We are very fortunate to have an excellent network of team-specific blogs to talk with during game weeks. The first edition of our 2011 opposing blogger Q&A feature is a chat with Crimson And Cream Machine. Blog manager ccmachine was kind enough to join us to answer our inquiries about the #1 Oklahoma Sooners.
TN: How do you see the carries being distributed between the running backs? In the first week 32 of the 38 carries went between two RB's in Brennan Clay and walk on RB Dominique Whaley. Do you see more carries for Roy Finch and five star true freshman Brandon Williams this week?
CCM: When I say that everyone was surprised by Dominique Whaley's performance against Tulsa I mean EVERYONE was surprised. Well...everyone but the coaches that is. They were really high on him after the spring and in April Director of Football Operations Merv Johnson told me that he was going to play, and play a lot. I didn't even believe him enough to post that little tidbit on our site and that pretty sums up the traditional media's perception when the depth chart released with him as a starter a week before kickoff. Eighteen carries, four touchdowns, and 130 yards later we're all believers.
Brennan Clay was solid in the season opener as well (14 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD) but the missing factor in the run game was Roy Finch. Finch played mostly in the slot and only carried the ball five times out of the backfield (22 yards). I honestly don't believe that they could have used Finch in the capacity they they would like to this season without tipping their hand to Florida State. I would expect to see some different formations than we did against Tulsa and I would be completely shocked if Finch only has five carries at the end of the day.
I really don't believe that Williams will be much of a factor. Bob Stoops said earlier in the week that they're getting him ready to play but I'm thinking more so against Missouri and Ball State rather than Florida State.
Hit the jump for more!
TN: Ryan Broyles is the primary attention-grabber at wide receiver (and rightfully so), but another wideout frightens some of us a good deal in looking towards Saturday's game. What are you expecting of WR Kenny Stills who missed the first week?
CCM: Kenny Stills is the perfect compliment to Broyles. He's got the speed to stretch the field and the hands to make those unbelievable highlight type catches. He was exceptional last year as a freshman and fans are anxiously awaiting to see how much improvement he's made going into his sophomore season. He's the type of player who deserves a double team as well but it becomes a numbers game and you just can't double both him and Broyles.
TN: It appears that Lane Johnson may be making his first start lined up across from FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner, who thoroughly impressed in the spring with great size and athleticism. How concerning is this and how might OU's offense scheme to mitigate these concerns?
CCM: Johnson is an incredible athlete who is trying to find a position to call home. He actually played quarterback in junior college and came to Oklahoma as a tight end. During the season last year the coaches moved him from tight end to defensive tackle and then in the spring he moved to offensive tackle. He's got the right body size for an offensive tackle at 6-6/296 and with a background that includes quarterback and tight end he's got exceptional footwork. That said, he still lacks game experience. I don't expect Oklahoma to alter their game plan any and it isn't a sure thing that starter Daryl Williams will be out. With all the options the Sooners have on the offensive line they wouldn't put someone in there unless they could run their offense. Doesn't mean that they'll be successful but they're at least going to try.
TN: Florida State is experiencing some turmoil on the interior offensive line, but the tackle spots feature two NFL-bound players. As a result, we feel that the game may see FSU running to the edges on outside zone plays, as well as utilizing EJ Manuel's legs through spread option and designed runs. How do you see Oklahoma exploiting these weaknesses and defending some of these spread elements, with which they should be quite familiar from Big 12 competition?
CCM: The good news is that Oklahoma is very familiar with defending a spread attack with a mobile quarterback. The bad news is that they've done is very poorly at times in the past. There are several factors that go into defending is correctly and it starts with the defensive ends keeping containment by sealing off the outsides and forcing Manuel to stay in the middle. From there the tackles have to occupy blockers and plug gaps. This keeps the linemen from sealing off linebackers on the second level of defense and also forces the quarterback to run through the gaps they want him to with the hopes that there's a linebacker there to meet him. Finally the defensive backs have to maintain coverage long enough to keep Manuel committed to the run once he starts. That's a lot of factors involved in that defensive scheme which shows why a mobile quarterback with a powerful arm is a tremendous asset and also why they're so difficult to defend. Another thing that's important for the defense to do is to hit the quarterback on every play with the hopes of wearing him down.
A zone-read option type offense is the best way to attack this style of defense because it makes the linebackers commit to a running back.
TN: Let's talk special teams. FSU's unit features an excellent punter, kicker, and punt returner, whereas Oklahoma may be bringing 4 kickers/punters to Tallahassee. What are your feelings on the Sooners' special teams and will/should Greg Reid be given opportunities to return punts?
CCM: I actually think the count is up to five kickers/punters as the Sooners added a walk-on kicker this week. The punting game doesn't really scare me that much because Tress Way is one of the best in the nation and even against electrifying return men like Greg Reid they seldom get the opportunity to break free. Kickoff return is a different story. The Sooners have been haunted with bad kickoff coverage for several years now. In pivotal road games last year against Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State the Sooners gave up kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Finally, if this game comes down to the Sooners hitting a late field goal to win the emergency rooms in the state of Oklahoma could face record crowds of heart patients as just about no one in the state has any confidence in the place kickers.
Thanks to Crimson And Cream Machine for answering our questions! Edit: our answers to their questions are here.