On a defensive line full of highly touted young prospects, none made as big of a leap in 2008 as sophomore defensive Jeremy Beal.
After redshirting as a freshman in 2006, Beal wasn't much more than a spot substitute for most of '07. However, after being called into duty late in that season, Beal had a monster game in the Big 12 championship against Missouri. Beal recorded six tackles and his first career sack in the title game, and he spent a good part of the game harassing Mizzou Heisman candidate Chase Daniel into one of his worst performances of the season.
Heading into 2008, Sooner fans expected Beal to provide a nice complement to the Big 12's preseason defensive player of the year, defensive end Auston English. However, as English labored through an assortment of maladies throughout the season, Beal and redshirt defensive end Frank Alexander--who missed five games recuperating from a stab wound--didn't just hold down the fort. The duo formed a formidable pass rushing combo, yielding a combined 12 sacks. Beal accounted for eight and a half of the takedowns, which included two in OU's beatdown of Texas Tech.
In addition to the major increase in sacks, Beal racked up 61 tackles in 2008, up from 21 the previous year. At the end of the year, he garnered a spot on the All-Big 12 second team.
This year, Beal could end up in line for more than just a step up to the conference's first team. If he continues on his current trajectory, Beal may wind up as a first-stringer on the All-American teams.