The Norman Transcript

March 29, 2013

For now, Sooners content to stick with four down linemen

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — All that talk about Oklahoma switching to a 3-4 defensive alignment appears to be on hold.

“We’ve been playing a lot of 4-3,” OU defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said Wednesday. “We thought we were going to play 3-4, but we stayed with the 4-3.”

There was a lot of talk about switching after signing day. OU coach Bob Stoops said before spring practice that OU would experiment with multiple fronts in the spring.

Over the last few seasons, the Sooners have used three-man defensive lines on several occasions. In 2010 and 2011, they switched to almost exclusively against spread offenses. The move seemed more likely, considering OU’s depth issues at defensive tackle.

However, it’s not a move OU is ready to make.

“We want to be a four-down (front); that’s who we are,” defensive tackles coach Jerry Montgomery said.

One thing the Sooners have done to help out the defensive tackle spot is move Chuka Ndulue to tackle after spending the last two seasons at end.

“I like it. I like hitting people. Getting inside, the point of contact is a lot quicker,” Ndulue said. “Converting inside, I’m a little quicker, so I kind of enjoy that, too. I’ve got two things to hit them with while I’m in there, so it’s fun.”

Secondary help: Assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright is handling the cornerbacks after coaching the defensive ends for the previous seven seasons.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who now just handles the safeties as a position coach, believes being able to split up the secondary will help him as a coordinator.

“Well it helps me a great deal. Able to save a lot of time,” he said. “Bobby and I have been together, and he’s coached the secondary, so he knows exactly from a schematic, strategic position what we’re trying to do and understands it very well. It’s really helped. The continuity of our group is very good and able to split up with him. We’re able to cover a lot more with our players, able to cover a lot more ground, I am with the safeties and him with the corners. It just saves us a lot of time, too. It’s beneficial for the players.”

Learning the reads: With the Sooners installing some quarterback runs this spring, the defense is getting some extra work against the zone read.

“That read option is kind of hard,” nickelback Julian Wilson said. “But, hey, you’ve got to face it some time. Better to get it out of the way now in spring so when we face it in the season we know what to do.”

Relying on the linebackers: OU is rebuilding its defense after losing eight starters from last season’s squad. Mike Stoops said the one spot he’s convinced is ready to play at high level are the linebackers.

“Well, I think those three linebackers — when you look at Frank Shannon, Aaron Franklin and Corey Nelson — I’ll put those three guys against anybody. We feel very strong,” he said. “… It’s one of the strongest groups on our team. It might not be depth-wise, but in this league, the most you can ever play with is two linebackers. Everybody makes a big deal about that, but there’s nobody that plays with three in our league. When you don’t play a tight end, in two-backs, you’re not gonna play with three linebackers. We’re trying to get at least two on the field. We played with one, sometimes none last year, but that part of our defense we’re trying to tweak.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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