Big 12 Twitter-bag Vol. VIII

Alright twitter-bags, there have been a few more developments around the Big 12’s fall camps that warrant some discussion and commentary. Let’s just dive right in:

This isn’t really a question, just a nice link from Julian updating the Will Sunderland story. This dude was going to be the free safety for OU last year and he was a big time athlete with some serious downhill range that I thought looked kind of lost in OU’s schemes. Then he was arrested and kicked out, further depleting the perpetually unstocked, Mike Stoops’ era DB room.

Vic Koenning’s “dude coverage” comment means that OU just played mostly man coverage like, “hey, you got this dude,” whereas Troy plays zone with rules and cues. If you’ve watched OU over the recent years you’ll have noticed that the Sooners’ emphasis on man coverage has hurt them in three ways:

  1. They are really predictable and can be attacked with man-beating concepts either to free receivers or clear out the box for running plays.
  2. It requires really good CB play, which they may or may not have in a given year. Last year they were counting on Jordan Thomas being really good, matched him up on Denzel Mims all night long, and then 11 catches for 192 yards and three TDs happened.
  3. The emphasis on man coverage isn’t the culprit, I don’t think, but OU’s secondary over the last several years has been soft. They aren’t good tacklers and they don’t intimidate anyone. Playing a ton of man coverage has exacerbated that by hurting their ability to take good angles on the ball and leading to an emphasis on skilled athletes in the defensive backfield over hard-nosed defenders.

I’ve noted several times now that TCU’s breakthrough on D last year occurred simultaneous to A) fielding a richly experienced defensive backfield B) adding Ben Banogu and having plus athletes/pass-rushers at either DE spot and C) having a nose in Blacklock that could command doubles and free up Travin Howard and their speed on the back end to play with some depth.

At 6-4, 320 Ross Blacklock had a rare combination of size and athleticism that even OU and Texas struggle to field on an annual basis. The dude was an Army All-American, 4-star recruit that everyone in the greater region wanted.

Without him (he just tore his achilles and is done for the year), the Frogs do not have another dude up front that can just maul interior OL and take on double teams heads up. They have lots of young tackles that will get snaps and aren’t terrible but they can’t count on any of them to eat doubles and hold the point of attack like Blacklock did.

Their answer will probably be Patterson opening up the “stunts” portion of the playbook in order to try and attack with speed up front and tie down blockers with confusion and angles rather than relying on Blacklock to do yeoman’s work. The Frog D will still be effective but this one really hurts. It’s not a matter of Patterson working overtime to just get a younger safety up to speed like when they take injuries to every other position, there isn’t a young Blacklock on the roster that just needs experience. At least not to my knowledge.

This probably increases the chances that Summers plays more at DE, rather than decreasing it, contrary to what you might think. The solution to lacking a big nose isn’t to have a big inside-backer but to have greater disruption up front that funnels the ball where you need it to go. Summers at DE helps the Frogs be more flexible off tackle and also allows them to move LJ Collier inside more often situationally.

There’s a few that are certainly interesting. West Virginia travels to play Tennessee, but that program is rebuilding and it’s more the type of game where the B12 has more to lose than they have to gain.

Ohio State traveling down to Jerry World to take on TCU is big, the Buckeyes have been fighting to maintain their pipeline into the homes of elite Texas recruits and playing TCU in that stadium in Dallas is a great way (in their perspectives) to set themselves up to score some wins on local TVs. Of course that pipeline just took a hit when Urban Meyer was exposed as having protected the job of an assistant with some serious issues.

For TCU there’s a lot of prestige to be gained by beating a P5 blue blood because they don’t get their shots to even play these games. Now that Ohio State is distracted, Patterson will certainly really be pressing to make this count.

FAU at OU is a bellwether game but not that significant unless OU wets the bed and they could probably wet the bed in an important fashion (getting gashed in the run game) and still win in a shootout. OU’s road trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA is interesting but also probably not that important. Mississippi State at Kansas State is a really, really fun matchup but the implications are fairly minimal. If ISU can run on Iowa that will prove to have been a huge bellwether for the 2018 Big 12 season.

Oklahoma State hosting Boise State is another fun game that probably doesn’t mean all that much in the big scheme of things.

The boring but probably right answer is Texas hosting USC. The Trojans are going to be good, maybe not great, and this game is going to fuel the “Texas is back!” memes really strongly in one direction or the other. Texas being back and having the capacity to contend for the B12 title is the biggest story of the season.

TCU having a shot at national prestige against Ohio State though…that could be just as big or bigger. The way that the B12 moves past having two alpha dogs and then a bunch of well run, also-rans is from TCU making the most of opportunities like this and beating a blue blood on a national stage. Of course they just lost one of their only elite components…


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