Oklahoma Sooners: Joseph Ibiloye

OU position grades: Linebackers 

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
11:30
AM ET
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 linebacker position.

GradeHighlights: Frank Shannon was one of the stories in the 41-20 win at Texas Tech. Replacing veteran Tom Wort at middle linebacker in the first half, Shannon was a menace on the Red Raider offense, both against the run and covering crossing routes across the middle. With OU leading 24-13, Tech elected to go for it on fourth down with the ball in Sooner territory. But Shannon exploded between blockers on a blitz to sack Seth Doege, giving the Sooners back the ball, and the momentum for good.

Lowlights: This unit had a few. In the beginning of the season, they were exposed covering the pass. Kansas State sealed its win with a completion across Wort for a fourth-quarter first down. Later in the season, Mike Stoops simply abandoned using linebackers altogether, for fear the better pass offenses of the Big 12 would abuse them. All four of OU’s starting defensive backs finished with more tackles than any of the linebackers.
Analyzing the finer points of Oklahoma's 24-19 loss to Kansas State:

• The Sooners nearly suffered another disastrous turnover in the third quarter. As jet back Roy Finch came in front of Landry Jones in motion, Jones took the snap and heaved it Finch’s way. Officials originally ruled the play a fumble and Kansas State recovered deep in OU territory. The replay booth, however, reversed call and gave the Sooners the ball back.

Initially, it looked as though Finch ran the wrong play or wasn’t expecting the ball. But after the game, Bob Stoops said the play was simply mistimed.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIBlake Bell's fumble in the red zone was costly for the Sooners, who had three turnovers vs. Kansas State.
“The timing of it wasn’t what it should have been,” Stoops said. “That’s why we do it the way we do, so if we drop it, it’s an incomplete pass.”

• Landry Jones wasn’t the only QB to commit a costly turnover. OU had the ball on the 1-yard line and was on the verge of taking the lead. But Blake Bell dropped the ball out of the Belldozer snap and Kansas State recovered. Even though the snap was a tad low, Stoops put the blame on Bell for the turnover.

“It hit him in the belly,” Stoops said. “What’s he going to say? He dropped it. You’ve got to catch the ball.”

• The Sooners committed another costly mistake, when Damien Williams’ 65-yard touchdown run was negated by a Justin Brown holding penalty. Brown grabbed the jersey of a Kansas State defensive back, clearing the path for Williams to dash through.

“One of those judgement calls,” Stoops said. “Changes everything.”

Even without the penalty, the touchdown wouldn’t have stood. Replay showed Williams stepped out of bounds well before reaching the end zone.

• Bad decisions and bad execution doomed Oklahoma in its 24-19 loss to Kansas State on Saturday night.

Landry Jones’ fumble gave the Wildcats their first touchdown, Jones’ interception led to the Wildcats second score and Blake Bell’s red-zone fumble erased a eight-play, 54-yard drive in the second quarter.

“It’s just bad football when you turn the football over,” coach Bob Stoops said. “You give up three turnovers and don’t get one, you’re going to lose against a good team every time and that’s how it went.”

Said center Gabe Ikard: “It’s kind of uncharacteristic stuff for us there. We just put the defense in bad spots.”

It’s a scary trend for the Sooners, who turned the ball over 29 times in 2011.

• Even though Oklahoma has put itself behind the eight-ball if the Sooners hope to compete for a Big 12 or even national championship, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knows it’s not time to throw in the towel.

“It is a long season and we have to regroup,” he said. “I don’t think it is anything we can’t fix. I thought our kids competed and played hard. And that’s the bottom line to me.”

Unlike it’s Bedlam loss to Oklahoma State in the regular season finale in 2011, the Sooners competed throughout the entire 60 minutes even though the Wildcats took a double-digit lead with 7:27 left in the game.

“We broke down in a lot of elements in the game but our kids competed,” Stoops said.

• The Sooners made some defensive personnel changes against Kansas State.

Chuka Ndulue and David King got the start at defensive end alongside defensive tackles Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland. Senior defensive end R.J. Washington was the odd man out as the Sooners looked to start an defensive front that could hold up well against the run.

McFarland was the most active Sooner on the defensive front with five tackles including one tackle for loss. King and Ndulue finished with four tackles apiece while Washington and Walker added two tackles.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Oklahoma free safety Tony Jefferson took every snap of Monday’s practice and is expected to play Saturday against Kansas State, head coach Bob Stoops said.

“No more questions about Tony, OK?” Stoops said.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein
Scott Sewell/US PresswireKansas State quarterback Collin Klein ran for 92 yards last year against the Sooners, but he has improved his accuracy throwing the ball this season.
Jefferson suffered a sprained ankle on Sept. 8 against Florida A&M, and sat out practice last week during the Sooners’ open date. His return is a huge boost for an OU defense facing its first true test of the season. The Wildcats are 13th in the country in scoring offense, averaging 46 points per game.

Jefferson was instrumental in the Sooners’ 58-17 dismantling of K-State last season, finishing with a team-high six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Joseph Ibiloye and Aaron Franklin are likely to see more playing time this week with the power-running Wildcats in town.

“I think both of them will get the opportunity to play at little bit at the SAM linebacker position,” linebackers coach Tim Kish said.

The Sooners won’t alter their defense but the Wildcats personnel decisions are likely to put Ibiloye and Franklin on the field more often then they have been in OU’s first two games.

“In their two-back sets, we’ll use a SAM linebacker so we’ll be in our traditional 4-3 look,” linebackers coach Tim Kish said. “When they go to one-back, it’ll be a nickel package, similar to what we’ve done in the past.”

Ibiloye or Franklin will join Tom Wort and Corey Nelson as the Sooners linebackers in the 4-3 defense while nickelback Gabe Lynn will replace the duo in one-back situations.

Rotating Ibiloye and Franklin early in the contest might be the ideal scenario for the OU defense since neither player played extensive snaps against Florida A&M or UTEP. It would allow both players to get comfortable early in the game and keep both players fresh for the fourth quarter when the Wildcats running game could begin to take its toll if it’s a close contest.

• OU tends to play extremely well against ranked teams at Owen Field, often blowing them out, and has never lost to a ranked team at home under Bob Stoops. The Sooners have won 13 of those 14 games by double digits.

Linebacker Corey Nelson believes it is because the Sooners take their game to another level when a nationally-ranked squad visits Norman.

“It’s just a different mindset when you go against ranked teams,” Nelson said. “We just have a hunger to be better than a ranked team because we know they’re going to give us the best they’ve got, so we have to give them the best we’ve got.

“It creates a higher intensity level.”

The Sooners will have to be intense and physical against the Wildcats but they’ll also have to be focused. K-State is detailed and sound with its offensive execution, so one step in the wrong direction can be fatal.

• With Casey Walker’s return, the Sooners are feeling the best they have about their defensive line rotation this season. OU is expected to still be without suspended defensive tackle Stacy McGee. But with Walker back, David King has been able to return to his natural position, defensive end.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

In his first game back as coordinator of the Oklahoma defense, Mike Stoops was pleased with the overall performance. Despite giving up 177 yards on the ground to tailback Nathan Jeffery, the Sooners kept UTEP out of the end zone.

“We had consistent pressure all night,” Stoops said. “Thought we made it very uncomfortable for them.”

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJunior linebacker Tom Wort was satisfied with his performance against UTEP.
Stoops said the “front played awfully well,” despite not having starting tackles Casey Walker (who again wasn’t at practice Monday because of a personal issue) and Stacy McGee, who remains suspended. But Stoops saved most of his praise for the back seven, which didn’t give up a pass for longer than 13 yards.

“The linebackers (Corey Nelson and Tom Wort) are both outstanding players,” he said. “I think (the back seven) can be the strength of this team. Julian Wilson played well (in the dime) -- I’m very pleased with the whole back seven.”

The performance, however, wasn’t perfect. The Sooners allowed UTEP to march down the field on its opening drive before the Miners missed a field goal. Jeffery also broke off a 71-yard run. Stoops, however, put that on the coaching staff and the fact the scheme was rather vanilla.

“That’s the great thing -- we could have dominated the game,” Stoops said. “We went in there with a very limited package and we played well. We can get those things fixed.”

• Because of the change in defensive scheme, some seem to think that middle linebacker Tom Wort had a poor performance. That’s not what the defensive coaching staff thought. Instead they handed him a 93 percent grade -- the highest grade he has ever received wearing an OU uniform.

“I don’t think people understand what ‘Gap Defense’ is,” Wort said. “It’s about playing your gap.”

Under Brent Venables, the Sooners allowed Wort to flow from sideline to sideline making tackles. But in the scheme the Sooners played against UTEP, Wort was responsible for taking on anything in his gap -- leading people watching on TV to think he was getting blocked on every down.

“I’ve heard people saying I can’t get off blocks,” said Wort, who still finished with seven tackles. “But when you’re playing gap, you’re responsible for that gap.”

Weakside linebacker Corey Nelson also graded out in the 90s. Like Wort, Nelson too agreed the new scheme was an adjustment for him.

“It was good, I kind of felt like a role player,” he said. “I didn't make as many plays as I wanted to, but that's how the defense is.

“Me, Tom Wort and Joseph Ibiloye graded out in the high 90s.”

• Senior defensive end R.J. Washington got the first start of his career against UTEP, and performed pretty well. Washington graded out at an 87.

“I got a couple pressures,” he said. “But I got caught upfield (on some of Jeffery's runs). I wasn’t reading the mesh fast enough.”

Washington attributed his over-commitment to rushing the passer to anxiety in making his first start. But he said all of that is correctable going forward.

“I just messed up,” he said. “Wasn’t overly terrible. But not what we need. I can’t be making technique mistakes.”

Washington admitted it was somewhat surreal to be finally starting after four years on the sidelines. It was even more surreal to never come off the field.

“At one point I looked at Chuka (Ndulue) and was like, ‘We’ve been on the field for a long time ...’ ” Washington said. “Last year we rotated people in. I just started thinking, ‘There’s nobody coming.’ But I wasn’t even tired, the work we put in during the winter and the summer led to us being ready for that situation.”

Washington said he played a career-high 62 snaps on Saturday after entering the game with a career best of 34 snaps during his first three seasons.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Film room: Five key plays from OU-UTEP 

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
5:30
PM ET
video
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.

Oklahoma began its 2012 season with a 24-7 victory over UTEP at Sun Bowl Stadium on Saturday night. Some questions were answered and some questions arose while everyone agrees the Sooners have work to do if they plan to compete for a national championship this fall.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

NORMAN, Okla. -- Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson, two players that saw little action last year, figure to be a big part of the Sooners defense in 2012. Lynn has beaten out Wilson for the starting nickelback job, but Wilson is expected to come in as the dime back when the Sooners go to six defensive back sets.

“Julian has been very good. He's gonna play a lot,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Whether he starts or not, he's gonna be rotation with those guys. We really like how he plays. He's done really well.”

Joseph Ibiloye, who has been a nickelback the past three years, is working at weakside linebacker with Corey Nelson. Tony Jefferson, who started nickelback most of last season, is now at free safety.

New defensive coordinator Mike Stoops described what he has looked for in the nickelback position.

"We want somebody that’s big, that’s long and can cover up slot receivers; be athletic enough to run with guys, and be physical to fit the run game," he said. "They need to possess all those types of skills. They’re a little bit of a hybrid between a safety and a corner. They’re a little more athletic than safeties, and maybe not quite as athletic as corners. But they hit like safeties, not like corners.
At the advent of two-a-days, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops lauded Oklahoma’s depth at linebacker. Nothing in the last three weeks has changed his mind. After starters Tom Wort and Corey Nelson, the Sooners have been using seniors Jaydan Bird and Joseph Ibiloye. But the development of sophomores Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin and true freshman Eric Striker has the staff feeling comfortable going three- and four-deep at the position.

[+] EnlargeMike Stoops, Tim Kish
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI First-year assistants Mike Stoops (left) and Tim Kish like their depth at linebacker.
“They're getting a lot of reps right now,” linebackers coach Tim Kish said. “They're making good progress. Neither (Shannon nor Franklin) really has a snap on defense when the lights are on. But they're working really hard as a group.

“We expect them to be game-ready.”

Shannon has been rotating in at middle linebacker, while Franklin and Striker have been working at weak-side.

Kish has been especially bullish on Striker, who will not redshirt this season. At worst, Striker is expected to be a big part of OU’s special teams units.

“He's just a football player,” Kish said. “He's got great instincts out there. He practices a hundred miles an hour. He's got a great attitude towards the game. He's energetic. He has that outwardly passion for the game. Where I've got maybe some quiet guys in the group, that maybe are a little more reserved that way, he's kind of loud. I think that makes him stand out with the rest of the guys.

“He just lacks experience right now. He's kind of swimming, which is to be expected of any freshman playing his position. It'll come around for him. He'll have a special teams role in the beginning, and we'll keep developing him as a linebacker. You never know how fast things can change. There will be a time during the fall where the light will really come on and he'll start seeing the pieces fit together.”

Updating Oklahoma's position battles 

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
2:00
PM ET
With the season opener rapidly approaching, it’s the perfect time to look at the results of the key position battles that made Oklahoma’s preseason camp intriguing. Some jobs were won years ago (i.e. starting quarterback Landry Jones) while others were won (tight end) this week. Here’s a look at some of the key position battles, where they stood heading into preseason camp and where they stand now.

BACKUP QUARTERBACK

Then: Drew Allen and Blake Bell were in a competitive battle to earn the No. 2 quarterback position as camp opened. Allen, a junior, won the position in 2011 and was Landry Jones' backup for the entire season even as Bell carved out a role in OU’s “Belldozer” package. Allen and Bell battled in the spring without a winner before summer workouts began.

Now: Coach Bob Stoops named Bell the No. 2 quarterback this week as the sophomore signal caller raised his level of play and proved to the coaching staff that he could run OU’s offense smoothly.

[+] EnlargeJustin Brown
Tim Heitman/US PresswirePenn State transfer Justin Brown is a probable starter for the Sooners in 2012.
RUNNING BACK

Then: Returning starter Dominique Whaley was set to return to practice after missing the spring due to a ankle injury suffered in 2011. But questions about Whaley’s healthy meant questions about the position in general.

Now: By all accounts, Whaley has looked good and is poised to be the likely starter and a major contributor. Brennan Clay, who opened the 2011 campaign as the starter, also returns and his consistent play has been lauded by running backs coach Cale Gundy. Expect him to contribute. Newcomer Damien Williams has impressed during his first month in pads and appears to have earned some carries. Expect all three running backs to get touches for the Sooners. OU has not named a starter but Whaley is the favorite to be on the field for the first snap of 2012.

RECEIVER

Then: Kenny Stills and Trey Metoyer were generally considered to be the Sooners' top two receivers at the end of July. OU needed a No. 3 receiver and had several talented newcomers poised to battle for the spot.

Now: Senior Justin Brown decided to transfer to OU from Penn State in early August after the Nittany Lions were hit with NCAA sanctions. Brown didn’t waste time, learning the offense quickly, proving himself to be one of the Sooners top pass catchers and displaying quiet leadership for OU’s young wideouts. Stills, Metoyer and Brown are considered the Sooners top three receivers with Stills playing in the slot.

TIGHT END

Then: Heading into preseason camp, the Sooners had no idea who would be their starting tight end. Brannon Green and Taylor McNamara, two newcomers, were battling for the spot.

Now: Bob Stoops said Geneo Grissom is on track to be the Sooners starter at tight end this week. Grissom requested a move to tight end over the summer and he has displayed the size and athleticism that made him one of the nation’s top recruits out of high school. He’s relatively new to the position but he’s one of the best athletes on the team and he will be a matchup nightmare if he continues to pick up the position quickly. Green, a junior, and McNamara, a true freshman, should provide depth.

LEFT TACKLE

Then: Lane Johnson, OU’s lone returning starter at tackle, and Tyrus Thompson were battling for the starting left tackle position. Thompson, a sophomore, surprised many by starting the spring game ahead of Johnson.

Now: Johnson is likely to start at left tackle according to tight ends/tackles coach Bruce Kittle this week. Johnson, who started at right tackle in 2011, will be OU’s main “swing” tackle regardless, which means the senior will move to right tackle at times this season with Thompson playing left tackle under that scenario. Regardless OU has three quality tackles they expect to play with Johnson, Thompson and Daryl Williams, a sophomore who locked down the right tackle spot in the spring.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Our official list of the Big 12's top 25 players entering the 2012 season marches on. Here's more on my criteria for who makes it, who doesn't and who lands where.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day leading up to the season.

Next up on the list:

No. 13: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma

2011 numbers: Made 74 tackles (52 solo) and had 7.5 tackles for loss. Picked off four passes and made 4.5 sacks. Also forced a fumble and broke up three passes.

Most recent ranking: Jefferson was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Jefferson: No. 13 on this list feels low for Jefferson when it comes to total talent, but for Jefferson the production has to be there too. I expect that to be the case this year, and for Jefferson to make his case as a top 10 player, if not a contender for Defensive Player of the Year.

Why? He's moving back to his more natural position under new coordinator Mike Stoops. Jefferson will be patrolling the free safety spot instead of spending so much time at the nickel back spot. Teammates know that's where Jefferson's strength lies, and we'll see it on display this year. The Sooners have a solid replacement for him at nickel back in Joseph Ibiloye, and the Sooners move arguably their most talented defender to the spot where help is needed most.

The back of the defense was exposed far too often last season, and on big stages. Jefferson's move should plug that up, and give him more freedom to roam where he's far more comfortable. Jefferson shared the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Award in 2010, but was relatively quiet last season. Three of his four interceptions came on consecutive possessions against Ball State.

This year, I hope you're not expecting the 5-foot-11, 212-pound California native to stay quiet for long.

The rest of the list:
NORMAN, Okla. -- Two years ago, Bob Stoops called weak-side linebacker Corey Nelson the defensive MVP of the spring. But this past spring, Nelson was anything but. He didn’t even start the spring game, despite the graduation of Travis Lewis.

[+] EnlargeCorey Nelson
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesCorey Nelson is battling Joseph Ibiloye for the starting job at weakside linebacker.
But this fall apparently has been a different story for Nelson.

“In the spring, he was a little bit out of whack I thought, just lot of things going on with his life at that time,” said linebackers coach Tim Kish. “Now he seems to be settling down, I think he’s more focused this fall, which he needed to be. He’s providing us with some leadership out there, but he needs to keep improving like everybody else. We’re looking for him to be a leader out there.”

The Sooners have several promising prospects at linebacker. Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin have turned a corner in the last year. Kish already has said that true freshman Eric Striker won’t redshirt and contribute on special teams. Compared to them, Nelson is experienced. But he has only 11 career starts.

“Him and (Tom) Wort and Joe (Ibiloye) are really the only ones with linebacker experience,” Kish said. “And Corey doesn’t have that much. When you look at it, you have really only one returning starter in Tom. Like I said, we just got to develop that position. Competition has been good in there. We have to raise our game every day.”
NORMAN, Okla. -- Much has been made of Oklahoma’s offensive freshmen, like receivers Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard and running back Alex Ross. But a few freshmen defenders are making waves through the first week of practice, including outside linebacker Erik Striker.

Linebackers coach Tim Kish said Tuesday he has “no intentions” of redshirting Striker.

“He’s a tough, physical player; has good football instincts,” Kish said. “We’re definitely utilizing him right now on special teams and work him in there and keep developing him as an outside linebacker.”

Striker is working in at weak-side linebacker behind Corey Nelson, Joe Ibiloye and Aaron Franklin. Striker won’t see much playing time at linebacker this season. But on special teams, he could make an immediate impact.

“That guy is something special,” Nelson said. “A great player who is very fast, very instinctive and so full of life. To have him on the team is amazing, I look forward to him playing this season. He’s one of those guys you need to look out for, because he’s a playmaker.”

Striker was a terrific defender in high school and excelled close to the line of scrimmage and on blitzes, so it seems like a natural fit to move him to linebacker. His seemingly smooth transition to college linebacker has been one of the top developments of camp thus far.

Opening camp: Oklahoma Sooners

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
1:15
PM ET
Camp is open up in Norman. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

Next up: Oklahoma

Media's predicted finish: First.

Biggest story line: Is Oklahoma, fresh off a disappointing end to 2011, good enough to bounce back and ascend back into the BCS in 2012 as Big 12 champs? The Sooners are the favorites, and have a decent shot at winning a national title if they stay healthy. This year, they don't have to deal with the crushing pressure of the preseason No. 1 and the expectation of a national title. Even QB Landry Jones admitted to me this preseason that wins last year felt mostly like relief, the calm after holding their breath for 60 minutes. This year should be much more relaxing, with wins feeling more like accomplishments. Will the results show up on the field?

Biggest question mark: Receivers. There's tons of potential here, especially with the addition of Penn State transfer Justin Brown, who'll contribute on punt returns, too. Kenny Stills returns, but offseason suspensions means Brown and Stills will be the only Sooners on the roster who have played a down of college football when the season begins. Trey Metoyer looks likely to emerge as an impact player, but he's got to prove it. Can Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal get in the mix while Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks sit out with multiple game suspensions?

Biggest addition: Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is in after nearly a decade in charge of the Arizona program. He'll coach the defensive backs and replace Brent Venables, who left for Clemson after being forced into a co-defensive coordinator role with Stoops.

Who needs to step up: The rest of the offensive line. Oklahoma's camp has gotten off to an awful start. Center Ben Habern left football after lingering neck and back issues, and guard Tyler Evans is out with a torn ACL. That's a pair of three-year starters. Guard Gabe Ikard, the team's most talented lineman, is moving to center, but the Sooners are officially strapped for depth. It's time for junior Bronson Irwin to slide into Evans' spot, and he'll have to be great if OU is going to win another Big 12 or national title.

On the mend: Dominique Whaley. The Sooners' RB suffered a nasty broken ankle last season against Kansas State, but he's back and ready to compete with Roy Finch and Brennan Clay for carries in a crowded backfield.

Don't forget about: S Tony Jefferson. He's moving from the nickel back spot (Joe Ibiloye is expected to take over) back to free safety across from Javon Harris as strong safety, but don't be surprised if Jefferson makes a run at the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award by season's end. He's got the physical talent and his instincts are almost unmatched in this league. At a more natural spot, could he emerge as an All-American, or more?

Practice Report: Stoops praises Brown 

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
1:30
PM ET
Wide receiver Justin Brown spoke with the media for the first time since transferring from Penn State. Brown flew in to Norman on Monday night, and was on the practice field Tuesday. Even though he wasn’t in pads with the rest of the team, Bob Stoops praised Brown effusively.

“He looked very impressive,” Stoops said. “I said to (wide receivers coach Jay) Norvell, ‘Wow, he going to be special here.’ ”

Stoops also said that Brown “absolutely” would return punts this season, and called him one of the top 10 punt returners in the country in 2011.

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerJunior linebacker Tom Wort has been fighting through various ailments during preseason practice.
Brown said it was “difficult” to leave his teammates at Penn State, but he’s excited to be at a tradition-rich school like OU with a quarterback who can sling the ball like Landry Jones. You could tell that Brown is fired up to play with a QB with Jones’ arm.

Per NCAA rules, Brown will be in shorts and shirts again tomorrow, then will be able to put on the pads.

More on Brown later.

• LB coach Tim Kish said that Tom Wort is less than 100 percent – not a good sign considering the Sooners have been in pads only a couple of days. Wort is battling an array of injuries, including to his back, shoulder and ankle – all injuries that Wort has dealt with in the past. Kish said he’s giving Jaydan Bird equal reps to try and keep Wort as fresh as possible.

Wort has been terrific when he has been healthy. He dominated the game against Florida State last season. But too often, Wort hasn’t been 100 percent. It’s looking like he might have to play hurt this season.

Right now, Kish is working Wort, Bird, Frank Shannon and Caleb Gastulem at middle linebacker, and Corey Nelson, Joe Iblioye, Aaron Franklin and true freshman Erik Striker at outside linebacker. Kish said that Striker would not be redshirting this season, and could play a lot of special teams. “He’s tough, physical,” Kish said.

• Bobby Jack Wright noted that seniors David King and R.J. Washington are having “a heck of a camp” so far. “I’m really pleased with them,” Wright said. But most of today’s discussion dealt with the younger players.

Wright said that Chuka Ndulue "has separated himself" as the clear No. 3 defensive end behind starters Washington and King. Ndulue came on late in the season last year and clearly applied himself in the offseason. He's relatively new to football but the Sooners feel really good about his upside and he seems to be starting to realize some of that potential.

Wright also said he wants to play true freshmen Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha. In talking with Wright, Washington and others, those two are among the most talented players at the position. Even more impressive for Tapper, he didn’t even work out with the Sooners over the summer. Clearly, both guys have talent, so it will be the little things that decide if they play themselves out of a redshirt season. Either way, the future is bright at defensive end.

Wright also had glowing things to say about P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors, who have moved to end from linebacker. He said the move had to do with their speed -- it's average for linebackers but excellent for defensive ends. He likes what they bring to the table.

It's pretty clear that Lindley, Favors and junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson are battling to be the Sooners No. 4 defensive end, but Tapper and Onuoha have the ability to make a run. The overall depth at the position is looking pretty good right now. Especially for a team replacing two NFL draft picks.

Aaron Colvin is pumped about his return to cornerback. It's the position he prefers to play and he said it feels more natural at that spot. He did note that he will do whatever is asked. In other words, he's not digging his heels in about remaining at the position. But he wants to be a corner. Said he wishes his teammates still referred to “Colvin Island,” which they termed when Colvin played the position as a freshman. He wants the one-on-one challenge.

Colvin is a difference maker at any position he plays. Don't be surprised if he joins Demontre Hurst to battle Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown and Texas' Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs for the right to be called the Big 12's top cornerback duo. This is a great year in the Big 12 for corners.

• Colvin, like pretty much every other Sooner who has been asked, had glowing things to say about Sterling Shepard. "He's the real deal," Colvin said.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SoonerNation writer Jake Trotter chatted with readers on Monday about Oklahoma football and recruiting. Here's the full transcript. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to Jake's mailbag.

Here are a few highlights from the chat:

Trent (Blanchard): Which player from last year's roster do you see making the biggest jump in production this season on both sides of the ball?

Jake Trotter: I could see Brennan Clay becoming a bigger factor on the offense. They trust him. He doesn't have Finch's explosion, but he's sound across the board. Defensively, R.J. Washington is the one to watch. He could/should finish out as the team's sack leader.

Kevin (Reno, NV): Will Gabe Lynn have any impact in Sooner uniform? Or will the former 5-star prospect only be using up a scholarship during his career in Norman?

Jake Trotter: Right now, I'd say Lynn is the third safety, behind two guys that might be gone in 2013. So no, Lynn's days are not done, and I think the Mike Stoops change of scenery could do wonders for him and his confidence.

Ryan (Dallas): Should our LB be an area of concern? Tom Wort seems a little prone to injury, while Corey Nelson and Joe Ibiloye don't have a lot of experience, especially in this new defense.

Jake Trotter: Area of concern? No. But will it be the strength of the team? Probably not. Wort is injury prone, but Jaydan Bird has proven to be a reliable backup. I don't think Corey Nelson is the player he was getting hyped as two springs ago, but he can still be a very effective Big 12 LB.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Will Jordan Wade or Jordan Phillips emerge for OU this season and give the Sooners a big body to clog the middle and stop the run?

Jake Trotter: Wade is probably still a year way. But Phillips could really help, and is a potential future star.

Over 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 they arrived on campus, their potential impact this fall and their long-term impact in the daily series. Starting with No. 1 Tony Jefferson, the series will go in numerical order until our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 5 Joseph Ibiloye
Linebacker, 6-foot-3, 219 pounds


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Making Sense Of The Big 12 Race
It's a tangled mess at the top of the Big 12 standings. Danny Kanell and Adam Rittenberg try and make sense of it and see which team has the best chance of emerging as the champion.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video