Justin Hite - Sooners Illustrated

Sooners Illustrated goes through Oklahoma's problems through the non-conference schedule

It is time to let freshman linebacker Caleb Kelly loose.

As Oklahoma heads into its bye week, Sooners Illustrated takes a close look at the roster. The fans, the coaching staff and the players have all been disappointed by the non-conference season and Oklahoma’s resounding failure to perform.

The season, which came with hopes of making the College Football Playoff for the second-straight season, has been reduced to a hopeful Big 12 Championship.

While Oklahoma is off, Sooners Illustrated will take a look at each major position group to figure out what needs to change and what actually will change as OU turns its sights on the Big 12 Championship.




What needs to change?

Let’s get right to it. Will Johnson needs to move back to nickel back, exclusively. He has played well, but he just couldn’t stand up to the physical punishment – specifically from Ohio State. He just was not big enough, and there’s nothing that he could do to fix that. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said this week that he shouldn’t have had Johnson in that game, but he didn’t have the “experience” at SAM linebacker to make the change, which is another problem all together.

It’s time to let Caleb Kelly start.

Stoops said that his linebackers are inexperienced, and it has been a problem this season. When in fact, the starters at linebacker this season have just as much roster experience as the group last year, which was dubbed as an elite group. If we’re talking about game experience that helps build trust with a coaching staff, that’s an entirely different problem and something that needs to change within Stoops.

Jordan Evans has been solid, but he needs to be a better leader – vocally. Emmanuel Beal and Tay Evans have created a nice rotation. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo could definitely be better.

While the conference’s offensive schemes will lend Oklahoma much more nickel than four-linebacker sets, the trust issues with Kapri Doucet and Kelly are some major issues. Kelly was recruited by Oklahoma for three years, and – like Malik Jefferson at Texas – it is time for the Sooners to let the future of the defense loose to learn on the fly – win or lose.

A little bit more aggression in play-calling from Stoops would go a long way to making Oklahoma’s 3-4 function like a normal 3-4 instead of a basic, simple defense.


What will change?

With everything that needs to change, don’t expect anything to do so.

The trust issues need to be ironed out.

In all honesty, Kelly and Johnson should be starting in Big 12 play. Okoronkwo will have a really tough time in coverage against Big 12 offenses, and size won’t make much of a different.

Oklahoma needs to give Kelly a bigger chance. It’s just that simple. The Sooners are hiding their best defensive weapon – no hyperbole here.

Kelly called himself a gamer after the victory against Louisiana-Monroe. It’s time to let him play in games.


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