGee. Defensive end starters Washington and sophomore Chuka Ndulue will be making their first starts against UTEP.

Wright, however, didn’t close the door on OU installing it sometime later this season thanks to the rapid development of converted linebacker Rashod Favors and true freshmen Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha.

“We had four guys that could really rush the quarterback, so that was good,” Wright said. “But who knows? Before conference play, we’ve got [several] days plus two games. By that time we may have those young pups ready to go.”

With McGee out, Sooners shuffle D-Line 

August, 17, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- Bob Stoops revealed Friday that defensive tackle Stacy McGee was suspended indefinitely for violating university policy.

McGee had taken hold of the starting three technique while Jamarkus McFarland and Casey Walker rotated in at nose guard. Redshirt freshman Jordan Phillips was backing up McGee.

With McGee out at least a couple of games, OU must do some reshuffling up front.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- It’s clear Mike Stoops wants to get more speed on the field during his first season back in Norman as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.

Cornerbacks have become safeties, safeties have become linebackers and linebackers have become defensive ends. Two of the latter are P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors, two former linebackers who are battling to earn playing time at defensive end.

“P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors are really starting to come on. They’re strong guys who can run pretty good,” defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. “They’re giving us some pretty good depth at that position. Size-wise they aren’t your prototypical defensive ends. You wouldn’t recruit those guys as defensive ends but they’re athletic enough they are going to be able to help us.”

Lindley (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) is a redshirt freshman and Favors (6-1, 250) is a redshirt sophomore.

“They're average as linebackers but you move them to defensive end and they’re pretty fast for defensive ends,” Wright said. “And they’re big enough they can hold their own in there. They’re big enough and strong enough. Rashod is one of the strongest guys on the football team. He’s like second in the bench press, so he’s strong guy who can run.”

With David King, R.J. Washington, Chaz Nelson and freshmen Mike Onuoha and Charles Tapper, the Sooners have six defensive ends battling to earn playing time this fall. For Lindley and Favors, getting familiar with the demands of a new position could be the difference between playing or learning from the sidelines.

“The problem you face is taking two guys who played a different position,” Wright said. “There’s a learning curve. They’re working hard and they’re going to give us some quality depth.”

With the duo contributing to additional depth at defensive end, OU could have the option to bring back their four-defensive end package, a staple of the Sooners' defense on passing downs in 2011.


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