The Norman Transcript

Sports

October 5, 2012

Defense can’t catch a break in conference

NORMAN — Being a defensive coordinator is getting tougher every day. Big 12 Conference teams are scoring points at a ridiculous rate. That’s nothing new, but the rest of college football seems to be catching on. Stopping offenses seems to be impossible. Slowing them has now become the goal.

“There are a lot of innovative minds out there. They’ve got too much time on their hands,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “They need to pick up some hobbies or something. “

That likely won’t happen until the offseason. Until then, Stoops has to deal with a conference schedule where offenses are leading the charge. Defenses are struggling to catch up.

There are a lot of reasons for the offense vs. defense mismatch. The quarterbacks and receivers are better than they’ve ever been because they’ve spent their entire football lives playing in spread offenses. They’ve been attending 7-on-7 camps since junior high.

Another issue that has clearly benefited offenses, and hurt defenses, is player safety.

For generations, one of the deterrents to wide receivers crossing the middle of the field was they might get knocked senseless. Linebackers and safeties punished any player who tried to catch a ball in their area. Wide receivers knew catching the ball in the middle came with a price. Some wouldn’t pay.

Rule changes that have penalized helmet-to-helmet hits and targeting defenseless players have greatly reduced the intimidation factor that once existed.

Tackling, which is essential in slowing a short passing attack, seems to get worse every season. Teams do less in practice in an effort to keep players healthy for games.

The speed at which plays are run is another disadvantage to defenses. Offenses get to the line of scrimmage with 30 seconds left on the play clock. Then they try to get defenses to show their hand and audible accordingly. The Sooners have used this trick since 2008.

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