Saunders, Tapper earn SI's OU honors

OU wide receiver Jalen Saunders

The grades have been given and Sooners Illustrated concludes its two-week series with awards for the OU players and coaches.

The grades have been given, but now it's time for Sooners Illustrated to names its players of the year for Oklahoma. It wasn't easy.

Offense

A couple of real good choices, but in the end the honor goes to Jalen Saunders. Brennan Clay was a close runnerup and Gabe Ikard cannot be left out of the equation, but Saunders brought that certain hold your breath feeling every time he touched the ball.

Saunders led the team in receiving with 61 catches for 729 yards and eight touchdowns. And of course you cannot discount what he did on special teams with two punt returns for touchdowns during the final month of the season.

In his final game, Saunders delivered with a two-touchdown outing to help the Sooners in the 45-31 upset victory against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Defense

The strongest push imaginable was made by Eric Striker and his three-sack outing against the Crimson Tide, but Sooners Illustrated loves what it saw from defensive end Charles Tapper.

When Tapper was healthy and allowed to be the freak of an athlete he is, it was a sight to see. Examples are running down TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin in the open field and tracking down Alabama's Amari Cooper 50 yards down the field.

He finished with 49 tackles, 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss and should be a force to be reckoned with as a junior.

Special teams

What more can you say about kicker Michael Hunnicutt? So good that he became known as "Moneycutt" during the season.

He was about as automatic as they come this season, hitting 24 of 27 field goals and 47 of 48 extra points. When it mattered most, he drained a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 against Alabama.

And oh yea, there is that fake field goal touchdown reception he had at Oklahoma State as well.

Coach

Absolute tossup on this one between linebackers coach Tim Kish and defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

Tough to decide, but ultimately going with Montgomery because of how incredibly bright the future is at the position and how great of a job he did in transitioning the defense to a 3-man front.

From Tapper to Geneo Grissom to Chuka Ndulue to beats like Jordan Wade and Jordan Phillips to developing kids like Matt Dimon and Charles Walker, the defensive line is going to be a lot of fun to watch going forward.

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