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November 6, 2009

Sooner defense anything but basic

A year ago, Oklahoma's defensive philosophy wasn't rocket science. Just keep it simple summed it up the best.

The Sooners didn't blitz much and the coverages were more about getting everyone on the same page instead of confusing opposing quarterbacks. Substitutions were also minimal. Unless someone was hurt, OU was content.

"I was just praying to get guys lined up and in the right gaps and understand the drops," OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "We hardly blitzed, we couldn't do much of anything. I felt like we played with one arm tied behind our back the entire year."

Through eight games, it's been night-and-day for the Sooners. Situational substitutions have been common and the Sooners have been anything but basic.

They've used three-man defensive fronts and four-man defensive fronts. They've used four linebackers and they've used two. At times there's been four defensive backs, others times as many as six.

Venables credits experience as a reason the Sooners have been able to become more complex. But it's also a matter of taking advantage of some unique talents.

Jeremy Beal and Gerald McCoy are prime examples.

Last week against Kansas State, Beal played both defensive end and outside linebacker.

"He is like a linebacker and most defensive ends aren't. Some can, some can't," Venables said. "He can slide out and do that."

McCoy is one of the best defensive tackles in college football, but he can also slide out to defensive end in passing situations, as he's done that all season.

"Our personnel gives us that flexibility," Venables said. "You don't just do it to do it or because it looks really good on the board. Those guys execute pretty good and they get it, they understand it. They can handle it and that's the biggest thing."

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