Sooners defense continues makeover

News and notes from the defensive side of the ball for Oklahoma.

Defensive end Chuka Ndulue joked Tuesday that the defense was actually in its third year under the new scheme.

Last year was Year 1.

Spring was Year 2.

And Fall camp is Year 3.

His math might be a little off or his definition of a year at the very least, but his comments prove that the Oklahoma defense is settling in to its new schemes under defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

“We have a better feel for it every time because of some of the looks the offense is giving us,” Ndulue said. “If we practice against someone who knows what we are doing, then we can take what they are telling us and practice at a high level and succeed. We’ll feel pretty confident going in to games.”

There are plenty of questions still yet to be answered.

Stoops said that the front line is as expected and that Jordan Phillips has looked great – although in limited time because of precautions. Phillips didn’t practice twice a day during two-a-days, which ended Wednesday.

There’s been no mention of Zack Sanchez, which is a good thing. Three players (Hatari Byrd, Steven Parker and Ahmad) have been competing at free safety. Julian Wilson appears settled into the opposite corner spot, Jordan Thomas has surprised many by stepping in behind Wilson.

Quentin Hayes has been working at safety and nickel.

Stoops was confident in replacing Frank Shannon should he not play, although he did not comment directly on Shannon. Stoops did say that the Sooners are four deep at middle linebacker: Jordan Evans and Dominqiue Alexander to start with freshman Tay Evans playing well and Caleb Gastelum returning to the team and doing a “nice job.”

“It’s like anything,” Stoops said of preparing with the uncertainty of Frank Shannon. “We coach the players that are there. That’s pretty much how it goes. All we can control is the players that are on the field. That’s all the control we ever have. That’s all we do. We coach the players that are there. There are guys that are hurt week in and week out. The next guy available has to come up and do the job. It’s just how it goes.”

But there are still minor tweaks to be done. Linebacker Geneo Grissom is still learning his new position – with a few tips from middle linebacker Dominique Alexander every once in a while. JuCo transfer Devante Bond is going through the same transition.

“It’s unnatural for them,” Stoops said of defensive linemen becoming linebackers. “…When your hand is on the ground, all you are worried about is the guy in front of you and the guy next to you. You have to process so many different things because the defense can continually change and his responsibility changes. When you’ve got one responsibility as a lineman and one technique, that’s all you can play. As a linebacker, it changes based on formation and calls. It’s a lot more to process.”

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