NORMAN — Members of Oklahoma’s defensive front are happy to be preparing for spread offenses after last week’s triple-option test against Army.
As for the defensive backs?
The Big 12 never offers much relief for them.
Sixth-ranked OU’s quest for a fourth straight conference championship resumes at home against Baylor on Saturday (2:30 p.m., ABC). The Big 12 has been a house of horrors in recent years for not just OU secondaries, but others too.
The Sooners (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) own three straight victories over Baylor, but surrendered 463 passing yards while sweating out last year’s meeting in Waco.
Ever since Iowa State ran 6-foot-6 receiver Hakeem Butler into single-coverage situations against OU junior cornerback Parnell Motley repeatedly in the Big 12 opener two weekends ago, Motley has been eager for redemption.
Butler caught TDs of 51 and 57 yards, both with Motley in tow, and brushed off several other would-be tacklers during his 174-yard, 2-TD day — which was more production than his two other games, against Iowa and Akron, combined.
“They were throwing back shoulder [fades]. He's a big tall receiver and that's where they wanted to give it to him, where he could reach it,” Motley said afterward. “At the end of the day, it's just play technique and be aggressive with that guy. Just keep on playing football. He's on scholarship like I am.
“I’m looking forward to having more matchups like that throughout the season.”
OU’s DBs will get their chance.
Baylor sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer appears to have solidified the starting job over senior Jalan McClendon. Brewer’s numbers — 862 yards, six touchdowns — are largely better because of his connections with leading receiver Jalen Hurd, a former Tennessee running back who towers at 6 feet 5, 217 pounds.
Hurd is the sixth-leading receiver in the Big 12 with 311 yards and two TDs, and he won’t be the last large body OU’s secondary faces in the next month. Texas’ 6-foot-6 receiver Collin Johnson awaits the following week in Dallas.
“No doubt the big receivers like that who can win their majority of 50/50 balls are always a tough matchup,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “But we're used to that in this league. We're gonna have to defend it well and have to do a better job than we did on Butler."
Butler’s five catches were compounded by his many yards gained after contact, prompting ESPN play-by-play analyst Dave Pasch to exclaim, “They can’t get this guy down!”
“It’s working on our physicality, making sure that we put ourselves in the best position to be able to play big guys like that,” said safety Kahlil Haughton, who is from Waco. “We’ve also got to be physical at the line, get some pressure. That’s one of our main points.”
Things could get easier for the secondary in that regard with defensive tackles Marquise Overton (appendectomy) and Tyreece Lott (undisclosed injury) both expected back Saturday. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said the two practiced Tuesday.
“A lot of times people see a corner giving up a play and they think, 'Well, their corner just didn't have good coverage.' A lot of times there's a lot more into it than that: Where your help is defensively, schematically helping those guys out,” Riley said. “Obviously pass rush is gonna be a critical factor in that. That's an area where we feel like we're gonna have some advantages here going forward.”
Baylor at No. 6 Oklahoma
Time: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Records: OU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12); Baylor (3-1, 1-0)
Line: OU (-23.5)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7