Oklahoma’s Big 12 campaign gets underway under the lights Saturday night in what should be a competitive matchup. Oklahoma and Kansas State two have played each other fairly close over the last few years. Kansas State comes into the game on the heels of a loss while Oklahoma straps their pads up following a dismantling of their longtime rivals, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In recent years, Kansas State felt like a lock to push the Sooners to the brink. While that remains a possibility, if Oklahoma can take care of things on the defensive side of the ball, they’ll put themselves in a much better position to win on Saturday.
There are a handful of Oklahoma players that could play a significant role in propelling this defense to victory. Take a look at our five defensive players to watch heading into the matchup with the Wildcats.
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker DaShaun White (23) celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
This game seems tailor-made for the versatility the Cheetah position provides in Brent Venables’ defensive scheme. The position itself allows the defense to deploy multiple personnel groupings to combat a variety of offensive looks.
This week, Kansas State will use Deuce Vaughn all over the field to find favorable matchups for the small but impactful running back. DaShaun White, Justin Harrington, and Jaren Kanak will see the field in a myriad of ways as they look to bottle Vaughn up while also providing quality coverage in the short and intermediate areas of the field.
Jeffery Johnson, NT
Oklahoma’s Jeffery Johnson (77) celebrates during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Oklahoma won 45-13. Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
The transfer from Tulane has been a disruptive force in the middle of the Oklahoma Sooners’ defensive line. Kansas State was awful in short-yardage runs against Tulane’s defense. Johnson has the chance to push this K-State offensive line around, disrupt their running game, and force quarterback Adrian Martinez into some bad decisions.
Ethan Downs, DE
Sep 10, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Ethan Downs (40) in action during the game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into the start of week four of college football, only one defensive lineman in the big 12 was more highly rated than Ethan Downs, and that player is Felix Anudike-Uzomah who will be lining up in this game for Kansas State. Downs, a native Oklahoman been rock steady opposite Reggie Grimes and already has tallied 2.5 sacks this year. He will have a tough assignment against left tackle KT Leveston and right tackle Christian Duffie. It’ll be a significant step up for Downs but if Downs can set the edge and help bring pressure off the edge he’d be a significant boost to his defense.
Woodi Washington, CB
Woodi Washington (0) is pictured at University of Oklahoma media day on OU campus in Norman on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. Nathan J Fish/The Oklahoman / USA TODAY NETWORK
Woodi Washington has been thriving in this new defense. He share with the media recently about being able to play aggressively and even blitz as a corner. That’s something he said seldom happened under Alex Grinch.
Washington’s name hasn’t been called much when on the field, which is a great sign for any cornerback.
The numbers on K-State’s receivers don’t jump out at you, but they have guys in Malik Knowles and Phillip Brooks that can provide some problems in the passing game. Brooks led the team last year with 543 receiving yards and 43 receptions.
Jaren Kanak, LB
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Jaren Kanak (7) chases Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Casey Thompson (11) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The uber-talented freshman linebacker is finding his stride. And yet, his coaches believe he still doesn’t even know what he’s doing when he’s out there. That’s a scary thought for opposing offense.
Jaren Kanak is a player, and we’ve all been witnesses. He’s eating blocks and still finding ways to pressure the quarterback. He can tackle in space, create turnovers, and much more. What will he add to the Oklahoma defense this week?
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