How will the Oklahoma Sooners use their defensive line versus Tulane?

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·3 min read
How will the Oklahoma Sooners use their defensive line versus Tulane?
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Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch gave the media a peek behind the curtain before the Oklahoma Sooners released their first official depth chart for Saturday’s season opener versus Tulane.

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With the hierarchy at defensive end firmly established behind Isaiah Thomas, here’s how Alex Grinch may substitute the rest of his defensive front.

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How might Alex Grinch deploy the rush linebackers?

(Credit: OU Athletics)

Rush Linebacker

Nik Bonitto is the tip of the spear at the rush linebacker position. The pass-rushing specialist earned nine sacks last season with a pressure rate of 25.7 per Pro Football Focus. But Bonitto cannot play every defensive snap, and behind him is a strong tandem in Marcus Stripling and Caleb Kelly.

Kelly is a fifth-year senior and team captain who rejoins the Sooners after opting out of last season’s campaign. In 2019, he was forced to redshirt after suffering an injury in spring practice. His return in a full-time capacity gives Alex Grinch a leader on the field who can help stabilize the defense.

Marcus Stripling is expected to share a bulk of the reserve snaps with Kelly. But the 6-3, 243-pound edge-rusher has the frame necessary to play traditional defensive end if needed.

What’s the rotation look like at defensive tackle?

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Defensive Tackle

Currently, Jalen Redmond and Josh Ellison are jockeying for the top of the defensive tackle depth chart. Ellison’s steady performance in 2020 has earned him the benefit of the doubt, and he will likely feature in short-yardage situations.

That being said, Sooners fans are genuinely excited about what Jalen Redmond brings to this football team. Although he opted out of the 2020 campaign, his 6.5 sacks were the most on the team the year before. Redmond’s ability to generate pressure from the defensive interior could be devastating to opposing quarterbacks.

He could (and should) play whenever the opponents find themselves behind the chains.

Who will factor into the nose guard rotation with Perrion Winfrey?

AP Photo/Brandon Wade

Nose Guard

Jordan Kelley and Kori Roberson showed growth in 2020, and both are expected to get snaps behind starting nose guard Perrion Winfrey. Kelley recorded nine tackles, two tackles for loss, and a half-sack last season. Roberson notched 12 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a sack in his first full season of play.

The interior of the defensive line could see heavy substitutions versus Tulane. Both Kelley and Roberson will relieve each other as well as Isaiah Coe to keep everyone fresh.

List

Top 10 returning Oklahoma Sooners on defense according to PFF