During the course of the 2012 college football season the Oklahoma Sooners defense went through some definite highs and lows. And the growing pains of this unit under the new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was evident. Stoops shuffled lineups and tried various schemes and packages seemingly week by week in an attempt to find a cohesive formula. And tragically the hits and misses were more miss than hit.
One of the main areas where he tried to tweak things was among the linebackers. The Sooners coaching staff were so absorbed with stopping the spread passing offenses, they phased out the linebackers from many defensive packages. So much so that long stretches of games the linebacking unit was on the sidelines. While it did help with the pass defense, they instead began to surrender huge chunks of rushing yards. Ultimately this did the team very little good, it confused and upset the current linebackers on the roster, and looking ahead to the 2013 recruiting appears to have impacted the players coming in as well.
Looking at the 2013 recruiting class the Sooners only have a commitment from a single linebacker, Jordan Evans from North High School in Norman. A nice player; three star recruit, but on a team that is so thin at linebacker you would think players would have been wanting to be part of this team. But when you can’t guarantee the team won’t be sitting in dime the entire game, I can understand why top linebackers are looking elsewhere. The situation is such that it may force athlete recruit Dominique Alexander to play linebacker rather than his more natural position of safety just to provide some depth. But what we have seen is that creates an undersized group of linebackers who don’t hold up well at the point of attack. So in essence it’s playing without linebackers while playing with linebackers so to speak.
And judging by the amount of defensive backs that this team is recruiting, it seems to me that the future plans for this defense do not include a strong presence from the linebackers, either. I am all for having an athletic secondary, but I would like to see a greater emphasis on the front 7.
But all this talk about linebackers and defensive backs is fine, but the real problem is up front. Regardless of who the back 7 are, the front 4 of this defense hasn’t been very good. They don’t have great size and physicality. They don’t have any elite athletes on the edges. And they don’t have a deep rotation of playmakers. So, while we talk about the problems on the back end, until the Sooners build their defensive line up, I’m not sure what happens behind them in terms of scheme and personnel is going to matter.
With the exciting changes coming on offense it’s a shame that it looks like it’s going to be more of the same on defense in 2013.
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