Shelby, defensive mates brace for Tech

Senior defensive back Brandon Shelby (pictured above) talks about Saturday's showdown with Texas Tech and his past success against the Red Raiders during his career. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

NORMAN — Brandon Shelby is plenty familiar with the kind of offensive assault Texas Tech is partial to on Saturdays. According to Oklahoma's talented defensive back, the Red Raiders' first option is to throw the ball. Option No. 2 involves throwing it again. And if that doesn't work, coach Mike Leach's team will probably look at some kind of pass play to solve the problem.

Shelby should know — he's turned in some of his best performances against the high-flying Raiders, including a 6-tackle effort in OU's 60-15 two seasons ago. In fact, almost 25 percent of Shelby's career tackles have come against Texas Tech.

The senior from Kansas City, Mo., will be looking to produce more of the same when the Red Raiders invade Memorial Stadium this weekend. Sooners Illustrated editor Jay C. Upchurch sat down with Shelby earlier this week to discuss OU's Big 12 opener and why he's enjoyed so much success against the Lubbock crew.

Sooners Illustrated: Is it fun facing a team like Texas Tech that loves to throw it all over the yard?

Brandon Shelby: It's definitely fun, but it can also pose a lot of problems. You know they are going to throw the ball almost every down, so it's a situation where you've got to be on your game every play. There aren't any breaks. My job is to go out there, try to make some plays and help the team out any way I can.

SI: Do you like the challenge of facing that kind of relentless attack?

Shelby: It's a great challenge, but that's the reason why you play D-I football. It's why you come to a school like Oklahoma — because everyone is going to be giving you their best shot, week in and week out. I'm looking forward to Saturday.

SI: Tech has had bigger name guys in the past, but they've already put up 70 in a game this year. Is their system that good?

Shelby: Their offense is going to stay pretty consistent, especially if you get a quarterback in there capable of making plays. The guy they have now is going to out up numbers because of that system and he has talent. They can strike fast if you don't come to play.

SI: Is more taxing mentally or physically when you are facing a team that likes to put it in the air so often?

Shelby: That's hard to say. It's probably tougher physically because you're on your toes the whole game. You can't relax for a single play, because as soon as you do, that's six points.

SI: You've had success dropping back in coverage and coming in to blitz. Which do you prefer?

Shelby: (smiling) I kind of like both. If you blitz every time, they start honing in on that. It works best when you mix it up and find ways to disguise things, either a blitz or whatever coverage you're in. A lot of my success when I'm blitzing belongs to the defensive line. Those guys take up a lot of space and create problems to the point the offense forgets about me.

SI: What's your take on your role with the Sooners?

Shelby: I can't complain. I don't really have a position etched in stone — I'm more of a utility guy. But as long as I'm on the field contributing in some positive way, I'm happy. Everybody can't be, you know, a superstar. The key is finding out what your role is with the team and then be the best you can be at it. Do the little things and after a while they'll begin to notice. In my mind, I'm just blessed to be a part of a team like this. I've having fun and doing all I and to contribute.

SI: What's your most memorable game at OU?

Shelby: It was probably the game against Texas Tech here two years ago. It was a night game on national TV and we were both ranked real high — just a great atmosphere. It was so electric out there, you could feel the energy of the crowd. (Kliff) Kingsbury was their QB and I just happened to have a good game.

(Three of Shelby's six tackles that night went for losses, including one sack.)

SI: How about a favorite moment?

Shelby: I that same game, we blocked a punt early and I think I had a couple of sacks. Our whole defense was clicking that night, which was really something to watch. That was the most fun I've had during my time here.

SI: You guys are perfect 3-0 so fan this season, even though the defense has probably not played its best.

Shelby: We are consistently working to get better each week. The plan is to make adjustments and work out the kinks, and hopefully be playing your best as the season progresses. Texas Tech is going to test us, and that's fine. We're confident in what we can do as a group and that's how you win games.

SI: Is the key to beating Tech good coverage or applying lots of pressure?

Shelby: You have to have both. Pressure is so important against this type of offense. I don't care who you are, if the quarterback can sit back there all day, he's going to find an open receiver. I'm confident our defensive line will more than do its part Saturday. We'll mix up our coverages and schemes, and hopefully get the job done.


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