The Sooners were in the top 10 in the country in sacks in 2020 with 39. Part of the overall improvement of the defense can clearly be attributed to the ability to sack the quarterback. With new additions, the Sooners are still loaded and could even improve on that total in 2021. Today, we’ll look at the defensive ends in our seventh Oklahoma Sooners spring positional preview.
Oklahoma Sooners Spring Preview: Defensive Ends
Oklahoma only had one loss at the position, but it was a huge one in Ronnie Perkins. Perkins only was able to play in six games last year but made the most of those games. He registered 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in half of a season. There were some prevailing thoughts that Perkins’ desire to win a national championship might win over. But, in the end, he elected to declare for the NFL draft. However, the cupboard is far from bare for the Sooners.
As we talked about in the defensive tackle preview, the return of Jalen Redmond allows for some flexibility on the defensive line. That flexibility will make room for Isaiah Thomas to move outside. Even though it’s not a true addition, for all intents and purposes it could be counted as one. Additionally, perhaps the most ready-to-play true freshman might be Clayton Smith. Smith was the second-ranked WDE in the 2021 recruiting class and had 20 sacks and eight forced fumbles in his senior season.
Marcus Stripling and Reggie Grimes also return to the defensive end spots as well. Stripling had 2.5 sacks in a limited role. Grimes also accounted for a sack as he played in out-of-hand game situations last year. Don’t be surprised to see the Sooners go four to five deep at the end position in 2021 with the wealth of depth they have.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will tinker with the lineup some, but if he does move Thomas outside then he will be the clear starter to begin the game. However, Grinch loves to rotate bodies early and often and that will be no different here. There should be very little difference in the bodies going in and out.
Projected Depth Chart
- Isaiah Thomas
- Marcus Stripling
- Clayton Smith
- Reggie Grimes
In case you missed it
We will be previewing each and every positional unit on offense and defense over the coming weeks. If you missed anything, we will reference it here.