Down the stretch in 2012, the Oklahoma Sooners suffered a letdown from their defense as the coaches struggled to adapt to the offensive attacks that came their way in the high-octane Big 12. Bob Stoops says the defense has recommitted to putting their athletic linebackers into the best position to make plays next season, which opens the door for Aaron Franklin to make a name for himself. Will the junior step up and take advantage?
Over his first two seasons on the field, Franklin has been largely a special-teams contributor, appearing in 22 career games and making 23 tackles, including one tackle for loss and a sack. He saw a big more of a role in the defense during his sophomore season, including a package that brought him off the edge to use his athleticism to rush the passer. Franklin’s versatility allows him to line up in multiple positions and come after the quarterback or drop into coverage with ease.
The test for Franklin in 2013 will be how well he can hold up against the run. At 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, the junior doesn’t have the size to just lean on blockers and create a pile. He must continue to hone his skills at shedding blocks using his superior athleticism to create negative plays in the running game, possibly by diagnosing and attacking before the blocks can get set up.
If he can do that, then Oklahoma gets the benefit of playing with more three-linebacker sets on defense in certain situations. If he fails to improve against the rush, his role will get minimized next fall and Oklahoma could turn to a true freshman in his place. That would relegate Franklin back to a special teams role and would likely spell the end of his chances of becoming a meaningful playmaker on the Sooners’ defense over the next two years.
The opportunity is there for Aaron Franklin to become a key piece of the Sooner defensive attack in 2013 and beyond. Will he be able to take advantage?