NORMAN, Okla. - One player on Oklahoma's defense who hasn't gotten the recognition deserving of his production is end Jeremy Beal.
Sure, Beal was a second-team All-Big 12 selection a year ago, but he was in the shadows of players such as Texas' Brian Orakpo and teammate Auston English most of last season.
But heading into 2009, Beal could be a breakout force after logging nine sacks a year ago.
"I expect him to be an All-American," defensive ends coach Chris Wilson said. "That's his expectation and I have the same expectation."
Beal's All-America candidacy will likely be boosted by the ways OU plans to use the former high school linebacker next season.
Beal was already a part of a special goal-line package the Sooners incorporated into their game plan last season. Beal served as a stand-up linebacker in certain situations, and Wilson said that role is expected to expand.
"He gives us a lot of versatility," he said. "Being a former linebacker he can drop, he can rush off the edge, he can get into run fits and play 'backer for us sometimes. He'll be a guy that we'll form some really neat packages around as we get ready to go into the fall."
The defensive end position will be deep once again for the Sooners. English, a 2008 preseason defensive player of the year candidate, should return to full strength next season. English missed several games after undergoing an emergency appendectomy before the start of the '08 season. Then he suffered a leg injury against Nebraska that limited his availability the rest of the year.
But there are no concerns about English's production after a down year last season.
"I can say this without a doubt that he's our starter," Wilson said. "Unless something tragic happens he'll be the guy that starts our first game at BYU."
Frank Alexander also returns as he'll try and build on an impressive redshirt freshman season in '08. This spring has been a springboard for Alexander to develop at the position.
There are high expectations for Alexander as spring practice is winding down.
"He's been doing everything on his competitive nature and his athleticism," Wilson said. "We've got to get him more disciplined and more technically sound and more fundamentally sound. Those are the things, when you get down to it, are the things that let you beat Texas or Florida and obviously that's our goal every year."
Former five-star defensive end R.J. Washington is also vying for playing time. As of today, he wouldn't be in the Sooners' four-man rotation. That fourth spot would belong to David King.
"David King's really matured a lot. Obviously they're as raw as you can get right now, but David's improved and I really like his upside," Wilson said.
Washington has the type of talent coaches dream of putting on the field. But right now, King is doing the little things on a more consistent basis. Wilson sees Washington's situation as a chance for motivation this summer.
"That's the thing that really has to motivate those guys all summer," Wilson said. "We'll list them, we'll rank them and they'll know exactly where they are and what the expectations are going into the summer."