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December 30, 2013

Sooners have to play with undersized hand they’re dealt

NEW ORLEANS — A lot of things can happen in a month, but Oklahoma’s defensive line and linebackers cannot add 20 pounds of muscle each in that span.

If the Sooners could’ve, they would’ve in preparation for Thursday night’s meeting with No. 3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The scheme it’s employed this season — which Sooner defensive coordinator Mike Stoops freely admits is heavily borrowed on what the Crimson Tide has used for several seasons — was implemented to help them better match up with spread teams.

Alabama uses a pro style offense. The Crimson Tide puts a lot of speed on the field, but also a lot of bulk. They will use at least three tight ends Thursday.

“We’ve had to adjust some personnel for this game and tried to get bigger people in position to defend the things we’re going to see with Alabama,” Mike Stoops said Sunday morning.

That will mean more snaps for outside linebacker P.L. Lindley and defensive end Chaz Nelson. They’ve been situational players all season. Their situation comes when the Sooners have faced bulkier offenses that use multiple tight ends.

Those who are effective as both receivers and blockers are like unicorns in the Big 12 Conference. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is as good a receiver as there is in college football. But he isn’t going to knock a defensive end off the ball. Every team has some they can put in the game as an effective blocker.

The Crimson Tide’s do not give away tendencies so easily. O.J. Howard and Brian Vogler are both at least 6-foot-6 and weigh at least 240 — towering over Sooner nickel linebacker Julian Wilson and outweighing him by 40 pounds. It’s a physical mismatch at the line of scrimmage.

The lack of bulk in OU’s front seven isn’t a concern that cropped up after the bowl announcement. OU’s defensive coordinator has voiced concerns since the victory over Notre Dame in September.

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