The Oklahoma Sooners defense looks miles better than it did in 2012. It looks better than it has in years, and a lot of that has to do with the improved linebacker play – which makes sense from a program known for years as Linebacker U.
Linebacker Corey Nelson was here in 2012 when the entire defense looked embarrassing in games with a number of teams, including Baylor, West Virginia and Texas A&M. The year before wasn’t much better, when OU was beat at home by Texas Tech. It didn’t seem like they could stop anyone.
This year, OU had a shutout in the first game, and would have shutout West Virginia if not for one big run up the middle at the start of the game. Most of Tulsa’s damage came when the second and third team Sooners’ defenders were in late in the game.
So, what is the difference this season?
“I feel like we didn’t have no leadership on defense last year,” Nelson said. “We just didn’t have no guys stepping up and taking control of the defense and grabbing it by the horns.
“We’re all running to the ball. That’s one thing that we did not do last season or maybe even the season before that and if we don’t run to the ball, we get punished for it so that’s one thing that has changed and I see a lot of us doing.”
That makes sense. In years past, there were names like Roy Williams, Rocky Calmus, Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy all providing solid leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Bob Stoops, who coached defense before he became a head coach always sought out talent that he knew would bring passion on the defense.
Mike Stoops is the same, and when he returned to OU last year, he started to work on re-instilling it in a defense that had fallen almost every season since he left. It took a year, but it seems like he has the Sooners playing Stoops-style defense once again.
Now, they can prove themselves against Notre Dame next week, one of the teams who beat OU last season.
“We have to come out there and give it all that we’ve got,” Nelson said. “This will be the biggest game and the most important game of the season thus far. It’ll show what our defense is really made of.”