Why Oklahoma’s Defensive Line Might Surprise the SEC.

Oklahoma’s defensive line might become the highlight of the team as they transition to the SEC.

“Many of our guys have made significant progress,” head coach Brent Venables said after OU’s Spring Game in April. “Davon Sears earned the most improved award, and Gracen Halton, PJ Adebawore, and R Mason Thomas have all shown great improvement.

“Ethan Downs is a better player now than at the end of last season, where he had an all-conference caliber year.”

Ethan Downs, a second-team All-Big 12 selection last year, led the team with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He emphasized the need for continued growth but is optimistic about the defensive line’s direction.

“Getting stronger, bigger, faster, and improving our stunts has enhanced our game,” Downs said. “We have strong chemistry on the D-Line, and I’ve earned their trust. It’s up to me to hold them accountable and lead them through the offseason and into the season.”

A key factor in the defensive line’s spring success has been the simplified scheme introduced by first-year co-defensive coordinator Zac Alley, who has made a significant impact with his leadership and straightforward defensive strategy. Venables instructed Alley to keep it simple during the spring game.

“Defensively, I told Alley to run a naked blitz with just one blitz and a couple of coverages,” Venables said. “This approach kept things basic, allowing players to focus on fundamentals and identify areas needing improvement. Overall, from January to now, they’ve been outstanding.”

Linebacker Danny Stutsman also praised Alley’s defense.

“At the end of the day, it simplifies things,” Stutsman said. “The calls are basic, allowing defensive linemen to focus on playing football and winning one-on-one battles.

“The defensive ends are particularly impressive,” Stutsman added. “DT Terry will be a key player for us. Despite losing Jacob Lacey, the younger guys are ready to step up. We have a solid squad.”

The post-spring solution for the D-Line came in the form of transfer Damonic Williams from TCU, who is expected to fill Lacey’s role. Williams, an honorable mention in the Big 12 last year, recorded 33 tackles and three sacks. Lacey had to retire this spring due to recurring blood clots.

The youth of the group will keep the defensive linemen competitive and rested. Five-star recruit David Stone and four-star recruit Jayden Jackson both had impressive spring performances, each weighing in at over 300 pounds.

“David Stone and Jayden Jackson are exceptional,” Downs said. “They’re talented, disciplined, and have adapted quickly, especially Jayden.”

Edge rushers Nigel Smith and Danny Okoye also show promise as fan favorites. Both were four-star recruits.

“Danny has had a great spring since arriving in January,” Venables said. “He has tremendous talent, size, and speed. Although he still has a lot to learn, he has shown consistent improvement and competitiveness. He’s smart, and as he continues to learn, it will benefit the team.”