NORMAN — Few offenses in college football can line up in I-formation one play, before shifting to an empty set on the next. Then swing from empty to a double-tight end set. All with the same personnel. But that's a strength in this Oklahoma offense, which boasts several versatile players. Tight end Brody Eldridge is a ferocious blocker at fullback. Fullback Matt Clapp is a tough runner between the tackles at tailback. Tailback DeMarco Murray is a dangerous receiver in the slot. The list goes on, with tight end/slot receiver Jermaine Gresham, tailback/slot receiver Mossis Madu, slot receiver/wide receiver Ryan Broyles and slot receiver/wide receiver Manny Johnson. In other words, the Sooner offense is like a Swiss Army Knife. Numerous functions. Same tools. Factor in the no-huddle, which all but eliminates substituting, and opposing defenses, like Cincinnati's today, could find themselves in a guessing game with no reprieve trying to match up against OU's multiple formations. "I think it's been the luck of our recruiting that has given us this balance,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "That's a real unique thing to be able to do multiple formations with the same personnel. Sometimes when you run on the field, they know you're in a small set or a large set based on the size of your players. But when you can go from more run-oriented sets to passing sets without subbing, that's a uniqueness and that's a greater deal to stop.” Said quarterback Sam Bradford, "They've got to pick the personnel they're going to go with and they've got to stay with those guys. Even though we also have to stay with the same guys, we can go with three or four different formations. And because we don't have to run guys on and off the field, it allows us to go a little bit quicker.” For that reason, OU has the potential to catch opponents off-guard, attacking the weakness of a particular defense on the field. For example, the defense might send out a base package, then unexpectedly find the Sooners lined up in a four-wide receiver formation. That could lead to various opportunistic mismatches. "Can you imagine how a linebacker would feel if he walks out there and No. 7 (Murray) is standing out there at receiver?” said defensive backs coach Bobby Jack Wright. "He'd be like, ‘This cat looks a little different. This isn't the normal guy I've been covering.' That's an advantage to an offense if they can get in different formations with the same personnel set. And our guys are capable of that.” Said Eldridge, "I would think that would make it difficult on the defense not knowing how we're going to line up. The no-huddle makes things quicker, even harder. If we huddle, they might get an idea, but now with the no-huddle we're right up there.” The trick for Wilson, however, will be maximizing this advantage without confusing his own offense. "Sometimes when you become so multiple it's hard to get in rhythm and hard to practice it at all, it's like you have too much,” Wilson said. "You have to rep it, see it, have confidence in it, know the blitzes and coverages you're going to get, who has this blitz responsibility. "But not subbing and changing those looks and not huddling, you would think you could work that to your advantage. It will be interesting to see as the season plays out if we can take advantage and whether our guys will be productive with it.”
OU's Swiss Army Knife Club•Ryan Broyles His emergence in the slot allows Johnson to move to the outside; his versatility to play wide should give Gresham and Murray more opportunities out of the slot. •Matt Clapp Built in the mold of Mike Alstott, able to be the lead blocker or rush the ball out of one-back sets between the tackles. •Brody Eldridge The only thing worse for a defensive end than lining up against Eldridge at tight end is getting kicked out by him from the fullback spot. •Jermaine Gresham A wide receiver in a tight end's body, which explains why he excels at both. •Manny Johnson His ability to play wideout or slot makes it more difficult to predict where Gresham or Murray are going to line up. •Mossis Madu The latest addition to the club is a halfback by trade, but learning to play in the slot. •DeMarco Murray A linebacker's worst nightmare — having to guard Murray out of the slot; not that tackling him out of the backfield is fun, either.