Defense has become a lost art in the Big 12 Conference in recent years, and Oklahoma football is caught up in this problem as much as any team in the league.
When TV and print analysts talk about Oklahoma’s chances in big games, especially those against elite teams outside of the conference and in the postseason, the hesitation to side with Sooners is that they have little problem putting up plenty of points, but can they stop anybody from doing the same?
Close games in the Big 12 are more of the 65-59, 52-46 or 45-40 variety, just to point out three of OU’s 11 wins a year ago. Those three contests were against Texas Tech, TCU and Texas, respectively, games the Sooners could just as easily have lost because of inconsistency and ineptness in getting defensive stops when they needed them.
Oklahoma ranked 89th in the nation in total yards allowed on defense (440 yards per game) and 75th in scoring defense (giving up close to 30 points per game)..And the Sooners were even worse defending against the pass (119th nationally).
The Sooners got much better defensively as the season wore on, but new head coach Lincoln Riley knows that things need to get better on defense and that the poor numbers Oklahoma put up on defense last season are not sustainable for a team that has much higher goals in mind than just winning conference championships.
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Riley wants to see the Sooners’ become on defense what he recalls from days gone by. “I remember growing up in the Big 12, you knew when you played Oklahoma,” the new OU head coach said this past week during Big 12 Football Media Days..
“You knew it was going to be physical as they could be (defensively), and you knew you were going to feel it on Sunday after the game,” he said.
“I want us to really, truly see us get back to that, where we are extremely physical and people know what’s coming every time they step on the field with us.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has the Sooners switching from a 3-4 defensive front to a 4-3 in an effort to get more pressure on the quarterback and strengthen the run defense.
The Sooners will definitely have a new look and a new attitude on defense this season. With the talent and experience they have returning at all levels of defense in the coming season, there is no reason that they can’t get back some of the swagger and success they’ve known and thrived on in the not too distant past.
A strong defensive presence is all the Sooners really need, coupled with their potent, high-scoring offense, to get back to the College Football Playoff in 2017.