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S11 Preview- Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma has been one of the best programs in college football and that has only been amplified in the Bob Stoops era. Although they have not won a national title in over a decade they are always a formidable foe and the 2012 team is no exception. They may have lost two games but it was to two of the best in the country this year and these Sooners are a very difficult team to beat.

Offense

Personnel:

At quarterback the Sooners have #12 Landry Jones who is a 6'4 strong armed dropback passer. He has been a starter ever since Bradford went down in 2009 and has the arm strength needed to complete any pass. His major liability is mobility as he struggles when flushed from the pocket and doesn't add much of any running threat.

The Sooners backup QB is essentially a glorified fullback. #10 Blake Bell is a 6'6 254 sledgehammer. On goal line formations they will put him at QB with 2 blocking backs and a tight end and dare you to stop him running the ball. He has the arm strength and speed to be an elite QB when he takes over next year but consistent accuracy and decision making really haven't been tested as he hasn't been a full time starter. Their goal line "Bell-Dozer" gave us problems last year and we rarely if ever stopped it.

OU's primary running back this season in Junior College transfer #26 Damien Williams. He's 6'0 208 and has a lot of speed and quickness. He ripped off a 95 yard touchdown against Texas where he made safety Mykelle Thompson look foolish. He is probably their best running back since Demarco Murray.

#8 Dominique Whaley was last year's breakout RB until he got hurt early in the season. He is a former walk on who is 5'11 204 and very fast. He really is a good story and has worked hard to come back from injury.

#24 Brennan Clay has been getting more carries recently and is a well rounded back at 5'11 201. He had 24 carries for 157 yards against ISU.

The most versatile player on the OU offense is easily #33 Trey Millard. He technically starts at fullback but this 6'2 256 pound Junior is very capable not only as a blocker but as a runner and receiver. He can line up at tailback, fullback or tight end. He gives them a lot of options schematically and really hurt Texas in the passing game.

Oklahoma RB Millard hurdles Texas again!

OU's best matchup at WR is PSU transfer #19 Justin Brown who is their big target at 6'3 209. Although his height screams possession WR he is a very dangerous return man so he isn't one dimensional.

Their best returning WR and statistical WR is #4 Kenny Stills who is extremely fast. He's a slender 6'1 190 but is very dangerous and has over 2,000 career yards.

Their other weapons center around #3 Sterling Shepard who is a very talented Sooner legacy, Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders, and former running back Roy Finch. All are shorter targets with tons of speed and can be dangerous in the open field. Their other fullbacks and tight ends are largely block first guys.

On the offensive line the Sooners are in the top half of the Big 12 and do really well in pass protection. Lots of experience but nowhere near the upside of former groups in the Stoops era.

Scheme

OU's offense schematically grew out of what Kevin Wilson pioneered at Northwestern with Randy Walker and brought to Norman in 2002. They run very few run schemes in their base offense (most of everything is zone, power, or draw) but they run out a lot of formations and at a fast tempo. It keeps things simple for the offense but places a lot of stress on the defense. They are similar to SMU in the fact that their pass sets up their run.

The exception to that is their use of the Diamond Formation particularly with their "Bell-Dozer" tactic in short yardage.

Defense

Personnel

On the defensive line OU is talented but not at the spectacular level they were with guys like Tommie Harris or Gerald McCoy. Their starting defensive tackles are #53 Casey Walker and #97 Jamarkus McFarland with #92 Stacy McGee backing them both up. Each is not only very capable but also have loads of experience as each is a Senior.

#90 David King is their most versatile DL. He played DT the first 2 games while Walker was out and came back to start at DE. He's a 6'5 286 player that can play each position on the line.

#98 Chuka Ndulue & #11 R.J. Washington rotate at one spot. Washington is more of a pass rusher but did start at DT vs TT. Each is 6'3 256 and offers solid athletic ability.

At linebacker #21 Tom Wort & #7 Corey Nelson play inside. Since OU usually uses a Nickel package they play a Nickel LB in #9 Gabe Lynn who was a 6'0 199 corner last year. #5 Joseph Ibiloye is 3rd LB when a true 4-3 is utilized. When OU goes to a dime package they replace Nelson with #2 Julian Wilson who is an extra LB/DB hybrid player.

At cornerback #14 Aaron Colvin is one of the best in the league and stands 6'0 181. On the other side of the field #6 Demontre Hurst (5'10 183) is a returning starter and does well.

Their best defender is #1 Tony Jefferson. He is as good as any safety in the league and has great size for a safety at 5'11 212. He played Nickel linebacker for OU last year. #30 Javon Harris starts at the other spot and a returning starter 5'11 206.

Scheme Mike Stoops returned to Norman this past offseason after leaving prior to 2004 to be the Head Coach at Arizona. He has done a lot of good things for OU this year and fans absolutely deify the guy. Schematically he'll use a lot of zone coverages including variations of cover 2 & quarters like Double Palms.

Mike's scheme this year resembles what we used to see out of Will Muschamp at Texas. He'll stay with a 2 deep safety look and a one gap defense to prevent deeper plays even against the run first schemes of KSU, ISU, and ND. The tradeoff is that this leaves openings for run read & bubble plays to work in the short area. OU will eventually bring a blitz or stunt to get a negative play to kill a drive but their scheme is fairly conservative which explains why such a good unit is #102 in tackles for loss.

Special Teams

OU's Kicker is Michael Hunnicutt. He's a solid kicker and his only 2012 miss was from longer than 40 yards.

Their punter Tress Way is #29 in the country with 42.45 per punt.

OU is very good in the return game and we will need to keep them from getting returnable kicks. The Sooner's kick coverage unit is #23 national but they are #97 in opponent punt return average.

Final Questions

What could we potentially exploit when we have the ball?

Last year we were able to get a lot of deep plays against them but I think the change in scheme will lend itself to fewer of those. Mike is just a lot more conservative than Venables was in the secondary.

OU's 2 deep safety alignment may leave us openings for Lache, Glasco, & Nick to exploit on the ground. We need our running game to keep the chains moving and loosen up that coverage to help Terrance & Tevin break free. We ran it well last year but two years ago OU's line simply pushed us around. We have to win on the O-Line again.

Can we stop Landry and their base offense?

I think we have to get turnovers. I don't trust our line to get to him consistently. It will be important to hold our gaps against Williams and their running game to force Landry into long yardage where a bad throw or a drop can bail us out. We need to keep them out of the red zone as I don't see us stopping the Bell-Dozer.

How do you expect Nick Florence to respond to OU's crowd?

I expect Nick to perform well. He has played well on the road for the most part and made his first Big 12 start in Norman in 2009. In that game he didn't lead our injury-riddled 2009 offense to many points but he did a great job of avoiding mistakes.

Our defense played better against Kansas, was that mostly us or mostly them?

Our defense did pretty well and a portion of the improvement did come from our guys getting their house in better shape. The problem is that KU had too many openings for big plays that better offenses will take advantage of.

Keys for Baylor?

On defense we have to get Landry out of sync somehow and at least at first we need to make them earn their points with long drives. On offense we need to make them pay with the run any time they give us the numbers in the box to run against. We should adapt the ULM philosophy on 4th down to extend our drives and limit the amount of time our D is out there. We cannot have turnovers and drops.

Prediction?

I see OU at least breaking 40 and our offense scoring in the 20s or 30s. We have the potential to beat them but our team has to play one of their best games and get some breaks going our way.

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