State of the position: DE/LB hybrid

Eric Striker is a star on the OU defense but the Sooners need to find depth at his position. Robin Alam/Icon SMI

In the next few weeks leading into signing day it’s a great time to take a position-by-position glance at Oklahoma’s returning roster. This series, called State of the Position, will look at the playmakers, up-and-comers, and current commitments or targets at each position for the Sooners as recruiting really heats up during these final weeks before signing day on Feb. 5. On Thursday, we take a closer look at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker position currently manned by Eric Striker.

Starter/contributors: Eric Striker (Jr.)

Striker has been one of the best pass rushers on the team since he stepped on campus in 2012. He was finally unleashed as a sophomore and finished with a team-high 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Striker’s Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, a projected first-round NFL draft pick, will be remembered as his breakout performance, even though he earned second-team All-Big 12 honors for his relentless edge pressure during the regular season. It’s hard to imagine a better situation at the top of the depth chart.

On the cusp: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (RFr.)

Okoronkwo’s signing in February 2013 was the first signal OU was moving to a three-man front. Despite impressing during summer workouts and preseason camp, he ended up redshirting during his first semester. He’s inexperienced but has a ton of talent and should bring some talented depth behind Striker in 2014.

On the recruiting trail: Curtis Bolton (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta)

Much like Okoronkwo, Bolton is a prep defensive end with superb pass rush skills and the versatility to play a hybrid role in OU’s defense. He could end up at several different spots in OU’s defense but the defensive end/linebacker hybrid spot seems ideal for his skill set and it would seem a waste of his pass rush skills to place him anywhere else.

Overall Grade: B+

Striker’s excellence raises this grade above a C because there is very little experience behind him in Okoronkwo and Bolton, although there are other Sooners defenders who can slide into this spot.