Containing Shipley's Return Game

NORMAN, Okla. -- It's probably unnecessary to remind Sooner fans of the moment last year when OU briefly led 14-3, just to see Texas kickoff returner Jordan Shipley take one back 96 yards to the house in what would ultimately switch the momentum in last year's 45-35 loss for the Sooners.

Nevertheless, it will continue to be a major storyline going into this weekend's game.

How will the Sooner special teams fare this time around?

So far, evidence suggests a positive answer to that question.

"Well, so far we've been very solid, much more so than maybe a year ago with our special teams," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "But again, it's another challenge. You've got to do it every week. And [Texas has] had some big, explosive plays in their return game, so it's something that we're very focused on and working on all week.

One of the reasons Texas has been so successful in their special teams and producing those big plays is the presence of Shipley.

"He's already had [two] punt returns this year for touchdowns," said OU defensive backs and assistant defensive coordinator Bobby Jack Wright. "He had the kickoff return against us last year for a touchdown, so and [he's] the leading receiver in the league, I believe, averages about 116 yards per game, so that pretty well sums it up. [He's] a great competitor, loves competing."

In fact, Shipley has accumulated 265 yards of 14 punt returns so far this season, averaging just less than 19 yards per return along with his two touchdowns.

He had a long punt return of 74 yards in last weekend's game against Colorado.

So, the threat is certainly there for the Sooner special teams to deal with when it comes to a major home run threat in a guy like Shipley.

"He's very, very talented, a great special teams guy, great in punt returns" Wright said. "[He's] extremely explosive, extremely dangerous. You've got to always pay attention to where he is on the field."

The question now is simply how will the Sooners handle him.

New defensive backs, including guys like freshmen Marcus Trice and Demontre Hurst, have helped to stabilize the Sooner special teams and figure to help in this role of shutting down Shipley.

But the Sooners must be good in all other phases of special teams, including the punt return unit, which has been solid recently.

Junior defensive back Dominique Franks has been effective in the punt return game, especially with a pair of 51-yard returns over the past two games.

So, the utilization of these guys figures to be a key in this weekend's contest with regards to the special teams units.

"Any football team better be using most of their defensive backs on the special teams, defensive backs and linebackers," Wright said. "Through the years, we've been very successful here using that philosophy."

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