April 24, 2006

Top Performers

Now that spring is over we're going to take a look at which areas of the team head into next season on a positive note. Instead of individual players, we're ranking each of the units from top to bottom. What will be the areas of strength for the 2006 football team and where are the major concerns? SoonerScoop.com gives a breakdown of who's hot and who's not.

1. DEFENSIVE ENDS

The defensive end position is the strongest area of the Sooner football team. The Sooners don't just boast three players who could start for any team in the Big 12, they boast three defensive ends who could all be considered preseason All Big 12 candidates.

It is almost embarrassing when you think of how talented Oklahoma will be at the position barring any injuries. Larry Birdine is still the headliner, but he can be a more productive player. But NFL scouts could actually be torn on whether Birdine or C.J. Ah You is the better pro prospect.

Ah You has great size and speed. His production last season was capped off by a Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP award. Calvin Thibodeaux is the most overlooked star on the Sooner defense as his numbers even bested Ah You's in 2005.

Add John Williams and Alonzo Dotson back into the mix this fall and this Sooner team will have five players fighting for a spot on the field next fall. Fans should also factor in Auston English as he was one of the most improved players of the spring. He should be in line for a redshirt to make up for his lost year in 2005.

2. LINEBACKERS

The linebackers were a strength of the spring as Rufus Alexander was exceptional during scrimmage situations, but Brent Venables is also trying to develop his leadership skills as the most decorated veteran on the defense. Zach Latimer should return to full strength this fall.

Ryan Reynolds made great progress during the spring, but he'll be sidelined next season with a major knee injury suffered just after spring practices. Demarrio Pleasant actually stepped in and played very well over the last two weeks of spring workouts. He should partner very well with Alexander and Latimer next fall.

Curtis Lofton and Lamont Robinson also had promising springs. They are one injury or one year away from making their own marks on this OU defense.

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