MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

August 9, 2013

Confusion a key element for OU defense

NORMAN – During Oklahoma’s run from 2000-03, overwhelming defense was the cornerstone of the success. A ball-hawking secondary mixed with agile linebackers and disruptive defensive lines made the Sooners a dominant teams.  

Those defenses’ capability to disrupt offenses showed in their ability to create turnovers. Those defenses – all coordinated by Mike Stoops – averaged 34 takeaways a season and never had less than 33.

As Stoops enters his second season of his second stint as the Sooners’ defensive coordinator, it’s turnovers that weigh heavily on his mind. Stopping Big 12 offenses becomes nearly impossible without getting a decent amount.

One mea culpa the Sooners coaching staff has made since the 2012 season ended was it became vanilla in the second half of the season.

“Even though they put you in some tough predicaments, we still have to have more deception in our defense,” Mike Stoops said. “We got a little too stagnant in our defense a year ago and weren’t equipped to really have some different looks for different offenses and not letting them target exactly where we were gonna be all the time.

“Hopefully, we’ll come up with a better plan, a more diverse plan, and still be able to matchup with all the great skill players that we see.”

In other words: the Sooners must create more confusion. Big 12 quarterbacks – and the signal callers in just about any league – are well schooled about where to go with the ball in certain coverages. One of the reasons the spread offenses continue to flourish is because they spread defenses out and make the reads easier.

But simply putting some sure-handed defensive backs in the secondary won’t solve the problem. Turnovers are the byproduct of the confusion OU wants to create. Quarterbacks panic when they’re not sure what they’re seeing. Their anxiety rises when defensive linemen are beating blocks and shortening the time to think. Fumbles become more common when defenders are constantly around the ball carrier.

“It’s always a point of emphasis – trying to get turnovers,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said. “We’re trying to strip the ball and force the quarterback’s hand. Hawking the ball is what you’re always trying to do.”

Those things didn’t suddenly become a point of emphasis in the preseason. The Sooners have been emphasizing those things for years.

“That just comes with being aggressive. When you’re aggressive and out there flying around trying to make a play then that’s when they’re going to start happening,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “When you’re zoned into your keys, when you’re tuned into what coach is trying to teach you during preparation week, then that’s when you’re going to make plays.

“The more prepared you are, the more plays you make. We’re going to be more consistent this year as far as preparing and we’re going to be a lot more aggressive and physical.”

Does it mean OU didn’t play that way last season. It’s a subjective question. But OU defended  905 plays last season. Only 16 of those resulted in turnovers. The average was 1.2 a game or one every 56.5 plays.

– John Shinn is a sports writer for the Norman Transcript

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