The Oklahoma defense will get its most severe test of the 2004 season thus far when they host Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders come to Norman armed with the nations top passing offense, averaging over 400 yards passing a game.
The Sooner front four has been hurt recently with the dismissal of defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek and the apparent I don't care attitude of Mo Dampeer. At defensive end, Calvin Thibodeaux had finally arrived as a key figure before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Now, the Sooners have only three defensive tackles they trust in a rotation and it is the same situation at defensive end. Redshirt freshman Steven Coleman will get a few snaps at defensive tackle and the same goes for Alonzo Dotson at defensive end. Hopefully, they will start to emerge.
With the lack of depth at both defensive tackle and defensive end, the Sooners stars will need to step up and play big. Super senior Dan Cody stopped his preparations long enough to talk to OUInsider.com.
JH: Are you surprised how well Larry Birdine is playing?
DC: "In two-a-days he played really well. He started right then and hasn't stopped. It is not like he has just now made that move. It started back when we started two-a-days. Maybe that was when it all switched on for him."
JH: Are you ready to get some turnovers?
DC: "I was telling somebody the other day that by this time last year when we played Alabama and UCLA we had a couple of picks against Alabama and Bassey returned a fumble for a touchdown against UCLA. Also, against UCLA Tommie (Harris) had a fumble recovery. It is things like that which is definitely separating our defense this year from last year. There is no question that is the difference. We are not really sticking out right now and it is no question that is because of our lack of turnovers."
JH: Is it a lack of effort and intensity?
DC: "No, I don't think so. We have some new faces out there and we just have to get out there and play a bunch of downs. The only way we are going to get better is to let the game keep coming and we will build on it."
JH: Don't you think the lack of turnovers really is a law of average thing?
DC: "There is no question about that. We started off hot last year and then midway through the year got into a drought. The way I see it, our drought is right now and our turnovers will come it is just a matter of time."
JH: Because of your success last year how different are your opponents trying to block you?
DC: "A lot of times they are fanning the guard out with the tackle when they are dropping back in protection. That way that guard can just kick back as far as he wants and he can just run backwards, and then the tackle stays where he is and there is no place for me to run inside. They are also lining up a slot sometimes off the edge or tackle, and he is trying to knock me off my path up the field. Oregon did a lot of slide max protection and that didn't make any difference because they weren't singling anybody out. When a team slides max protects, it doesn't matter who is lining up on the edge — they are just trying to block everybody."
JH: What do you think about Texas Tech?
DC: "They do a lot of different things in the passing game. If you are going to be throwing the ball as much as they do then they should know what to do to neutralize the pass rush a little bit. I think we are looking at them as a fun team to play because we are looking to come up with some turnovers. That is what we are going to do to get this defense back on track. It is not that we are off track or anything, but throwing the ball like they do, I think they have thrown eight picks or something like that. So, obviously, there is opportunity for us to capitalize on that."
JH: They have such wide splits. Will you be lining up in Ada to stay outside their offensive tackle?
DC: "(laughter) No, maybe in Noble. That is just one of the things they do to isolate the pass rush and stuff. The wider the gaps are opens up some of the stuff that we can do inside. We are going to find some ways that we can exploit it, which we do very well every game."
JH: It looks like you will get one-on-one blocking. So, you can shake and bake a little bit or use some of those moves that you do in the inside drills in practice?
DC: "There are some things that are coaches are going to let us do. They are going to give us an opportunity to get after these guys a little bit. There are going to be times when we can't, but for the most part we can get after them. In most of our defensive sets we can do that. We just have to wait our time and take advantage of it when it happens."
Cody says defensive line ready to step up
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