In 2022, linebacker depth was a major issue for the Sooners. Danny Stutsman, DaShaun White, and David Ugweogbu each played over 900 snaps, with Stutsman approaching 1,000 in his first year as a starter.
The talent was there to provide Oklahoma with depth at linebacker. It was just young and inexperienced. The Sooners had freshmen four-star linebackers Jaren Kanak, Kobie McKinzie, and Kip Lewis on the roster, but they didn’t play a ton last year. Like a lot of the defense, it was a matter of getting comfortable in their understanding of what Brent Venables and the defensive staff were asking them to do.
In 2023, those young backers are making an impact for the Oklahoma Sooners defense. Jaren Kanak has started all year. With Danny Stutsman out vs. Oklahoma State, Kip Lewis earned the first start of his career and had an incredible day.
He had 15 total tackles to lead the Sooners defense. According to Pro Football Focus, he had five stops in the game to bring his total to 16 on just 205 snaps. That’s a stop every 12.8 snaps. Compare that to Danny Stutsman, who has a stop every 13.6 snaps, and Jaren Kanak, who has a stop every 23 snaps.
Oklahoma's stop leaders per Pro Football Focus
Danny Stutsman: 34 (462 snaps)
Jaren Kanak: 21 (502 snaps)
Kip Lewis: 16 (205 snaps!!!)
Dasan McCullough 16 (218 snaps!!!)
Billy Bowman 16 (537 snaps)
A "stop" takes down and distance into account and can be an INT, PBU, sack, TKL.
— Locked On Sooners Podcast (@LockedOnSooners) November 9, 2023
Lewis’ quickness, reaction time, and diagnostic ability have stood out all season. Whether it was as part of the goalline stand against the Texas Longhorns or in a rotational role, Lewis has made the most out of every opportunity he’s earned.
And after the way he performed in his start against Oklahoma State, more opportunities should be coming his way. Against West Virginia on Saturday, the Sooners will need Kip Lewis and the rest of the defense to continue playing at a high level against the Mountaineers’ No. 7 rushing attack.