3 Oklahoma Sooners defensive players to watch vs. Iowa State

·5 min read

Oklahoma’s final home game of the season sees the Sooners welcoming in Iowa State. It’s a team that OU is very familiar with.

These two teams met twice last season. The first matchup in Ames was a 37-30 Cyclones’ victory before Oklahoma avenged that loss with a 27-21 win in the Big 12 championship game.

“Get a chance to close it out here with an outstanding Iowa State team coming to town. A team obviously we’ve had a lot of great battles with over the years. Several years back and then obviously even here as of late. Certainly a team and a coaching staff and a group of players that we have the upmost respect for and we know it’ll be a heck of a battle here on Saturday,” Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley said.

Many of the same faces are who the Sooners will need to shut down against Iowa State. That includes senior quarterback Brock Purdy, junior running back Breece Hall, redshirt senior tight end Charlie Kolar and senior wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson.

How does OU get that accomplished? Let’s look at three Sooners that need to play well.

Up Next: It All Starts Up Front

Perrion Winfrey, DL

Time is running out for senior defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey to turn this season into one that Oklahoma fans will remember as a dominant one.

Maybe there were unrealistic expectations for Winfrey entering the 2021 season. If Oklahoma fans were expecting something that came within shouting distance of former Sooner greats Tommie Harris or Gerald McCoy, Winfrey’s production this season has been well short of that.

In fact, two of the past three games for Winfrey have just been flat-out rough. According to Pro Football Focus, Winfrey was the Sooners’ lowest-graded tackler against both Kansas and Baylor. The Maywood, Ill., native earned the lowest overall defensive grade against the Jayhawks and the fourth-lowest against the Bears.

Hall is one of the best running backs OU has seen this season. It would be a big lift to Oklahoma’s linebackers if Winfrey could consistently get a push in the run game. Of course, any quarterback hurries or sacks on Purdy would go a long way toward the Sooners bouncing back into the win column as well.

Up Next: Can he go back to back?

Brian Asamoah, LB

Slowing down Iowa State starts with keeping Hall in check in the run game. That means Oklahoma’s linebackers need a big day.

Senior linebacker DaShaun White missed the Baylor game and it’s not for certain that he will return against the Cyclones. That means potentially even more responsibility for junior linebacker Brian Asamoah.

Asamoah was one of the bright spots against Baylor. The Columbus, Ohio, product finished with a team-high 10 tackles and also 1.5 tackles for loss.

With White possibly out of the lineup again, Asamoah needs that good performance against Baylor to turn into a second great one against Iowa State.

Collectively, missed tackles has been an issue for the Sooners’ defense. Asamoah likes what he’s seen from his unit entering Saturday.

“Definitely see improvement in our tackling. We tackle every Tuesday and Wednesday. We play the game twice a week. We’re going to go out there and just continue to tackle. That’s something that we’ve done our entire lives. New running back, but we’re just going to go out there and just compete again and do what we do on defense and making tackles and getting them down,” Asamoah said.

Up Next: Can he bounce back?

Key Lawrence, S

This seems like a big week for the sophomore defensive back. Against Kansas, Lawrence played safety and was Oklahoma’s best defender as he racked up a team-high eight tackles against the Jayhawks.

He followed that performance up by shifting over to cornerback versus Texas Tech and recorded a pair of pass breakups and seven more tackles.

Lawrence was back at cornerback against Baylor and it didn’t go as well. He was beaten on the Bears’ first touchdown of the day as Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gerry Bohanon.

Still, Lawrence has been one of the Sooners’ best defensive backs over the past month of the season. With cornerback Woodi Washington back in the fold and having played his first game back against the Bears, there’s a chance to move Lawrence back to safety or perhaps the nickel back position.

If that’s the case, he should get a lengthy look at defending Kolar.

“Charlie’s especially tough because just his ability to run really crisp routes. You watch him run and you don’t appreciate how big he is. You get on the field with him and a big human that can in a lot of ways kind of runs and gets in and out of cuts like a wide out. You combine that with that big frame, the hands he has, the experience he has. He’s a tremendous player,” Riley said of defending Kolar.

That will be the most difficult matchup Iowa State presents in the passing game. Lawrence will get a crack at it and the Sooners need him to deliver.

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5 Oklahoma Sooners that could really use a bounce back performance against the Iowa State Cyclones