NORMAN — The most significant defensive adjustment Oklahoma showed Saturday was it played the entire scrimmage with two linebackers on the field.
The leading tackler of the day was No. 2 middle linebacker Aaron Franklin. The reason why was OU stayed in a base 4-2-5 alignment regardless of what the offense ran.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said middle linebacker Frank Shannon and weakside linebacker Corey Nelson are two of the Sooners’ best players, and they intend to use them on every down this season.
“We’re trying to adapt our defense to that and playing with your best 11. Who those best 11 guys are, we have to get them on the field,” he said. “Semantically how we set that up is something we do as a staff and whether it’s 4-2 or 3-4, we’ll adjust as we go. We’re a little more diversified when we do that and finding ways to pressure and be good against the things you have to defend in this league. We just have to continue to evolve in the system we’re trying to run.”
The Sooners never had more than one linebacker on the field when offenses had four or more receivers on the field last season. At times they went with six defensive backs.
This spring has served as a test to show the linebackers can handle covering speedy receivers.
“It’s been real good to see the linebackers getting better and better day-in and day-out. We’re becoming more instinctive instead of being more robotic,” Nelson said. “We’re starting to see the ball, we’re starting to run to the ball, we’re starting to see the ball even if our gap is all the way on the left side and we’re on the right, we go to the right because that’s where the ball is at. Just having that type of mentality has allowed us to get better and better day-in and day-out. We’re starting to become real linebackers that you used to see back at Oklahoma.”