Oklahoma Sooners grade out highly across the board
Much of the credit for the Oklahoma Sooners’ somewhat improbable late-season run since the loss to Texas has centered around quarterback Baker Mayfield (+44.0). It’s worth noting though that the main reason the Sooners are contending for a College Football Playoff spot is because of how good they are across the board.
Mayfield has a very good wide receiver to throw to in Sterling Shepherd (+24.1), and a quality running game with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon both impressing this year. They also have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, which has really shown against the high-powered offenses in the Big 12.
On the defensive line the standout is defensive end Charles Walker (+26.6), who has flashed impressive pass rushing numbers with six sacks, but really does his best work against the run. He’s totalled 22 defensive stops this year — tied for 24th among all 3-4 defensive ends — while his +19.8 grade against the run comes in sixth. He’s joined at defensive end by Charles Tapper (+16.9), who has been solid against the run but has shown a bit more as a pass rusher. While he’s tied with Walker with six sacks, he’s registered 27 total pressures to Walker’s 18.
At linebacker the star of the show is Eric Striker (+19.6), who has recorded eight sacks, six hits and 21 hurries on his way to the eighth-highest grade amongst all 3-4 outside linebackers. He had his best game of the season against Texas Tech, in a game where he had two sacks and five hurries, and is the Sooners’ best pass-rushing threat.
Just one of the seven Sooners players who have played 150 or more snaps in the defensive backfield has a negative grade, and even then Hatari Byrd (-3.2) hasn’t been terrible. Steven Parker (+12.5) has impressed in the box as a safety, grading well against the run and as a pass rusher. Rushing the passer just 25 times throughout the year, he has registered two sacks, two hits and six hurries. Against the run he has the 28th-highest grade amongst all safeties but perhaps most impressive is his tackling. He has missed just four tackles all season while recording 14 defensive stops.
The Sooners are in the mix for a place in the College Football Playoff, and while Mayfield has been key, they’ll need the big players on their defense to continue to shine over the next few weeks.