4-3, 3-4 or 3-2? It'll be a guessing game for OU

Less than one week after the successful debut of the 3-4, will <B>Carl Reese</B> scrap that defense in favor of another scheme against the Sooners this Saturday? "If it takes something totally different this week, that'll be the gameplan," the defensive coordinator said.

Well, Reese's coy response really doesn't answer the question, does it? Actually, the coach was pretty forthcoming about what his defense would do to try to stop the OU offensive attack. He just, understandably, wasn't too specific.

"Their whole idea is to execute so you've got to change up," Reese said. The D-coordinator listed as keys gap control, outnumbering the run and disguising coverages. Reese focused most of his time talking about disguise, like giving Oklahoma QB Nate Hybl and his receivers zone looks when the D is playing man and man looks when the D is playing zone, and even mixing zone and man on the same play. We're likely to see the Horns at times in the 3-4, the 4-3 and the 3-2, with some loaded zone coverage (a three-man rush) and normal zone coverage (a four-man rush). "There are (also) things that they haven't seen that we've been practicing," Reese added. Overall, the gameplan is to be sound against the run and force the OU passing game into bad plays.

Asked if, with hindsight, he felt like the D should have waited until this week's game to debut the 3-4, surprising the Sooners with a new look, Reese said, "The whole idea is to lay one brick at a time. We work on opponents one game at a time." The coach added that if the Horns had held back against the Red Raiders looking ahead to OU, the Tech game might have had a different outcome. Plus, the experience his defenders received at game speed in the 3-4 simply could not have been duplicated on the practice field. Better to show the scheme and get the kinks worked out than surprise a team with it but bust coverages several times for big plays. And, finally, the Red Raiders employ a different protection and blocking scheme and run the ball far less than do the Sooners, so the offenses, while similar, may require different base defensive attack schemes.

To go a little bit further into the mind of Reese, the coordinator said there are two defensive schemes that have worked against the Sooners over the last year or so. Worked against is a relative term, of course, given that Oklahoma is undefeated in that stretch, but both K-State and Oklahoma State have had some defensive success against the Sooners, and they did it in completely opposite fashion. The Wildcats pressured the QB and played man behind their blitzes while the Cowboys used a lot of four-man rush and zone coverage. Expect a bit of both approaches Saturday from the Horns in Reese's attempt to make the contest a "guessing game" for the OU offense.

The coordinator said the OU offense his D will face in Cotton Bowl is, aside from the Nate Hybl-for-Josh Heupel switch, essentially the same O we saw in '00. "It's the Steve Spurrier approach to the passing game -- wide open, fun and gun -- but they also want to run the football," Reese said. "They seriously make an effort to run the football. Their philosophy is, if you play a lot of soft zone, they want to run it and they want to run it if you try to blitz."

So far this season, the Sooners have thrown 143 passes and run the ball 123 times. OU will run out of a two back set or a one back set, out of a two TE set and out of a "heavy set" with two TEs on one side of the line, and they'll even throw in some option depending on the defensive scheme. Reese said the shovel pass, which effectively is like a running play, is still a mainstay in the Sooner gameplan, as is the fast sweep (the hand-off to the receiver motioning down the line of scrimmage that burned Texas time and again last year) and the reverse. Hybl will play action the run and look downfield, but he'll also look for the middle screen and the quick hitters and pick routes in the flat or on the slant. RB Quentin Griffin presents an obvious threat in the running game, but he also is "really slippery" in the passing game, according to Reese. And the coordinator said to look out for the stacked receivers formation. "Usually, if they stack, you better hang on to your heinie because something is fixin' to happen," the coordinator said.

Notes: Reese said that when the Horns are in a 4-3 defensive scheme, Derrick Johnson and Rawls will each get about half the snaps. . . . If the Horns go to the 3-2, D.D. Lewis and either Derrick Johnson or Everick Rawls will fill the LB spots, with the four secondary starters plus Dakarai Pearson at nickel and Ervis Hill at dime in the secondary. FYI, Reese's gang used a lot of 3-2 against the Sooners in both the '99 and '00 games, with (obviously) varying results. . . . Reese said OU tight end Trent Smith is generally split wide to the right and Griffin lines up in the right side of the backfield, but if the Sooners go into max protect, Smith slides in tight on the right side of the line and Griffin moves to the left side of the backfield. . . . Both rover Lee Jackson and DE O.J. McClintock will not play this weekend. The possibility exists that Jackson may not make it back at all this year. If he is still unable to play as the final few games of the season approach, the coaches could decide to hold him out and redshirt him (if both he and coaches agree to it). O.J. is still having problems from the residual effects of his summer arm injury. He too could redshirt if he can't return soon, but he is needed more right now than is Jackson, so if he can return in a reasonable amount of time, he'll play.

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