19 Comments

  1. jobhr

    – I don’t know why Bookie is on the field. He’s supposed to be a lockdown pass defender with great short area quickness that translates to big plays. He’s provided none of this. His liabilities tackling have left him unaccounted for. There are players his size that can succeed at the college level. TCU rolls them out annually successfully. They learn to tackle by going for rugby tackles at the legs.

    When does the sample size become large enough to show that he needs to focus on tackling technique? OU’s got plenty of other options for the NB that are better fits. (I’d play Norwood at CB and either Motley or Tre Brown at CB and the other at NB). Against teams that run the ball with power, Barnes should be the NB.

    – Motley’s defense on the

    – In the second to last GIF, Tre Norwood got trucked. MOST OTHER CBs IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL are going to get trucked by 6’3″ 230 lb running backs with a head of steam. Criticizing him for that play is misguided. He slowed the RB to allow his teammate to finish the tackle. He did his job. It was a tough job.

    – OU didn’t substitute on defense under M Stoops. This changed last week. This is key for a few reasons. If players know they’re going to play, they’re going to prepare better during the week. It builds depth for eventual injuries. Fresh players are more successful players.

    – You’re also correct in that OU’s probably going to be able to outscore every team on the schedule. Per FEI, OU’s offense games rank between 88% (UCLA) and 98% (FAU, Baylor, TCU) each game. And now the OL is coming together with improved play from the RFr center.

    West Virgina is the most complete team left on OU’s schedule. The Mountaineers defense is pretty pedestrian unless you’re from Kansas. Their offense’s best game (91%) is only better than one OU game so OU’s priors are favorable going into that game.

    – This win projection includes the Big12 championship game where they’ll likely face a UT team that they had a 91% win expectancy against. The OU defense threw up a 10% game vs UT. A terrible 20% defense performance is likely sufficient for OU to beat Texas in a rematch (UT’s defensive performance was 19% that game).

    – I’m beginning to understand that when you say “soft,” you mean lack of effort. I agree that OU’s defense lacks effort. If you mean “lack of effort,” please say that. If you mean “poor technique” because the DL didn’t keep outside should free, please say that. Using “soft” to describe behavior is imprecise. Continuing to use it makes you “lazy.”

    • ianaboyd

      -I don’t think many guys at OU are particularly good tacklers (a few are solid) but yeah, Bookie has not had the promised impact. He almost had the kind of play you’re describing on that TCU bubble screen (I don’t know what Collins was reading there) but dropped it.

      -I didn’t really go after Norwood for getting trucked, I thought that was largely forgivable and said that it was the DL play that was really concerning. That said, OU certainly has a problem in that they play CBs of the variety that will tend to get trucked there. Texas’ CBs are more likely to lay a lick than to be on the receiving end and it’s in part because they go 6-0, 205 and 6-2, 205 and in part because of Texas’ practice culture. But yeah, Norwood got in the way and thus guaranteed that the ballcarrier would probably end up on the ground at personal cost, good on him.

      -Mike probably didn’t trust back-ups to execute his multiple schemes, which is dumb because the starters couldn’t execute them either anyways. Obviously it’s a good thing he’s gone.

      -If I were you I’d consider Texas Tech the much bigger threat than West Virginia, playing them both on the road is a legitimately tough draw.

      -91% win expectancy is nonsense. Texas took their foot off the gas and got a little tired on defense, OU made them pay with some big plays and drives, but the Longhorns had a 3-TD lead to start the 4th quarter and could have pressed it further with more aggressive play-calling had they foreseen the struggles of their own defense. Texas dominated the vast majority of that game and nearly leaked it away before retaking control on the final drive, which I think most people expected when they got the ball with 2 minutes left.

      The Longhorns won’t be afraid of a rematch. I’m sure they’d rather avoid it since Oklahoma is the most talented team they could face but the offense will know they can push the Sooners around and the defense can play a lot better given the presence of two true freshman amongst the starting 11 in the dime defense.

      -Soft is the common nomenclature in the game of football and it’s absolutely fitting. When you aren’t up for battling double teams throughout a game and allow them to shove you off the ball and into the ground, that’s soft. When you accept blocking after failing to win into the backfield on your first move, that’s soft. When you have lots of guys that aren’t well practiced or confident at tackling, that’s soft.

      • jobhr

        – The numbers and my eyes like OU’s running game vs Tech. If the Sooners have any healthy running backs for that game, they are probably safe.

        – Big12 championship game is criticized because it is a guaranteed rematch. This year it work to the benefit of the conference. If UT and OU are both 11-1, the winner of that game may be hyped enough to leap a 12-1 Michigan (and likely a 12-1 Ohio St with an ugly loss to Purdue) into the playoff.

        – Your calling card is analysis. Analytic writing requires precision. You list a few precise descriptions of poor defensive play in your response above. These precise descriptions give the reader a better understanding of the deficiencies than emotional terms (“soft”). Your analysis is clearer and comes across as more objective with the precise descriptions.

  2. jobhr

    INCOMPLETE!!!
    – Motley’s defense on the TD wasn’t the only or even the worse gaff of the day for OU’s defense. Reagor had TBrown beat on a post in the 2nd half that would have changed the game. But that’s OK in the Big12 when you have OU’s offense.

    – An OU defense that sacrifices some big plays for a few stops a game is MUCH preferred to what’s been happening.
    What would be ideal now is basically what the Sooners had at the end of Venebles’ tenure: a risk-taking defense that yields some big plays but plays hard and gets a lot of stops and quite a few turnovers.

  3. Tony

    Ian, I think your DL assessment is spot on. I just don’t see them winning many battles, particularly in run inability to seal the edge in any way, shape or form consistently hurt them against UT.

    I at least saw the LBs and DBs occasionally run to the ball with decisiveness, which was also lacking previously.

    • ianaboyd

      I will say that Curtis Bolton and Kenneth Murray both run to the football. But you need everyone in the run fit, including on the back end, to play with awareness and leverage to stop spread offenses. OU’s breakdowns tend to be DL losing gaps and then DBs not arriving in time or arriving without their hard hat.

  4. Chris R.

    Enjoyed the read Ian. I think most realistic OU fans will accept marginal (an extra stop or two per game) improvements. What make help take OU up another level by year end is DTY, Redmond and Perkins improving throughout the year. Riley said on his talk show that losing DTY first week of season was a big blow.
    I think the Texas game was a big wakeup call to Riley. The man is intensely competitive and I’m confident will take the steps this off season to get D where it needs to be. Robert Barnes this week talked about how they have done loads of live tackling these past 2 weeks.
    A CCG rematch would be fascinating. Texas should be confident for the reasons you stated and OU will feel confident assuming their D will be somewhat better and offensively the OL and running game are starting to really gel. Riley vs Orlando ches match will be fun to watch. Incidentally I am a little skeptical of your claim of Texas D being gassed in 4th quarter. OU didn’t run many plays in the 3d quarter and UT dominated ToP. OU executed at a high level that 4th quarter.

    • ianaboyd

      The big question is whether Lincoln Riley will wake up to the need for live tackling in spring, fall, and throughout the entire season. As someone noted (can’t remember if it was a Texas or other staffer), you can’t just say mid-season “okay, we need to be physical this week!” and start amping up your practices for that week alone. The “bash bros” tackle all year, like I noted. For them a higher level of physicality is the starting point, not the extra gear, their extra gear is still gonna mean a bloody nose for you. Then there’s the OU S&C program.

      What I saw in some of those final three OU drives were Texas failing to get into their fits and play with focus, some of it also came against the 2nd man group up front which had a frankly disappointing game. But Texas’ drives in between those scores by OU were pretty short and useless and put the D back on the field quickly. Additionally, it’s a super emotional game and they’d been chasing Kyler Murray and co around all day already.

      Certainly OU played well, I’m not trying to say that they weren’t executing at a high level, moreso that Texas losing their grip on the game was not Oklahoma nearly snatching the game back out of their hands. Texas gave it up in some sense and OU seized it in others. With one or two more aggressive play calls or one or two less holding penalties in the fourth quarter, Texas keeps their foot on OU’s neck and it’s a blowout victory.

      It has seemed like the typical response of Sooner fan has been, “I knew it, we should have been pounding these guys all along!” and obviously the people on the other side of that game saw it very differently. More like, “Man, we should have finished pounding these guys rather than letting them back in!”

      Obviously the truth is somewhere in between.

      • Chris R.

        Good reply Ian. The decisions Riley makes this offseason will be fascinating to watch.

        Yes the truth is somewhere in the middle. I felt the same way in Ga game (let our foot off gas etc) as you did about the RRSO. The penalties UT had in 4th were costly and helped OU get back in it. However us OU fans were lamenting penalties that stopped promising drives earlier in game. So different sides of same coin. Lol

  5. Joey

    Good read. Also, kudos for picking up on Ohio State flaws early as I read an article on ESPN today that essentially said the same thing you’ve said all year.

    Obviously, I don’t really expect much of a leap from the D for the rest of the year. As you said, physicality and culture isn’t a mid season adjustment. My main takeaway from the TCU game is how undisruptive OUs D Line is. I know OU had some poor defensive line recruiting cycles, but my god. I guess I’m just taking OUs season game by game. I know they are gonna score, but I don’t really have any expectations. I think they’ll be in for a dog fight (shoot out) in Lubbock.

    Also, I don’t really take too much from the Texas game other than OUs glaring defensive issues (which Riley has taken the first step in addressing, NOT solving). Texas mauled OU for most of that game on offense. Let off the gas and OU got back in the game. Fans that think OU will smoke Texas in a rematch just because Mike Stoops is gone are delusional.

    • ianaboyd

      It’s hard to know how much of OU’s DL issues are talent and how much of it is development and culture. Obviously I think the Sooners lack a physical culture but I also warned that Benny Wylie wasn’t known for producing explosive athletes or enforcing adherence to high standards and accountability.

      The S&C coach is such a huge part of a program because A) he’s around the players all year and B) he has the power to enforce standards via things like
      -Making people run sprints or up the stadium steps if they don’t meet standards
      -Watching over how players approach conditioning and offseason drills to make sure they that maintain high effort all year
      -Tailoring the strength program to make sure that guys are developing in the right ways to maximize their potential in a role or assignment.

      Doesn’t sound like Wylie is really doing that and I think things like a DL trying to shoot the wrong gap, getting caught and then taken for a ride might be indicative of that underlying issue.

      • Joey

        I definitely agree with your thoughts on S&C coach as a cultural enforcer. Wiley might be a little too mild for that role. But I guess I have a tough time attributing all the blame to him since a lot of these issues were there when Jerry Schmidt was the S&C coach.

        • Clayton Davis

          I think this is the most bizarre thing about Ian’s claim about the culture. I don’t know that Wylie is the answer, but everything he is talking about with regard to physicality of the defense has been there for years under Schmidt, and he had a huge reputation in and near the program for his entire tenure as someone to be feared and who would work you over for your own betterment.

          And the offense hasn’t been labeled as soft under Riley, but presumably it takes physical practices to develop toughness for them, too. Who are they getting physical against in practice if not the defense?

          • ianaboyd

            I thought Wylie would compound the existing issues, which seems very plausible given what we’ve seen. Look at A&M now with Schmidt there, maybe he was restrained in the latter years at OU and now he’s free again. That team has a toughness to them.

            As for the offense, see my recent comment with the GIF and also: you can develop an effective offense of this style without practicing live tackling and hitting regularly. We’ve seen it time and time again. Defense? Much more difficult.

        • ianaboyd

          Problems from the DL? I dunno, maybe. Overall the Sooners have seemed less physical every year since Riley came aboard. Even the offense, which runs the ball super effectively, are more about moving and screening than driving people off the ball.

          Like:
          OU split zone
          They don’t line up in a three point stance, their approach to zone and counter is basically “catch and seal.”

          Don’t get me wrong, it works great and when their OL catch LBs or Ss in space they tend to plant them in the dirt, but they aren’t blowing open holes in the trenches through imposition of will.

          • jobhr

            Yeah, this is ridiculous.
            OU’s run offense under Riley is incredible, and the OL is the consent. They’ve gone against to run defenses in 2016 and 2017 and, with the exception of Houston 2016, whipped them.

            If a “less physical” Sooner OL yields these results, sign me up.

          • ianaboyd

            I didn’t say it wasn’t effective, I said they tend to catch and seal along the OL and it’s not a style that gives the D reps against a group trying to drive them off the ball in a 3 point stance.

            That’s not really debatable. But it never seems to hold back the O from running the ball. Something similar was true of Oregon back in the day, they looked really physical until Stanford found a way to make them run the ball by moving DL off the ball rather than stretching them.

          • ianaboyd

            It really is brilliant how they choose, develop, and use OL. They load up on massive guys who can move and protect the passer and then they have schemes that translate that same skill set into an extremely effective run game as well.

            The point is only that it’s possible to see how OU could simultaneously be great at running the ball and not great at playing run defense despite regularly practicing against that offense.

            The flip example is Michigan State. They haven’t been terribly good at running the ball in years even tho they want it bad, but they are always tough in run defense. Sometimes it seems like helping their own D develop is the only benefit they get from insisting on trying to be a downhill team. That and their capacity for pulling off a soul-crushing, 4-minute drive to win a game from time to time.

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