The first year was good, but the second year might have been even better for Brian Odom coaching inside linebackers at Oklahoma.
Once considered a sore spot of the defense, the depth is now there. The production is now there, and the recruiting suggests it’s not about to slow down.
Breaking down what they did in 2020 and what you could expect in 2021.
DaShaun White (Jr.)
2020 stats: 38 tackles, 5 TFL, 2.5 sacks
The story: A bit of an uneven season for White. Not a disappointment, but definitely appeared like White was going to be on the cusp of a monster 2020 breakout season. There were reports of him not being exactly 100 percent, which definitely could have played a role. He definitely became of one of the team’s emerging spokesperson, regardless of how you feel about his on-field success.
2021 outlook: Boy, the two-deep at this position feels like night and day from where it was when White arrived in Norman. White could be playing at his best, and it might not matter with all the talent that is now in the room. What that should mean is everybody stays fresh and everybody should absolutely be expected to contribute when their number is called. White will have his chances.
Brian Asamoah (RS Soph.)
2020 stats: 66 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, INT, FF
The story: You could see it coming together for Asamoah. The crazy athletic ability was starting to be combined with a knowledge and understanding of the defense. He couldn’t have asked for more with the way he played in the Cotton Bowl against Florida, with the interception and goal line stop. Felt like he was getting better and better with each game.
2021 outlook: Might be too much to expect a Kenneth Murray-like jump in 2021, but he’s not a bad person to predict as a breakout performer. When you watch him fly around, there’s not a play he cannot make. Again, the depth of the room might make putting up gaudy numbers difficult, but it could lead to some golden opportunities to shine.
Caleb Kelly (RS Sr.)
2020 stats: N/A (injured for 2020 season)
The story: Another season, another disheartening injury for Kelly. A torn ACL this time around ended his season before it had a chance to get going. He’s someone that has played everywhere in this room, and we’ll see what Odom can get out of Kelly at this position. Bigger question will be if his body will allow him to have that one final run?
2021 outlook: It’s a good question. Has been through too much to where his importance on the field is outweighed by what he can do off the field and in the locker room? Kelly has one of those leadership personalities, but will he be able to play up to that level? He’s focused. He’s determined and eager to make the most of that unconventional sixth year.
David Ugwoegbu (Soph.)
2020 stats: 34 tackles, 3 TFL, Sack, INT, Blocked punt
The story: You noticed when Ugwoegbu was in the game. When you think of how many jaw-dropping plays he made, a little shocked the numbers weren’t more than what were posted. Regardless, the move inside worked for him and for OU. Now a full offseason of knowing what his position is going to be, curious to see what sort of transformation he makes.
2021 outlook: This is what you want. He might be too dang good to keep off the field despite the way White and Asamoah play. Ugwoegbu certainly feels like someone who has no ceiling at this point. As he continues to fully grasp the position, all he should do is continue to make the big-time plays. Maybe a little obvious, but another prime contender for breakout performer.
Shane Whitter (Fr.)
2020 stats: 9 tackles, .5 TFL
The story: It was very easy to know when Whitter was on the field because he was so eager to try to make something happen. And a few times, he did just that. You wonder what a normal offseason is going to be able to do for him in terms of conditioning.
2021 outlook: This two-deep might be near impossible to crack, but OU loves to give reps to those who earn it. It’s hard to see Whitter not being one of those guys. You could probably circle 2022 as the Whitter year, but this will be another big year of growth and development.
Danny Stutsman (Fr.)
2020 stats: N/A (high school senior)
2021 outlook: You can hear it in the coaches about how excited they are about Stutsman and don’t give a flip about his three-star ranking. Alex Grinch knows he has something special down the road. Without enrolling early, it’ll take a while for Stustman, and that’s fine.
Bryan Mead (RS Sr.)
2020 stats: 28 tackles, .5 TFL, .5 sack
The story: Continues to add depth to the room and is someone incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to the scheme. Now on scholarship, Mead was someone that could give some of the starters a breather or two for a series and execute everything to the best of his ability.
2021 outlook: Can’t see his role really changing. That group is loaded, and he can still be a mentor for the younger guys, while playing the spot-duty he has during the last two seasons. Mead isn’t gonna wow you, but he’ll be in position and do his job.
Jamal Morris (RS Fr.)
2020 stats: 5 tackles
The story: This one is curious as he enters his third year on campus. Morris made the move from safety to linebacker, but really he has found his niche on special teams. He didn’t get a lot of chances to make his mark, but he had a couple of nice hits.
2021 outlook: Will a traditional offseason make Morris more of a factor at linebacker? Or will his role primarily still be on special teams? If it’s the former, it’s just even more depth at the spot. If it’s the latter, no shame in being one of the guys anchoring those special teams groups.
Waiting in the wings: ILB commit Kobie McKinzie.