NORMAN, Okla. — As the lone returning starter in Oklahoma's linebacking corps, Jordan Evans recognizes the position is the question mark for the No. 3-ranked Sooners, but the senior is confident it won't be a question mark for long with the development of young players.

"We lost most of the guys (Eric Striker, Devante Bond and Dominique Alexander) but don't question my guys," Evans said. "They are here for a reason. I've seen them play and seen them grow a lot. They have been stepping up and working hard in camp. They will be ready for the first game."

Highly touted freshman Caleb Kelly is "a nice-looking athlete who still has a lot of growing room," Evans said. "From what I'm seeing, he's making a lot of plays and looks natural out there."

Redshirt junior Ogbonnia Okoronkwo "can be a playmaker," Evans said. "When you see him play, you can see what I'm talking about."

Sophomore Tay Evans (no relationship) is a "very smart player," Jordan Evans said. "As a freshman, you could see that he was picking it up pretty quickly."

Tay Evans has caught Jordan Evans "off guard" at times with his knowledge and instincts.

"He's way above his years," Jordan Evans said. "He's a big kid [6-foot-2, 242 pounds] who can run and he's smart. I'm expecting big things out of him. He's done a lot in practice."

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The elder Evans is now literally the senior spokesman, instead of Striker, the All-American. He said the important thing for the linebackers is to be on the same page.

"I'm obviously taking more of a leadership role," Evans said about his role on the team, "but there are a lot of guys — Ahmad Thomas, Steven Parker and Charles Walker — who are doing as much leading as I am when it's needed."

That leadership may be needed in a hurry with the Sooners facing two national powers — Houston (Sept. 3) and Ohio State (Sept. 17) — in the first three weeks of the season.

"We obviously know what's in front of us," Thomas said. "It's a great opportunity. It gives us more of an edge and more of a drive because we know we have to be ready Game 1. Things were more intense in the summer. At the end of the day, though, we have to get us right before anything else."

Both the Cougars and Buckeyes have dual-threat quarterbacks in Greg Ward Jr. (1,108 yards rushing and 2,828 yards passing) and J.T. Barrett (992 yards passing and 682 yards rushing), respectively. OU should be well-prepared for both with Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray running the scout team and facing Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield in practice.

"You always have to be aware of where they are," Jordan Evans said. "You see a lot of dual-threats in the Big 12. It's definitely going to help."

Evans admits to being a Virginia Tech fan as a youngster but said he has always bled crimson and cream. That's at least due in part to the fact that he grew up in Norman and that his father, Scott Evans, was a former defensive tackle and three-time All-Big Eight selection at Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Jordan Evans (26) says this year’s defensive unit will be full of playmakers.
Matthew Emmons | USA TODAY Sports Images
Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Jordan Evans (26) says this year’s defensive unit will be full of playmakers.

Jordan Evans said that coming from Norman has made his career "more special," a career that has seen him start for two years and receive a second-team All-Big 12 honor a year ago. "It's cool. I don't think I've taken the time to look at it because it's happen so fast. It's been fun experience."

It was "cool" growing up with a dad who played for the Sooners, Evans said. He even watched his father's highlight tapes.

"But I didn't come here because of that and he knows that," Evans said. "Now that I'm here, there are some things he has shared with me about his experiences at OU that I can relate to now because I'm going through it. He's helped me a bunch."

"I've always said I was better than he was," Evans said with a laugh. "He would say I was better, but I know I need to come out and make more great plays to say that. Remember, we played two different positions."

A year ago Evans had 49 unassisted and 34 assisted tackles, including five tackles for losses and one quarterback sack. He also recovered a fumble.

"I have my own personal goals," Evans said. "There are personal goals for a reason."

At Norman North, Evans returned four kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns as a senior. He smiled when asked if he would want to return kicks again.

"I wish,'' he said with a chuckle. "We need to tell Bob [head coach Stoops] to take a poll to see who should be returning kicks. I hope I would win."

Evans has seen the Sooners win a Sugar Bowl (over Alabama as a freshman) and a Big 12 title as a junior. He is excited about 2016.

"The sky is the limit for us," he said. "Every guy is hungry to get back to where we were last year and finish on a better note [11-2, losing to Clemson 37-17 in the Orange Bowl and national semifinal]."

This article was written by Bruce Campbell from Enid News & Eagle, Okla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.