One of the most exciting pieces of news from the Oklahoma Sooners this offseason has been that head coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops are going to work in some 3-4 base defense for the 2013 college football season. As someone who has rooted for the Pittsburgh Steelers for many years, I can truly appreciate what the 3-4 defense can do when executed properly. It is versatile and allows for greater flexibility for a defense while keeping offenses off balance.
Last season Stoops made some personnel choices in key moments that really exposed the Sooners defense. Stoops pulled the Sooners linebackers off the field in favor of more defensive backs in an attempt to try and help stop the high powered passing offenses in the Big 12. But what it did was it allowed those teams to attack a smaller Sooners defense with interior run plays and work the short and intermediate field in the passing game. The worst part of it was at no point did the coaching staff feel any need to try and make adjustments and work those linebackers back into the gameplan.
This year things promise to change. It’s only speculation at this point as to which Sooners will be playing where in the 3-4, but going over the current roster, there is a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to how those players can be used. There are lots of athletes in the 230lb-260lb range on the roster who can potentially fill those linebacker roles. A player like Chuka Ndulue who could thrive rushing form a 2-point stance with a player like Geno Grissom opposite him could be a more than formidable duo.
The real question at this point is more about who the three down linemen will be in the base 3-4 defense. The role of those linemen is clear: eat up blockers, push the pocket and give those players behind them a clean run to the football. I would assume defensive tackle Jordan Phillips will be a big part of the line, likely at an end since he’s too tall at 6-6 to play a 0-technique nose. But if Stoops can find a nose tackle and another end on the roster who can understand their roles in the defense, this team will be able to defend the run much better. Even more importantly they will be able to get much more creative with their blitzes and pass rush schemes. This Sooners team has struggled to get any sort of consistent pressure on quarterbacks for several seasons, so this must be key.
Obviously there are concerns with a switch like this. The players behind those rushers must be sure tacklers. When they don’t get to the quarterback, the secondary must play smart, assignment football and make the tackle. I am confident this can happen and this defense will be much improved. The Spring game coming up in just a few weeks will be a great time to get to see this new scheme for the first time and the “who’s” of this new scheme will be unveiled.