The 2020 season was full of highlight performances from the Oklahoma Sooners. The defense experienced a breakout season in their second year under Alex Grinch’s leadership. At every level of the defense, we witnessed improved play all the way around. One player that saw a huge leap in production from the 2019 season and is poised for another big year is Rush Linebacker (edge rusher) Nik Bonitto.
Bonitto came into the 2020 season with just 3.5 sacks to his resume in 15 games played over the course of his true and redshirt freshmen seasons in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, however, his sack total jumped to nine in 10 games. That averages out to 0.9 sacks per game. For a shortened season, that’s fantastic production rushing the passer. Had the Sooners played their typical 13 games or so, that would project to 11.7 sacks in a season.
It’s no wonder Bonitto was listed among 247Sports’ ranking of College Football’s 10 most feared defensive players. The guy is an absolute beast.
His ability to win with speed and power off the edge, play the run at a high level, and drop into coverage makes Nik Bonitto one of the most dangerous and versatile weapons in college football.
He performed well in the biggest games of the season for the Sooners. Bonitto totaled seven sacks in games against Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State (Big 12 Championship Game), and Florida (Cotton Bowl). The only big game he was kept off the sack ledge was in the first game against Iowa State. But he rebounded to come up with two sacks in the Red River Rivalry game the following week.
Alex Grinch and the Oklahoma Sooners defense will need Nik Bonitto to rise to the occasion as the premier pass rusher in college football. Expectations will continue to rise for Bonitto as the Sooners build off of an improved defensive performance. Now he’s the guy that offensive coordinators will be looking to slow down on the pass rush. As much as defensive football relies on all 11 guys doing their job, teams have to have guys that can take over a game. If the Sooners want to reach their goals of contending for and winning a national championship this season, Nik Bonitto will need to be a big part of it.