2014 Red/White Game | What To Watch For | LBs & RBs

Image via theadvocate.com

Okay, I had hoped to have this out sooner (no pun intended) today, but my head feels like a speed bag right now.  It’s been a barrage of meetings, more meetings, and “did you get the e mail on that meeting we’re having?”  Seriously though, I’m glad I can sit down for a minute and knock this out.

What I want to talk about today is the linebacker and running back groups.  When you look at both groups as a whole, they both kind of mirror each other.  You have a lot of talent coming back at both positions, but besides Eric Striker, and maybe Dominique Alexander, there really aren’t a whole lot of household names.  Keith Ford made some noise last year, as did Frank Shannon, but overall both groups still have to take that next step to become dominant.

From a linebacker perspective, it starts and ends with Striker.  Either you got it or you don’t sometimes and as an edge rusher, Striker has it in droves.  In the Alabama game, he singlehandedly dropped Cyrus Kouandijo’s draft status by half a round.  What was scary about Eric’s year is that most of the teams we played schemed against him.  However, now has has picked up a couple of ‘partners in crime’ this offseason in Devante Bond and Curtis Bolton.

We won’t see the latter this spring, but look out for him in the fall.  Meanwhile, the buzz coming out of practice is that Bond has just been explosive off the edge.  While he may not have grasped the defense completely thus far, Coach Mike is a whiz at getting his guys in the right position to make things happen.  And I have no reason to believe he won’t do the same with Bond.  While we were running with just part of a pass rush last year, in 2014, with the d-line collapsing the pocket from the middle, Striker and Bond get to be (another Goonies quote) the ‘pincers of hell.’

To get us to third and long we’ll see Shannon and Alexander in there, but another player we are extremely high on is Jordan Evans.  Most people don’t realize he was sick for quite a bit of the season and, as a result, lost a lot of weight.  When K had talked to him a while back, he was barely over 200 pounds.  Getting him up to about 220 with his length and mobility will be a mismatch for any offense, and it will allow our defense to be multiple without substitution with him in there.  A guy who can stop the run and cover is rare. So this Saturday, I’m looking for three things from the LB group.

1.      How much have Evans, Alexander and Shannon progressed?

2.      How comfortable does Bond look?  Is he a liability in the run game at this point?  What can he do in long yardage?

3.      How are we using Striker?

I don’t expect Coach Mike to reveal a whole lot about what he’s doing with Striker, but it will definitely be interesting to look for those little clues that might be there.

As for the Running backs, I gotta admit, being an o lineman, I love my RBs.  Among other things, I’m very excited to see Alex Ross.  Talking to a friend of mine who is close to the program, he has constantly raved about what he’s seen and heard from Ross. He is a rare talent with both size and speed.  While he’s been knocked for his maturity to this point, that’s pretty normal for most kids his age.

What I’m looking for Saturday is whether or not he is able to be the guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder, though is also able to keep his emotions in check.  Also, I want to see how sound he is in passing situations. Because we all know that Gundy won’t let you on the field unless you can keep the QBs clean.

Next, I’m looking for Keith Ford.  I absolutely LOVE a guy who runs as violently as he does.  Ford is definitely a grown ass man in both his attitude and toughness.  You don’t see guys very often who run with the speed and power that he does.  Had he been able to hang onto the rock last fall, we would have seen a lot more of him. So, obviously, that is another thing I’m looking for on Saturday.  Like Ross, I’m looking for his pass blocking and blitz pickup skills as well.

Finally, I want to see David Smith.  David is a guy who I’ve heard compared to Chris Brown.  He is a high character, big back, who does everything right from what I’ve heard.  Brown was that guy a few years ago who was highly productive for us, so when you’re looking for a darkhorse to step up and take some snaps in the fall, my money is on Smith.  I want to see how he looks this spring, who comes in the game first, and the rotation of how Gundy uses his backs in general.

Don’t forget about Daniel Brooks either.  If we can get him out in space on some screens like we did Roy Finch (at times), he has speed that can break the back of a defense quickly.

Alright fellas, hopefully that helps and this finds you all well!

  • madbrad

    Joe Mixon recruiting

  • Sooner Ray

    Thanks JY. Hoping more than anything that Ross can get it going in a big way. Watching him in HS had me excited for his future. Since then, been scratching my head.

    • Doobie74OU


    • JY

      He reminds me so much of Eddie George, just with more speed.

  • EasTex

    I’m excited to see all the young players you mentioned.
    I’m still scratching my head over the inexplicable punch Ross threw in the ULM game. Hope to never, ever see him behave like that, his potential is off the charts.
    I have a question, JY. On the Sooners roster there is a RB listed as Leo Luna, 5’9″ 220lbs. I can find nothing on the young man, listed as a freshman. Do you know anything about him?
    As for the LBs, I will be interested to see who all plays, how they do and how they will be utilized. Of course I realize this is Apr and not Aug, so I doubt we will see all that the O and D have been working on.

    • JY

      Lemme find out for u

      • EasTex

        I’m thinking possible walk-on. Nothing on recruiting sites.

    • SoonerKevin

      He looks like Q, He has those huge calf muscles like Q. But much bigger.

      • EasTex

        That’s good to know, but my quandary remains. Was he recruited? Don’t remember his name from signing day. A number of recruiting sites don’t have his name in their search engine. There is no video, nothing in various search engines when I search his name, except for the Soonersports roster page. Is he a walk-on/preferred walk-on? Did he enroll in January?
        I not only want to see him play, I want to know more about this young man from North Cackalacky.

  • Zack

    As far as running backs I would like to see ross and ford get in a rhythm early and then in the second half get brooks and smith in to see those 2 who may not get much time on the field but as you mentioned with brooks he could find himself as the change of pace guy and get a few touches a game.

    • hOUligan

      Spring is for seeing what the young guys can do and working on basics. Am hoping there has been some serious work on tackling. With the OU D having to tackle Ford, Ross, Smith and Brooks the last few weeks, not only do I look for improvement, but it should seem like a vacation to the defenders getting to tackle anyone else next fall.

  • Jason Vos

    I like how everyone is sleeping on LB Obo Okoronkwo. The guy is an absolute beast of a pass rusher and will surprise a lot of ppl. What’s funny is that he was rushing from the inside as a DT a lot in HS, and was still a pass rush demon against those big maulers in the middle. Hate to imagine how easy it be for him rushing from the outside.
    Obo Okoronkwo should not be ignored, he will be a problem for Olinemen come September.

    • Jordan Esco

      I’m excited about both him and Onuoha. Those long, lean type b-ball athletes on the football field.

    • JY

      Yeah, forgot about Obo. Good catch there. He could be a good one.

  • Shifty

    Striker will also have a partner in crime in Geneo…he’s talked about the advantage of going up against tight ends compared to going up against 300lb guys and that it’s a dream for a d end to have his hands up in the two point

  • Bennie Owen

    Been hearing maybe Grissom at LB? could that be right?

    • Jordan Esco

      It is. Something we’ve been talking about here for a couple weeks w/ the practice reports. It sounds like he’s taken well to it, much like Striker has to the nickel back spot. But obviously until we all see it, we’re just going on second-hand info.

  • Norticed you didnt talk about the return game; saw where Coach is going to start Ross and Ford returing kicks. Although I am all for it, arnt we a little thin at RB to throw the only 2 we have into the return game? Shades of DeMarrco worries

    • Zack

      They’re not exactly thin at running back just inexperienced. Come fall they will have 6 running backs who will all want playing time. Coaches will have to figure out how to manufacture touches sometimes and returning kicks is a way to do that. Although I will say michiah quick will probably end up returning kicks at some point. And I don’t like shepherd returning punts I don’t like when your star/best receiver or running back take extra hits.

    • pitbull17

      The thing is Stoops is always going to put the best players on the field. If they’re the 2 best at KR he’s gonna have them out there. He’s always been that way, that’s part of the reason he doesn’t play younger guys earlier in blowouts then most would like to see. He see’s PT as a reward

  • Thomas Lenard

    In the picture above……how many right feet does Irwin have??

    • KellyB

      That’s pretty funny. Bad photoshop?

      • Thomas Lenard

        I really believet here is another OU player on the otherside of the bama DT that has his feet betweent he DT legs (getting pushed over??)….but for some reason my eyes went straight to all those feet.

  • Ed Cotter

    Great stuff JY, thanks for posting it. I am most interested to see how Alex Ross performs. He was lauded last spring for his strength and speed, but we didn’t get to see much of him last fall. I am hopeful that he will be one third of a three headed monster at RB with Ford and Mixon. As for the LBs, I can’t wait to see how electric Bond is in the pass rush. Man, with him and Striker opposing QBs better have their heads on a swivel or they will be taking them off.

    As always TFB is the best place for OU football information. Keep up the great work.

    • JY

      Thanks sir. We could definitely be relentless with how we pound teams and never get anyone tired.

  • ND52

    In the Alabama game, he singlehandedly dropped Cyrus Kouandijo’s draft status by half a round.

    At least 1/2 a round!

  • WilliamJack

    I think everyone is excited to see Ross. Especially those who followed him in HS. He reminds me in a way of Austin Box although on the Offense. Local kid, highly touted, took a while to get on the field. Loved the way Box played 110%. Always like to see the Oklahoma kids succeed in a big way.