OU football: Isaiah Thomas', LaRon Stokes' roles could grow with Jalen Redmond's opt-out
NORMAN — A few weeks after OU lost its top returning running back to an opt-out decision, the Sooners appear to have lost one of their top returning pass-rushers.
Defensive tackle Jalen Redmond finalized a decision to opt out over the weekend, according to a report from OUInsider.
While there is a fair amount of depth at Redmond’s spot on the interior of the defensive line, the decision leaves the Sooners without a proven pass-rusher early in the season. Though he only started four games a year ago, Redmond led the Sooners with 6.5 sacks and was third on the team with 11 tackles for loss.
Defensive end Ronnie Perkins, who was second on the team with six sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss a year ago, is expected to serve a suspension of at least four games to start the season in a continuation of the suspension that cost Perkins, running back Rhamondre Stevenson and wide receiver Trejan Bridges the opportunity to play in the Peach Bowl against LSU.
The trio reportedly tested positive for marijuana in the lead-up to the bowl game, leading to an NCAA-mandated suspension.
That means the Sooners will have to play without Perkins in a pair of critical Big 12 games — Oct. 3 at Iowa State and the next weekend against Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
Those two teams have the top returning quarterbacks in the league in the Cyclones’ Brock Purdy and the Longhorns’ Sam Ehlinger.
So the roles of players such as LaRon Stokes, Marcus Stripling and Isaiah Thomas figure to be magnified early on.
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Stokes started 10 games and was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2019, but had just 15 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss with a shared sack.
The senior will be asked to take on more of a role this season, especially as a leader now that Neville Gallimore and Kenneth Murray, two players who took charge of the front seven in recent years, are gone.
“He’s that quiet leader,” defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux said this week. “He’s going to do it by example. He’s just one of those guys that’s never on the list. He’s always where he needs to be on the field.
“He’s just that guy that you know he’s going to get everything done.”
Thomas played nine games in a reserve role last season, though the redshirt junior from Tulsa has yet to become a regular in the rotation.
Sooners coach Lincoln Riley alluded last week that that could change.
“Isaiah Thomas has had a really strong camp,” Riley said. “Very pleased with him.”
Stripling was a regular in the rotation behind Perkins last season as a freshman, playing in all 14 games and sacking Ehlinger in mid-October in the Red River Showdown.
Those two figure to play the majority of the snaps during Perkins’ absence, especially with redshirt freshman Marcus Hicks expected to miss the season following surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
Redmond’s opt-out isn’t a great surprise, given his history with blood clotting issues that first delayed his first appearance as a freshman and then ended his season in 2018 after just three games.
Redmond has dealt with a shoulder issue that has limited his participation since the spring, figuring to keep him out of the early part of the season anyway.
Missouri State at OU
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
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