State of the program: Defensive tackle

After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s defensive tackles in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the defensive tackles on the roster or the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future at the position for Oklahoma. Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one current commitment who could be the future at defensive tackle.

Next in line: Jordan Phillips. The redshirt freshman will be the lone returning rotation player at defensive tackle for the Sooners in 2013. Phillips has wowed teammates with his sheer athleticism but is just starting to translate his potential into production. Even though he started seeing consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season, OU needs Phillips to make a major jump forward heading into next season.

Keep an eye on: Jordan Wade. Another player with some unique skills, Wade needs to seize the opportunity to become a major contributor in OU’s defense. Teammates single out his strength as one of his biggest assets and say he’s improved during his redshirt season in 2012. OU badly needs Wade to step up in 2013 and he has a physical ability to be a impact player as a redshirt freshman but will need to continue to develop if he's going to make a significant impact.

On the trail: Quincy Russell. If Russell doesn’t step into the defensive tackle rotation immediately it will be a surprise. The junior college signee brings size and strength allowing him to hold his ground in the middle, which should make Russell a good fit in OU’s defense. His signing could allow some of the younger defensive tackles to continue to develop without being thrown into the fire before they are ready.

Summary: Things are looking much better at the defensive tackle spot on Christmas than they did heading into December. Russell is signed and poised to help immediately while Wade and Phillips impressed in bowl practices. Nonetheless, OU has very little experience returning at the position and undoubtedly will have to deal with the growing pains of inexperience early in 2013. But there is some talented young players with upside on the roster.