Captain Obvious says Oklahoma has to improve on defense in order to even start to being considered a contender for the Big 12 championship once again.
That’s the easy part. The hard part becomes how to do just that because there is no easy answer. And in talking to OU coaches and players this spring, it’s clear there is no easy answer.
If you’re going to do something in one area of the defense, you’re going to sacrifice yourself in another area. Go big up front to stop the run, susceptible to the pass. Go with nickel, dime packages in the secondary, could lose that physicality up front.
The word du jour of spring for OU was multiple. The Sooners want to be multiple in what they do. That could mean 3-man fronts, could mean 4-man fronts. And could mean big question marks for how the Sooners can use their outside linebackers.
“They would have to be like a Clay Matthews guy,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “They would have to be an edge or an inside guy. They’re hybrid kind of guys. They can do a lot of different things if you keep them on the edge. You just have to ask those guys to do what they do well.”
In other words, multiple is going to mean a variety of things. But what it means in the end is OU is going to find its 11 best players on defense. The question is going to be who are they?
*DL Charles Tapper
*DL Charles Walker
*DL Matthew Romar
*LB Eric Striker
*LB Devante Bond
*LB Frank Shannon
*LB Jordan Evans
*DB Zack Sanchez
*DB Jordan Thomas
*DB Ahmad Thomas
*DB Steven Parker
*DB Hatari Byrd
*DB Will Johnson
That’s 15 guys right there. That’s not including if guys like Jordan Wade or Ogbonnia Okoronkwo make the leap or if any of the incoming freshmen (Neville Gallimore, Ricky DeBerry, etc.) prove to be too good to keep off the field.
Something’s gotta give.
“For us, getting our best 11 players on the field is the first thing you do as a coach trying to build a defense that puts your best players on the field,” Stoops said. “That’s what we battle with constantly. You have a guy like Steven Parker. Do you take a guy like Devante Bond off? Devante and Striker are two of a kind in some elements.
“You don’t want to soften your defense at the risk of getting faster, too. There’s a constant maneuver of players trying to get in position to do what they do best.
“Playing Steven at some places gives us some flexibility. Playing with Striker and playing with Devante, they are two of our best players. Devante Bond can play. He’s a tremendous football player.
“You have to have balance in your defense or it does you no good. Trying to maneuver those guys around and get them into a four-man front and the best positions is something that we’re working with. There’s some pluses and certainly some minuses.”
It’s going to be up to Stoops to figure out the answers and to make sure there is not a repeat of 2014 in Norman.