Oklahoma's Frank Alexander (84) breaks up a pass for Texas A&M's Howard Morrow (5) during the first half of the college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas A&M Aggies at Gaylord Family -- Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, in Norman, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Maclin and Tech’s Michael Crabtree moved on to the NFL.
And two of the league’s top returning playmakers, Oklahoma State wideout Dez Bryant and OU tight end Jermaine Gresham, who together totaled 35 touchdowns last season, have been non-factors. Gresham underwent season-ending knee surgery after suffering a cartilage injury the week of the opener. And Bryant was suspended for the season by the NCAA after only three games.
But offensive personnel is only half the story.
"We’ve been inconsistent (on offense) with new guys at a lot of positions,” said Red Raiders coach Mike Leach, who is credited with bringing the spread to the Big 12 when he was hired by Bob Stoops to be OU’s offensive coordinator in 1999.
"But defenses are working on something.”
What defenses have been working on is finally coming to fruition: The recruitment and development of players with skill-sets that counteract the spread.
Nowhere was that more evident than in Norman last weekend.
In the fourth quarter, OU sophomore defensive end Frank Alexander acted like he was about to rush Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson. But after the snap, Alexander dropped back into coverage, and racing 30 yards downfield with a receiver, Alexander was there to bat down Johnson’s pass.
Said Stoops: "I think getting speed to match up in space gives you a better chance against the spread.”
And more and more Big 12 defenses are finding ends who cover the pass like linebackers. And linebackers who run like safeties.
"You could see it coming,” Kansas coach Mark Mangino said last week. "I realized it about the middle of last year.
"Defenses were catching up.”