Which was met with some confusion. Technically, Will Johnson is sliding into Eric Striker's space-backer role as OU transitions to more of a 3-3-5 defense. So in that sense isn't OU replacing Striker with Johnson and Bond with Obo?The 2016 OU D is essentially replacing Bond with Thomas and Striker with Obo. Is that a net plus or minus?— Ian Boyd (@Ian_A_Boyd) May 16, 2016
However, in terms of function within the defense what I described is essentially what's going to happen. Allow me to explain...
Because they only play three down linemen, the Sooners can bring a fairly wide variety of different fronts and rotations, but their main defense last year was to do this:
They'd also bring some blitzes but they tended to make a lotta use out of Parker's ability to match-up with slot receivers while shielding Thomas from doing more than patrolling deep or occasionally dropping into the box.
Eric Striker = Primary edge-rusher
Devante Bond = +1 defender near the box
Here's what their main defense in 2016 is probably going to look like:
Obo Okoronkwo = Primary edge-rusher
Ahmad Thomas = +1 defender near the box
To answer my own question, I think going from Striker to Okoronkwo is likely to result in a net negative pass rush. We haven't seen Obo yet and the Sooners have some other options that could supplant him in the fall, including any of several incoming options, but that's my sense of it. Striker was a special player.
However I suspect Ahmad Thomas will prove to be a more useful guy hanging around the box than was Devante Bond. No he's probably not going to be as good a pass-rusher but he will likely be better both in coverage and against the run than was Bond.
Additionally, going from having Thomas playing deep in the middle to putting the more rangy Parker back there will also have some benefits for OU.
This line-up would be interesting in some cover 4 configurations but with Will Johnson in the nickel there's not as much value to having a great cover safety over the slot like Parker, who was born to protect other guys with his coverage abilities.
What's more likely is that Parker and Thomas will do an Earl Thomas/Kam Chancellor impersonation with the Sooners relying on the pair of them with Johnson covering up the middle of the field and allowing them to be more aggressive in blitzing all three of their linebackers in the 3-3-5.
They'll need Obo, Jordan Evans, and whoever wins that other job (Tay Evans, I guess) to have some impact on the blitz in order to replace Striker and allow the positives of using Thomas as the +1 defender to outweigh the negatives of replacing Striker.
It could work and the coverage in the middle of the field is likely to be better, which is essential for buying time for the pass-rush to get home.
Now about replacing Zach Sanchez and Sterling Shephard...we'll see.