Jalen Redmond symbolizes Oklahoma’s potential defensive fortunes

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It’s been a winding road for redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Jalen Redmond at Oklahoma.

At times, it’s been marked by brilliance. Even his first year on campus Redmond flashed the potential that signaled he would be one of the Sooners’ key defensive contributors of the future.

That was in the 2018 season when the Midwest City product registered five tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss against Kansas State.

So often though, it’s been marked by absence.

That initial freshman season was interrupted and cut short by a health scare. Fears from blood clots meant Redmond only appeared in three games.

In 2019, Redmond was back and starred on an Oklahoma defense that made the jump to No. 17 nationally in third-down conversion defense and that led the Big 12 in total defense in league play.

Redmond racked up a team-high 6.5 sacks and third-best 11 tackles for loss in 2019.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic led to Redmond opting out of the 2020 season. He returned to start 2021 and Oklahoma’s defensive line was being touted as one of the nation’s best in part because of his return.

The Sooners looked the part early this year, too. With Redmond in the fold, Oklahoma collected 13 sacks as a team and 27 tackles for loss over the course of OU’s first three games.

Redmond suffered a knee injury in the Nebraska game, though, which put his health and status moving forward in jeopardy once more.

Without Redmond over the following five weeks, that same OU defense recorded just seven sacks and an identical 27 tackles for loss.

Naturally, his defensive teammates were relieved to see Redmond back last week against Texas Tech.

“They’re two experienced guys. They’re both seniors. Having them back, to a certain extent, they were a part of the backbone of our defense. They’re both leaders in their own respect in their own certain ways,” sophomore cornerback D.J. Graham said of Delarrin Turner-Yell and Redmond’s returns last week.

It was a relief for Redmond, too.

“Right now, I’m feeling good and it was good getting back out there with the guys. I’ve been through a lot since I’ve been here. A lot of injuries and stuff. I try not to let that affect me or my mental state. Other than that, I’m just happy to be back out there,” Redmond said.

Redmond described his time at Oklahoma as a rollercoaster ride thus far. While he’s been one of the Sooners’ best defensive players when healthy, Redmond has played in just 20 games more than halfway through his fourth year on campus.

“It was hard. I have only played in 20 games since I’ve been here, so the majority of my career here I’ve been out, injured. Something happened to me. It’s been really hard. I don’t want to do anything but be out there with those guys and help them. It hurt me to see them struggle, but they came back. Stuff happens. Anybody can go down at any time. That’s the sport we play,” Redmond said.

It’s to be expected in anybody’s first game back from a knee injury, but Redmond felt he was rusty against the Red Raiders.

“In my opinion, I might be hard on myself or whatever, I didn’t feel like I played the game that I could’ve played. I was a little hesitant. That’s all on me. I feel like I could’ve played a lot better and contributed a lot more than I did. Everybody’s got their own opinion, but that’s mine on myself,” Redmond said.

Redmond finished with a pair of tackles against Texas Tech. The 6-foot-2 defensive lineman can remain his own harshest critic, but his teammates understand what Redmond and this defense is capable of as it begins to near full strength.

“We bring the experience. We’ve seen a lot since we’ve been here and I just feel like with us bringing that knowledge into the game it helps the defense out a lot. Just being able to overcommunicate and just tell guys be alert for this, be alert for that. Just having guys being able to be one step ahead of the offense helped us out a lot,” Turner-Yell said of he and Redmond returning.

Redmond remaining healthy is one of the biggest keys the rest of the way for Oklahoma. When he’s been active, it’s been a different defense.

“When the guys come back, it’s a boost. I’m happy to have them back and we’re going to be at full stride,” Graham said.

Oklahoma is in the midst of a bye week and returns to action a week from Saturday when the Sooners travel to Waco to take on the Baylor Bears.

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