The Oklahoma defense will get a test Saturday from the new Nebraska West Coast Offense run by former Norman High quarterback Zac Taylor.
Sooner secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright talks about how the OU secondary is playing and about the challenge of stopping the Taylor and the Cornhuskers on Saturday on the OUInsider Two Minute Drill.
JH: It seems weird to see Nebraska throwing the ball all over the field for those of us who grew up with this great series. But it's probably no stranger than when OU started throwing the ball a bunch back in 1999. Is Nebraska running a true West Coast Offense?
BJW: "Absolutely it is. And they are doing a good job of it. In reference to your statement, people probably said that about us when we came in here in 1999. Oh, my gosh, Oklahoma is throwing it on every down you know.
It is definitely the same. They have a head coach who has changed some things and he has brought a different philosophy and different style of play, but that is college football today. That is what people like to see and you see a lot of it across the country. We have offenses across the country throwing the ball more and more than they ever have. That is something that I think you will continue to see for quite a while.
I think Nebraska is doing a heck of a job with it. Zac Taylor has really improved their ballclub as he has been completing well over 50 percent of his passes. He is smart and heady, and he gets them into good plays. He stays away from turnovers, stays away from interceptions and he doesn't take sacks.
"I would say that he is not a speedster, but he is very good at avoiding the rush. He is very good at sensing when the pocket is breaking down and it is time to get out of there. Even though he is not the fastest guy, he still makes good yards with his feet when the pocket breaks down. He is really smart in what he is doing and he is good at taking care of the ball.
"They have a lot of receivers who he has been throwing the ball to. Terrence Nunn is of course their leading receiver (23 catches for 259 yards and three TDs), but they will throw to four to five different receivers. Their running back (Cory Ross) is a heck of a back, and he leads their team in receptions (24). So they are doing a great job of throwing the ball and taking care of it and protecting it."
JH: How are you going to line up on Saturday at free safety?
BJW: "The free safety will continue to be Lewis (Baker), who continues to do good things for us. I am real pleased with Lewis. I know he gave up a play the other night that was costly, but that is the life of a DB. I am not firing him just because of that. Now if we had lost the game, I might have fired him (Bobby Jack says with a chuckle).
No, I am just kidding. That is just something that you hope he will learn from. The experience will be that he experienced something that could have been very, very costly to us and we were able to survive it. So that should be a lasting experience for him. He continues to do really well and he is getting better, better and better every week. His confidence level is really growing. I am really happy where Lewis is right now.
Nic (Harris) continues to improve and continues to get a little better. He is gives us a good solid backup. Nic is going to be a good player eventually in time. As I have always told you guys, it is a lot that those freshmen have to absorb from a learning standpoint alone, but let alone the technique, how to play each coverage, how to play each pattern that comes off at you and that kind of thing.
"Then they have to play the patterns to the different coverages that are called, so there are a multiple number of things that has to be learned back there. It just takes a while, especially at free safety, because that is the one that has to handle all the adjustments."
JH: Outside of the poor play toward the end of the Baylor game, how did your secondary play against the Bears?
BJW: "Yeah, I was pretty pleased with them up until then. We had held them under 50 percent completions, and other than that 55-yard throw it would have been a pretty good night.
"We gave up only two plays of over 20 yards on the night. They hit a 20-yard play off a screen and then they had that 55-yarder. Other than that, we really didn't give up anything meaningful, so I was pretty pleased with it up to that point.
"Certainly, the long ball at the end of the game puts a sour note on things, but you have to put all that in perspective as a coach. As Bob said, the vast majority of that game was played pretty well. Up until that time, we had only given up 235 yards. If we don't make that crucial mistake at a very, very critical time you would look it and say it was actually a pretty good night."
JH: Talk about the match-up with Nebraska?
BJW: "I think it is going to be a very similar match-up that you saw from the Baylor game. I like how their quarterback (Zac Taylor) is playing, they have a nice corp of wide receivers and Terrance Nunn is outstanding. Their running back is extremely talented, because remember he came in here last year and put up some good numbers on us even though we dominated the game.
"Ross had a heck of a night running the ball here last year. He is a good runner for them, does some good things in the run game, but he is also their leading pass catcher. He has more receptions than anybody. He has one more than Nunn. They use him quite a bit in the throwing game and get screens to him. They get the dump-offs to him and get him out in space where he can run.
"The match-ups there are that we have to be really good in the secondary and in our linebacker corp in terms of our positioning on the ball. Then you have to be sure to break up passes and tackle the ball carrier.
JH: How would you say that Lewis Baker has made the move from linebacker to free safety?
BJW: "Lewis has played well. He is playing his best football right now. I know everybody wants to focus on the big play he gave up, but if he doesn't give up another one this year then that play turns out to be a positive for us.
"Like I said, it didn't cause us to lose the game and we ended up winning. And outside of that play, he played very well. In his case, the toughest adjustment Lewis has had to make is in pass coverage. He was already pretty good at supporting the run, tackling and blitzing, but he never had covered pass receivers until we moved him to the secondary.
H is getting better at that all the time. Against Texas, Lewis had a very good game and covered David Thomas all over the field was and never beaten by the Longhorns receiver crop. I can say the same thing about Kansas State, so in many cases Lewis has been solid in his pass coverage and that is only going to get better."
Wright talks about secondary, Nebraska
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