NORMAN — Much like the offense, Oklahoma's defense didn't show much beyond the basics in Saturday's spring game.
The Sooners' defenders struck primarily to their base formations, not showing too much as they wrap up spring practice.
“I think there are some positives you could take away from it from some of the younger players,” Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We have a ways to go to be where we want to be come August.”
Two of those bright spots were the pressure defensive tackles Jordan Phillips, a sophomore, and junior defensive end Chuka Ndulue were able to apply and the play of the linebackers as the defense has evolved to take on more mobile quarterbacks.
“I thought they got good pressure and forced them out a few times, got to them some,” Bob Stoops said of his defensive line. “Even playing for the run, for the most part, I thought they did a pretty good job, looking at it now.”
Phillips has to be a player the defense can rely on consistently a year after he played sparingly on the line, recording 12 tackles overall.
“He has to be a player for us,” Mike Stoops said. “Getting Jordan to where he can play 50 snaps a game is going to be a necessity for us to be successful and to play effectively for us for 50 snaps. That's where he has to have a great summer of conditioning for us to be able to rely on him for 50 snaps.”
Linebacker Corey Nelson has seen Phillips' potential plenty.
“He just needs somebody to push him,” Nelson said. “He needs that leader and I have to be there for him, since we're out there together.
“His potential is far beyond any potential that I could think of as far as a defensive lineman goes. He has a lot of potential to be able to be one of the greatest to come out of here. He's just a fantastic player.”
Much was made of the disappointing play of the Sooners' linebackers last year, as they struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Late in the season, OU's linebackers barely saw the field as Sooners coaches worked to find a defense that could slow down high-powered spread attacks.
“Coach (Tim) Kish wanted us to be the leaders and he felt like we weren't the leaders last year,” Nelson said. “He felt like we had no leadership whatsoever on the defense last year and said it starts with the linebackers. I feel like we have to prove something.”
The Sooners always had two linebackers on the field Saturday.
Nelson said the group is turning a corner as they get more comfortable with the defensive system of Mike Stoops and Kish in their second year.
“We're becoming more instinctive and instead of being more robotic,” Nelson said. “We're starting to see the ball and we're starting to run to the ball.”