Oklahoma Sooners Football: Mike Stoops Displays New Defense for Spring Game
There were plenty of things to take away from Saturday's Red/White Spring Game, but most notably was the new defensive formation deployed by coordinator Mike Stoops.
In the days leading up to the scrimmage, Stoops addressed the need to have more defensive backs on the field to deal with the pass-heavy offenses in the Big 12, saying, "You can't have linebackers out there lined up on the skill players we see week-in and week-out."
That scene is all-too familiar to Sooner fans who watched last year's defensive meltdowns against Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Instead of the nickel base defense we have seen in Norman for the last several years—featuring two safeties, two cornerbacks, two traditional linebackers and one LB/DB hybrid—Stoops had the Sooners in a two-linebacker, three-cornerback set for nearly the entire scrimmage.
The first-string unit used Tom Wort and Joseph Ibiloye as the two linebackers and Demontre Hurst, Lamar Harris and Gabe Lynn as the three corners. Corey Nelson took Ibiloye's spot after he went down with an injury early in the game.
When last year's leading tackler Aaron Colvin returns from offseason shoulder surgery, he is expected to move to corner, likely taking Lynn's spot.
The new look performed well, albeit against a vanilla offensive playbook led by a rotation of three backup quarterbacks. The only big pass play was a deep lob from a scrambling Blake Bell that caught safety Javon Harris with his head turned the wrong direction, resulting in a 60-yard touchdown for Jaz Reynolds.
The tradeoff in exchanging a linebacker for a cornerback is that the defense becomes more vulnerable in the middle of the field, especially on run plays. If the running back gets past the defensive line, there is one less man there to challenge him. Brennan Clay and Danzel Williams both had a couple nice runs through the middle of the defense on Saturday.
It's not certain that this will be the permanent formation come the fall. Stoops will likely shuffle Corey Nelson on and off for the third cornerback, depending on the opposing team or the situation. The OU offense trotted out three receivers the entire scrimmage, so the defense kept three cornerbacks on the field to match.
Overall, it was a good sign of the coaching staff. They identified the problem and are taking strides to correct it.
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