Ever since the arrival of Bob Stoops, Oklahoma has been known as a program with a very respectable defense—until 2008, that is.
In 2008, Oklahoma's defense was the poorest it has been in the Stoops era, finishing 68th overall.
Why is that?
Some say it was due to the injury bug. Some say it was due to playing against so many prolific offenses.
When Oklahoma finally got to the BCS Championship game, everyone was talking about how great their offense was and how weak their defense was.
Though Oklahoma did not win the BCS Championship against a very good Florida Gator team, they did show that their defense was better than the “experts” tried to portray them.
After holding the Florida Gators to season lows in points and yards, the Sooner defense looks like they could be once again among the top defenses in 2009.
Coming into the 2009 season, the Sooners return nine defensive starters. The only two positions that need to be filled—both safety positions—are very key in run support as well as pass defense.
Sophomore Sam Proctor and true freshman Javon Harris are battling for the chance to replace Nic Harris.
Proctor is the more experienced of the two, obviously. Redshirted his freshman year, Proctor saw action in every game last season in special teams, racking up a total of 10 special teams tackles and averaging over one tackle per game last season.
At 6'0", 208 pounds, Proctor could be a natural fit at the Strong Safety position.
Harris may lack experience of any kind in the college ranks, but he is not without talent. Harris was ranked as high as the No. 12 safety coming out of high school last year.
When Oklahoma travels to Dallas to take on the Cougars of BYU, look for the defense to look like this:
Defensive ends will be senior Auston English and junior Jeremy Beal.
English had a breakout season in 2007, where he recorded 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and was named to the All-Big 12 first team.
In 2008, English started the first nine games before having to leave the Nebraska game with a sprained knee. He missed the next three games due to this injury.
Beal started his career as a linebacker before moving to the defensive line due to injuries in 2007.
In 2008, Beal led the Sooners with 8.5 sacks and led the entire defensive line in tackles. He was also named to the AP All-Big 12 first team in 2008.
Defensive tackles will be junior Gerald McCoy and junior Adrian Taylor.
McCoy is among the best in the country when it comes to defensive tackles. Named the Defensive Freshman of the Year of the Big 12 in 2007, he was also named to the Freshman All-American team by Sporting News, Rivals, and CollegeFootballNews.com.
McCoy has been a menace to the opposition from his first start, collecting over 49 tackles and 8.5 sacks in his first two seasons.
Taylor started all 14 games as a defensive tackle for the Sooners in 2008 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2007. He has recorded 5.5 total sacks, one interception, and a fumble recovery in his playing career.
Weak side linebacker will be incumbent sophomore Travis Lewis. In 2008, Lewis broke Brian Bosworth's freshman record for tackles in a season with 144 tackles.
He recorded double-digit tackles in six games and tied Bosworth's record of 19 tackles in a single game by a freshman. He was also named the Defensive Newcomer of the Year by the Big 12.
Lewis also finished tied for most interceptions on the team with four.
Middle linebacker will be senior Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds was the leader of the Sooner defense until suffering a season-ending injury against Texas. He has started 19 games for the Sooners, recording over 100 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Strong side linebacker will be senior Keenan Clayton. Originally coming to Oklahoma as a defensive back, Clayton started all 14 games last season at the SAM backer position.
He recorded 82 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss in 2008. He set a record for six forced fumbles on the season, was named to the second team All-Big 12, and recorded the second most passes broken up by a linebacker in OU history with nine.
Field corner will be junior Dominique Franks. Tied with Lewis with four interceptions on the season, Franks is a smothering corner.
Franks broke up 10 passes and returned an interception for a touchdown, as well as a fumble. He's regarded by the coaches as the best shutdown corner on the team.
Boundary corner will be senior Brian Jackson. Jackson was fifth on the team with tackles, compiling 72 a season ago. He also tied with Franks with 10 passes broken up. He finished 2008 with two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Strong safety will be Sam Proctor. As noted before, Proctor brings in good size and speed. Though this will be his first starting assignment while wearing a Sooner uniform, the coaches and players have nothing but good reviews of Proctor.
Free safety will be Quinton Carter. Carter is known on the team as a hard hitter. He started two games in 2008 when the defense went to starting five defensive backs. In his two starts, he recorded 18 total tackles and broke up two passes.
Leading into the 2009 season, the fans of the Oklahoma Sooners have a lot to be enthusiastic about. They return the bulk of their defense and perhaps the best defensive front seven in the country.
Many fans are looking at this defense as potentially the best in the Stoops Era.
If the BCS title game was any indication of what this defense is capable of, then 2009 is promising to be a very special season for the Oklahoma Sooners.