Kicking it Into Fast Gear

It's no secret when the Sooners have been good offensively this year.

When they have upped the tempo, the offense has flowed.

Simple as that.

And it all starts with the big boys up front and their conditioning, something center Ben Habern attributes way back to months before the season started.

"I mean, it really comes down to starting in the summer and getting everybody in shape because, I mean, you have to be in shape to run our offense because, I mean, it's tempo," Habern said. "It's fast. It's, you know, trying to get as many plays as possible, and so in the summer, I mean, we focused on definitely getting into shape. And then in two-a-days, I mean, really our focus was getting it even faster."

OU hasn't been near the top in the NCAA offensively--they rank 40th in total offense--but when they have excelled it's been due to their ability to speed up the game.

"That helps tremendously because the defensive line can't get set," Habern said. "You know, they don't know their calls. They don't know what to do, and I mean it's proven on tape that you can tell we kind of gash defenses a couple times when they're not set, they're looking over [to the sideline] or whatever."

Using this uptempo style of offense wasn't quite as effective last year because, quite honestly, the Sooners didn't have the personnel to do so.

Along with the injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, the offensive line was inexperienced and battled some injuries of its own.

This time around, it's a different story.

"Last week in practice one day, I don't know why, I was looking at the line stretching and I started counting numbers because I don't remember that many bodies being in that group before because remember last year at the bowl game there was seven of them," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "It was like, ‘Where's everybody? Where's the rest of the litter out there, you know?'

"And the other day I was like, ‘Wow, there's a bunch.' I counted, I think I got to 18. I was like, ‘Wow.' That's, you know, counting some young walk-on guys that are helping us."

Indeed, the depth has been a major factor in wearing teams out.

"The rotation is what keeps us fresh and makes us be able to play as hard as we can," said left guard Gabe Ikard. "So, knowing that you might have the next set off lets you maybe not take a play off or so, lets you go as hard as you possibly can to block the other people and I think the rotation's probably the best thing we've got going, keeping guys fresh."

Without it, the uptempo style wouldn't be possible.

"With as fast as we play and as big as we are, we got to rotate some linemen, or else we're going to get too tired," Ikard said. "It would be a long day [without it]. There would be some tired people."

And if it's hard to believe this tempo is truly wearing teams out, there's verification.

"There's defensive linemen from other teams after the game [that] are like, ‘How do you guys play like that?' How do you guys play so fast?'" Ikard said. "[And it's] because we're running all over the field, we're zoning right, and then the next play we're running across the field to the left. It's just we put in the time in the summer and we just the way that we practice extremely uptempo as well, so we're just physically fit, I guess, for linemen, but the rotation is key."

If the offense can clean some things up, the nation's 90th ranked rushing attack will be able to move up the charts along with the 17th ranked passing attack to solidify what can really be a solid uptempo style for the remainder of the season.

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