Rewind the tape back to October 6th, 2018. The Sooners have just ridden a roller coaster of emotions as Kyler Murray willed the offense up and down the field with a 21-point 4th quarter swing to tie the Red River Showdown with Texas.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s defense let the offense down once again as Sam Ehlinger marched his team right back down the field, and “Dicker the Kicker” booted a 40-yarder down the gut of the uprights as time expired to win the game.
Lincoln Riley made the move and cut ties with his mentor’s brother and long-time defensive coordinator Mike Stoops just a day later.
The defensive scheme was an issue, but a mid-year scheme change by interim-DC, Ruffin McNeill just wasn’t going to happen. The Sooners had to roll with what they had.
The defensive woes continued throughout the season. The offense was historically great behind Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, and the crimson and cream faithful could only dream about what could have been with even a mediocre defense.
Fast forward to present. Insert Alex Grinch, a clean slate and a new “Speed D” scheme (that we will break down in an upcoming post), and you have a recipe for new players to have a breakout season.
To turn OU’s defense around, Grinch needs playmakers to step up. I have picked three young players that I believe will need to have breakout season for Grinch’s defense to be a force helping the Sooners to their 5th straight Big 12 championship, and possibly more.
DaShaun White – ILB
Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, White, a 4-star recruit, was ranked as the 14th-best outside linebacker and 205th overall player in the country. Former Oklahoma inside linebackers’ coach Tim Kish and current head coach Lincoln Riley made White a priority in the 2018 class, and the hard work paid off as he signed with OU over notable offers from Texas A&M, UT, TCU, and Oklahoma State.
Last season, White impressed early in fall camp earning a spot in the rotation at inside linebacker. The true freshman backed 5th-year senior Curtis Bolton who is now with the Green Bay Packers.
Even though he saw sparse playing time with mop-up duty and special teams, his speed and instincts stood out to teammates and coaches. DaShaun totaled 13 tackles throughout the 2018 season, and he is hoping to build on that as he steps into the starting weak-side linebacker role alongside Kenneth Murray.
White’s potential has obviously caught the eye of new inside linebacker’s coach Brian Odom. In an interview with columnist Tyler Palmateer of The Norman Transcript, coach Odom praised White
“A lot of those guys in today’s world are kind of hard to find, because he’s got a nose for the ball, he can see it very, very well from that position, and he’s got the ability to go make a lot of plays.
[White’s] instinctive as anybody I’ve ever been around.”– Brian Odom told The Norman Transcript
I believe his quick, instinctual game translates well playing in the Big 12 against high profile offenses who like to spread out defenses. White will live up to his potential as he delivers production in his sophomore season as a breakout playmaker for OU’s defense.
Delarrin Turner-Yell – SS
Going into the season, the position with the biggest question mark is safety. Oklahoma’s production at the position last season was, to put it nicely, lackluster with injuries plaguing many guys in the back end of the secondary.
Delarrin Turner-Yell hopes to turn the position from an obvious weakness, to a strength.
Turner-Yell played in seven of the Sooners last eight games last season after a lower leg injury kept him out of play for the first six games. He racked up 12 tackles with five coming in the regular season finale versus West Virginia.
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound strong safety is a human wrecking ball. His highlight film from high school shows a dog who’s not afraid to send his body flying with reckless abandoned. This dog mentality has translated with him to OU as teammates call him “Trouble” due to his physicality and speed.
I believe Turner-Yell will solidify himself as a playmaker for the Sooners defending the deep ball as well as helping out in stopping the run. Look for him to wreck some havoc on a few crossing routes this season. Keep your head on a swivel Big 12 receivers. “Trouble” is eager to introduce himself.
Jalen Redmond – DE/OLB
To be successful in any defense, getting pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback is imperative. Last season, the Sooners averaged 2.1 sacks per game which was good for all of 70th overall in the country, and only ahead of three Big 12 teams: Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State.
There were too many defensive problems to address from last season, but a consistent pash rush, or lack thereof, was a major issue for the crimson and cream. The good news is that OU has returning production along the defensive line, and adds in Redshirt Freshman Jalen Redmond into the mix.
Blood clots sidelined Redmond last season for all but three games. He totaled 6 tackles with 5 of those, including 2.5 tackles for loss, coming against Kansas State. In that game, Redmond showed some serious quickness off the ball. At 6-foot-3 and 264 pounds, the big man out of Midwest City, OK can move.
Redmond has been cleared to play by his doctors, and he slowly worked his way back from the health issue this past spring and summer with non-contact drills and conditioning. So far through preseason fall camp, it sounds like Redmond is a full go.
Lincoln Riley spoke about Jalen Redmond on Tuesday saying that health wise, “he’s doing well.”
“You can tell he’s hungry. You know, you can tell he hadn’t been on the field. Not necessarily from a rust standpoint, but just from an effort and desire standpoint.”– Lincoln Riley told the media after practice on Tuesday
It’s a little bit up in the air what Redmond’s official position will be. However, it really doesn’t matter if he is labeled as an outside linebacker or a defensive end, because I’m absolutely positive that his job will be to relentlessly rush the quarterback. In Alex Grinch’s new scheme, Redmond will be utilized in different fronts, blitzes, and stunts.
Oklahoma needs Redmond to unlock his potential as a playmaker to help turn this new, attacking defense into a force in the Big 12. I believe he does just that.