My take on the Oklahoma game, Part 1: Defense

First of all, calm down. It's a day later and the world is still here and in less than 24 hours, our football team will be back on the practice room and in the film room and you can be damn sure any one involved with out football program that has any dignity will step up their game like the none other. Anyways, I'm sure by now you've realized that we looked bad in all aspects yesterday. We were outplayed on offense, defense, coaching and just about everywhere in between.

I will now break down the different aspects of our game as I saw it.

I posted yesterday on the game conclusion the following about our defense:

Watching the game, I was disappointed by the defense, but I understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, having played man-to-man since they’ve been here, without a playbook nonetheless, our defense was obviously going to suffer some growing pains. That was obvious in this game, but there were some particular things that I noticed that just cannot continue as the season progresses (and I’m sure the players will learn these, but it was tough to witness over and over and see no adjustment).

A. Landmark drops vs. pattern read drops. It is so freakin obvious that our guys are dropping to particular designated spots in the zone as opposed to reading the quarterback and receivers and anticipating. Obviously this will come with time as the players learn what to look for and get more comfortable in the scheme, but it was apparent that they were falling to the hook zone or the flats or whatnot as opposed to reading the play.

2. Not trusting the zone. In a zone defense, if you don’t have trust, you have nothing. You have to be a cohesive unit in a zone and I didn’t see that yet. My particular example of this comes on the play where Xavier Rhodes got beat deep by Broyles in the left corner. It appeared that the defensive call was either a cover 2 or cover 3, but as the play developed, Rhodes took his eye off of the receiver Broyles and put it on the QB (which you do in a zone at times obviously) and then bit on Broyles move inside (despite from what I saw, having help inside from a deep-middle zone safety (I think it was cover 3). I took this as Rhodes not trusting his help to the left (and thus biting on Broyles move) and when Broyles cut back outside it was all over. Rhodes needed to keep his zone thereby trusting his help to the left on the move or keep on Broyles as his deep responsibility. This happened multiple times; I’m not picking on Rhodes because he played a respectable overall game. In a cover four on another one of their TD’s, I believe it was Reid that went for a pick on a jump to the left (so it was basically man to man as the guy went into Reid’s quarter) and once he was beat trying to pick it, the other quarters didn’t get there in time, which I feel like wouldn’t happen in a more experienced zone regardless of being beat.

D. Pass rush. I don’t know if the lineman were ever sent on stunts, but our front four just didn’t get it done in getting QB pressure. They need to either get better at rushing or we need to send more players at their QB. These guys need to put on weight and that will help.

®. Tackling. nuff said.

Ã. Stupid penalties. Way too many.

I was impressed with the way that the interior lineman crashed on inside runs though. Also, we didn’t have open receivers getting behind the whole defense 50-60 yards down field, and their running game didn’t dominate. Bright spots there.

In terms of the tackling, it was just horrific. I've watched high school football teams tackle better than that. I truly believe that while the logic behind "thudding" that we do in practice is sound, its implications are having a traumatic effect on our ability to tackle. Practice makes perfect and if we don't practice tackling, you won't perfect it... or in our case apparently be competent at it. Tackling is a basic football skill that all of our defensive players need to learn regardless of the injury risk. I could understand not having offensive players tackle in interception situations in practice, but if you play defense, the risk is worth the reward for us.

To get into the particulars on defense:

Inside D-lineman: I don't know about you but I was impressed, or maybe just because the rest of the defense looked so bad that these guys looked good, but regardless, they played a solid game. While they didn't generate pressure towards the quarterback, they did not allow inside runs to break free. This was impressive because these aren't the biggest guys in the world and they stuffed the middle effectively. Oh, and they're all underclassmen - don't worry about these guys, they will be fine as they get more experience and put on weight.

Defensive ends: Yikes. I don't know what to say about these guys. They didn't generate any pass rush of any kind whether with speed or power. They did not get a push toward the quarterback and they didn't get to the sideline quick enough on the screen passes. They ran screens over and over and the ends just couldn't get outside - which wasn't entirely their fault because if they started cheating and trying to contain outside, they wouldn't gotten burnt by runs on Murray. Having said that, Oklahoma never ran the ball outside very much because they were passing it so well, so it's not like they got destroyed. Our guys here are young, so we need to give them some more time in the S&C, the new scheme and to learn come new moves. However, we really still need to recruit talented lineman with advanced physical abilities and get them into our program - guys like Clowney and Drew.

Linebackers: I can't say I was wildly disappointed in this group. First of all, I am surprised by how well Jones, T. Smith and Luc are playing because they don't look as lost as I expected with the new scheme. They look solid and I don't have any lack of confidence in our LB depth at all. Back to the game, the Sooners really didn't destroy the hook/curl zones, but they did destroy the flats. Assuming that the linebackers were responsible for second level help on flats screens, they obviously didn't get there fast enough and they didn't recognize the screens.

Cornerbacks: Yikes. This unit didn't cover well, they didn't shed blocks in any way, shape or form and they didn't pattern-read at all. Greg Reid looked he needed some more time to learn the position out there. I will say though that it is hard to criticize him for trying to make big plays, but he really needs to pick his spots and make sure that he at least wraps up. They exposed him, but he is a great football player and he will undoubtedly make adjustments. Xavier Rhodes, like I said got beat deep on plays, but he didn't look bad overall. Joyner showed me flashes of the skills that earned him National Defensive Player of the Year honors in High School, but if he can make that happen consistently, I would not be shocked if he is starting at some point this season. Joyner hits and tackles pretty well from what I saw. Once again, these guys are mostly underclassmen and are new to the system so I give them a flier for the whole year basically, because the defensive backs in a zone that isn't yet generating a consistent pass rush have it hard.

Safetys: Jenije looked like a safety new to the system for sure. He got beat and he didn't tackle very well. He didn't shed blocks and he took bad angles. Once Moody came in, our secondary had a much better look and Moody tackled and hit really well. He actually hit a little too well, sending one of OU's players off on a stretcher. I would think that once Moody is 100%, he will start because he plays the position really well when healthy. Parks got beat a few times too. I saw him take too long to react on some plays and he took a few bad angles as well. I do like Parks though and I feel that more time in the system will benefit him greatly, because he has great physical attributes for a FS (or whatever Stoops calls it).

The common theme here is that we have a new system - a hard system to learn. Trying to teach somebody unfamiliar with a zone defense, a zone defense is unimaginably difficult. Then, getting them to physically do it is that much harder. This thing is going to take time and these players should not be slandered by anyone because they are all basically at the same point in the system. The seniors down to the freshman have not been in the system for very long so give them time. The lineman will learn rush moves and put on weight, the linebacker and defensive backs will learn to shed blocks and pattern read and they unit will learn to trust each other. Give these guys a break because they are trying their best and Oklahoma has been in a system for over a decade. We will be there, just give it time.


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