Defensive end trio proves they’re ready to take over for the Oklahoma Sooners

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In back-to-back draft classes, the Oklahoma Sooners lost their arguably their best pass rushers in Ronnie Perkins and Nik Bonitto. Although, in 2020, one could make the argument that Bonitto was the Oklahoma Sooners’ best pass rusher that season too. Throw in Isaiah Thomas and the Sooners have lost a ton of production over the last couple of seasons.

The loss of Oklahoma’s standout edge duo in Bonitto and Thomas created arguably the biggest question mark heading into the 2022 offseason for the Sooners. Who was going to step up to replace the 14 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss that Bonitto and Thomas were taking to the NFL?

In December, we got the short answer to that question. Ethan Downs, Reggie Grimes, and Marcus Stripling harrassed Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown into a combined three sacks. Not bad for their first extended run of the season. After playing rotational rolls in 2021, they got the opportunity to show what they could do. Their performance provided optimism that the Sooners’ pass rush would be in good hands without Bonitto and Thomas.

On Saturday, in Oklahoma’s spring game, that trio showed that they’re more than ready to bring the heat, getting to Oklahoma quarterbacks often, creating pressure, and were credited with five sacks and 10 total tackles. Marcus Stripling led the way with five tackles, two sacks, and four tackles for loss. Ethan Downs had four tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss. Reggie Grimes only had one tackle but registered a sack as well.

While they weren’t able to tackle the quarterbacks, the pressure was evident. Even if some of the “sacks” wouldn’t have been in a real game, their pressure hurried throws, made players bail from the pocket, and kept the offenses struggling to get any momentum going.

That’s a great sign for a Sooners defense that’s having to replace six starters heading into 2022. Whoever ends up “starting” at defensive end for the Sooners, the entire trio of Ethan Downs, Reggie Grimes, and Marcus Stripling are going to have a significant impact in 2022.

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