- Brandon Chatmon, College Football
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Over the next two weeks, we'll be evaluating who the 10 best players are on every Big 12 roster this spring.
Again, these lists won't include junior college or freshman signees who have yet to arrive on campus. We're only looking at players currently with their teams this spring. These rankings are sure to change, but here's our best assessment for the moment. We continue with the Oklahoma Sooners:
1. LB Eric Striker: The senior linebacker can do it all but really excels as a pass-rusher off the edge. He’s started every game (26 starts) for the Sooners in the past two seasons, recording 15.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss. Striker should be the centerpiece of OU’s defense this fall.
2. WR Sterling Shepard: Few Big 12 receivers could match Shepard’s contributions when he was healthy in 2014. He had five games with 100 receiving yards or more and five games with at least one touchdown in the seven games before his Nov. 1 injury against Iowa State. The Sooners' passing game fell apart without its top target. A healthy Shepard could fight for All-America honors.
3. HB Samaje Perine: The sophomore running back is every defensive back’s nightmare, combining power and speed to earn All-Big 12 first-team honors in 2014. Perine averaged 6.5 yards per carry while rushing for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns. New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will make it a point to get the ball in the hands of the Big 12’s most productive running back.
4. CB Zack Sanchez: The junior’s competitive nature helps separate him from the pack. Sanchez earned All-Big 12 honors while intercepting six passes with 14 passes defensed during his sophomore campaign. Sanchez will be an anchor in the Sooners' secondary this fall.
5. LB Dominique Alexander: The junior had at least seven tackles in 10 of OU’s 13 games in 2014 while earning second-team All-Big 12 honors from the AP. Alexander led the Sooners with 107 tackles while adding 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. The 2015 season should be the best we’ve seen from Alexander with two seasons of experience as a starter heading into the fall. He’s instinctive and athletic.
6. G Nila Kasitati: The senior should be a core member of the Sooners' offensive line after starting 12 games and earning All-Big 12 honorable mention honors in 2014. With OU losing several starters along its offensive front, Kasitati will be even more important in 2015, particularly with his nasty streak setting a tone up front.
7. DE Charles Tapper: He’s coming off an underwhelming junior season after earning All-Big 12 performance as a sophomore in 2013. Tapper’s sacks, tackles for loss and total tackles dropped in 2014 but he has the talent to be a dominant force in OU’s defense during his final season.
8. LB Jordan Evans: Overshadowed by Alexander, Evans was very productive alongside his running mate and fellow junior. Evans finished second on the squad with 93 tackles and headed into the offseason with a goal of gaining weight and getting stronger to handle the demands of playing inside linebacker. He should be even better in 2015.
9. C Ty Darlington: The anchor of OU’s offensive line and one of two returning starters, Darlington will need to solidify himself as a leader on the Sooners' offense, particularly in Riley’s uptempo system. His veteran presence should help whoever wins the starting quarterback spot.
10. RB/KR Alex Ross: He has a proven ability to make big plays with touchdowns as a rusher and kick returner in 2014. Ross’ kick returns against Texas and West Virginia played a critical role in those wins and he flashed his game-breaking ability on offense as well. He has talented ball carriers -- Joe Mixon, Rodney Anderson -- poised to take away some of his opportunities but his proven ability to make big plays should not be overlooked.
Over the next two weeks, we'll be evaluating who the 10 best players are on every Big 12 roster this spring.Again, these lists won't include junior college or freshman signees who have yet to arrive on campus.