"[We're] tenfold ahead," said Sooner middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds, who's battling back from his ACL injury last year. "I mean even last year we had to get extra meeting time in during two-a-days I mean to get everybody caught up because we all hadn't played and all hadn't started."
That doesn't seem to be the case, at least not at this point in fall practice.
"I mean, this year, we pretty much know all the checks as soon as [Coach Venables] calls a defense, and we don't have to have all those extra meetings to get it done," Reynolds said.
What else is different?
"It's a matter of learning what we're doing," Reynolds said. "We're a lot further along compared to last two-a-days as far as knowledge and stuff and defense and stuff like that."
Along with the returning talent at both the linebacker and cornerback positions, a lot of the evidence of the Sooners being further along defensively lies within the D-line and the amount of competition there for a starting spot.
"The first three guys [are all coming along really well]," said defensive ends coach Chris Wilson. "You know, Frank [Alexander's] coming on and playing well, as well as R.J. [Washington]. R.J.'s really stepping up. But the one guy that's stepping up as much as anybody is 44, Jeremy Beal."
In fact, Wilson said Beal's perhaps the one guy for whom there might not be any uncertainty about when the Sooners open up the season Sept. 5 against BYU.
"He's playing really smart, and he's really competitive, so if I could only say there was one guy that I could truly name at this point in time a starter, it would be him," Wilson said.
Another guy that has been a force throughout his career is Auston English.
"The biggest thing with Auston is he is a fifth year guy," Wilson said. "He's played a lot of snaps here. The biggest thing he has is experience, which you can't teach. He has a lot of mental maturity."
And that separates him from a lot of players.
"A lot of those guys have a lot of physical maturity; he brings a lot of mental maturity to the table," Wilson said. "And the biggest thing that I see, you know, that we have to keep developing as coaches, is being a leader. He's got to be one of the leaders of our defense, so that's one of the things that we're trying to push to him.
So far, at least, it appears the defense is set to be devastating.