Pelini says corners ready to step up

Sooner secondary coach Bo Pelini talks about the loss of Antonio Perkins and Kansas State. Junior cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha (pictured above) will start in Perkins' spot Saturday against the Wildcats.(AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

OU Co-Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini got his first taste of the OU-Texas rivalry and a victory to boot as the Sooner beat the Longhorns 12-0. In that game, Pelini and the Sooners lost senior cornerback Antonio Perkinsfor three to four weeks. However, that was the only negative as the Oklahoma secondary played a great game.

With adjustments to be made in the secondary before Saturday's game at Kansas State, Coach Pelini sat down with to give the lowdown on how the secondary is shaping up.

JH: You came up with some great wrinkles for Texas. What is the process as a staff that the defensive coaches go through to come up with some new stuff for each opponent?

BP: "It is a collective effort by us. We have a lot of weapons and a lot of different things that we can add to a game plan, but you have to mix and match by the type of offense that you are going to play. We have to make sure we are still going to be sound in both run and pass defense. We sit down every week and come up with it collectively and make our decisions based on how we can give our guys the best chance, and at the same time give the offense a lot of problems."

JH: Did you run those corner blitzes when you were the secondary coach with the San Francisco 49ers?

BP: "We started the double corner blitzes back in New England when I was with Pete Carroll. We never brought those guys in San Francisco. Deion Sanders wasn't a guy that really wanted to blitz very much. He just wanted to cover people. We started to do that a few years back and did a little of that in Green Bay and obviously at Nebraska last year. We just did it a few times at Nebraska, because you have to find the right time to do it and the right type of offense to do it against. The reason why is because you are giving up something to get something with that stunt. You can't just go out there and call that all the time, there has to be a rhyme or reason. We just felt it was the right time to come out."

JH: You couldn't run the corner blitzes could you if you weren't so great at safety?

BP: "No. Obviously, our safeties are pretty good players, and it puts a little bit of pressure on our linebackers as well. It is good for a lot of things, but it is not good all the time. Texas had not seen it and I am not sure they were expecting it. It has to be called at the right time and it has to be used sparingly. If you do it too much somebody can catch you on it. It is pretty sound and it is still a sound defense, but you have to use it at the right time and right situation."

JH: What was your impression of your first OU-Texas game?

BP: "It was special. I looked and saw the burnt orange, or the burned orange right now, and then the Crimson split right down the middle at the 50-yard line. That was pretty neat to see, but it was a heck of an atmosphere and a lot of intensity on both sides. It is obvious why everybody considers the game such a special rivalry."

JH: What did you think of walking up and down the tunnel?

BP: "Yeah, I have walked down a lot of tunnels in my time over the last 11 or 12 years, but any time that you are coming out of a big game like that it is always a great experience. The adrenaline is going and the fact that it is OU/-Texas makes that walk that much more so. I would say it is everything that it cracked up to be, but unfortunately when you are coach you have other things on your mind and you can't really enjoy all the hoopla."

JH: You will lose Perkins for a few weeks so how do you adjust?

BP: "We still feel good about our situation. Eric (Bassey) has played well and Chijioke (Onyenegecha) has got a lot of game snaps. Luckily, we have done that up to this point because now we have somebody else game ready and we feel good about our corners. We don't think we will take any steps back. It is unfortunate for Perk, because this is his senior year and he is such a valuable part of what we do. But I think the other guys are ready to step up."

JH: Who are now the backups at corner?

BP: "We have Jowahn Poteat, Marcus Walker and Darien Williams. We have three guys there who are getting reps and getting ready to go if something was to happen to one of the starters."

JH: How are your young players playing like Tony Cade, Brett Bowers and Darrien Williams?

BP: "They are all developing. Jason Carter has played some for us, but unfortunately the last few weeks we haven't played a lot of 'dollar'. But he is our sixth DB right now and doing a nice job for us. The young guys are all coming along, but it is just hard to get them playing time. We have a veteran group in the secondary, especially at the safety position and it is hard to break in there. We also have Brandon Shelby playing well in the dime package, so we have some young guys that are hungry to play. It is just hard to break into this lineup."

JH: What are your thoughts on Kansas State and what they do offensively?

BP: "They are good football team that is extremely well-coached. They present a lot of problems for you defensively. They use a lot of different run games and Bill Snyder is about a smart football coach. Kansas State is as well-schooled football team that you are going to see anywhere. He really does a nice job offensively. Coach Snyder gets the most out of his players and out of his team, and he presents a challenge for you on every snap. You have to be sound and you have to be ready to make adjustments on game day because you know that he is going to. Coach Snyder is a brilliant coach."

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories