METAIRIE, La. — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops spent the entire 2013 offseason developing a defense built for speed, specifically designed to counter the Big 12 Conference's high-octane spread offenses.
In the last month, though, Stoops had to retool some things while preparing for No. 3 Alabama, which features a more traditional, prostyle offense that can typically overwhelm opponents with brute force.
“We've had to adjust some personnel for this game and tried to get bigger people in position to defend the things we're going to see with Alabama,” Stoops said.
One of those players whose role will be enhanced is hybrid linebacker/defensive end P.L. Lindley, who played the second half of the season in bigger sets, but will be tasked with the most difficult assignment — by far — of his college career Thursday night, when the Sooners meet the mighty Crimson Tide in the Superdome.
“I'm happy to do whatever needs to be done to help out the team,” said the sophomore from Round Rock, Texas.
“We've definitely gotta come with it. If we take a play off, they can get a big play.”
Oklahoma's new defensive scheme usually includes three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs. Against the Crimson Tide, Oklahoma will likely add another lineman or linebacker in place of the fifth defensive back.
Sophomore linebacker Eric Striker has established himself as one of the Sooners' best defensive players this season as a pass rusher, but he's also a little undersized at 6-foot, 219 pounds.
Striker said Texas and Kansas are the two teams Oklahoma has faced this season that most resembled Alabama. Coincidentally, those are the two games in which Lindley played his biggest roles this season.
In Oklahoma's 36-20 loss to Texas, Lindley recorded two tackles and recovered a fumble.
He started the Sooners' 34-19 win at Kansas, and has appeared in each game since, totaling nine tackles for the season.
Lindley arrived at Oklahoma as a linebacker, but was moved to defensive end. This season, he's played a hybrid role, sometimes lining up with his hand on the line of scrimmage and sometimes staying back off the line.
One of the biggest challenges for Lindley against Alabama will be defending the pass. As an outside linebacker, he will likely be asked to cover the Crimson Tide's tight ends.
“It's something I've been working on this whole second half of the season, getting back into the kind of thing I used to do,” Lindley said of playing in pass coverage.
Despite Oklahoma's relative lack of experience playing against an offense like Alabama's, Striker said he welcomes a tough, physical matchup.
“We want contact,” Striker said. “You think I'm gonna run? You think I'm scared of contact? No, we're gonna be down there.”
Asked if Alabama will be the most physical offense OU has faced all season, Striker responded, “I don't know. I haven't played them yet.”