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Oklahoma football: Sooners must get better on defense

COMMENTARY — Last season's late run of subpar defensive performances has to change if the Sooners want to contend in 2013.
by Berry Tramel Published: July 23, 2013

DALLAS — Last Nov. 10, Baylor totaled 424 yards and 34 points on the Oklahoma defense. Most of us thought that was alarming.

We didn't know what alarming was.

The next Saturday, West Virginia posted 778 yards and 49 points on the Sooners. Then OSU had 490 yards and 45 regulation points. Finally, whatever was left of OU's defensive reputation was shredded in the Cotton Bowl. Johnny Football and Texas A&M produced 663 yards and 41 points.

“Insulting,” Sooner cornerback Aaron Colvin said Tuesday during Big 12 Football Media Days.

Want to know why no one has OU in its preseason top 10? Why OSU and TCU — who since 1960 have combined for one outright title in the Big 12, Big Eight or Southwest conferences — received more first-place votes than did the Sooners in the preseason Big 12 poll?

Those four post-October games. Those four games when the Sooners belied the heritage of Shoate and Selmon and Casillas and Calmus.

“Our tradition is being the best in the Big 12 and in the country,” Colvin said, “and we have to get back to that.”

Time has not dimmed those astonishing numbers. Johnny Manziel's 229 yards rushing and 287 yards passing. Tavon Austin's 344 rushing yards on 21 carries, in a game in which West Virginia had FOUR touchdown drives of at least 90 yards. OSU's third-string quarterback, Clint Chelf, carving up the Sooner defense.

But in the crazy Big 12, the Sooners won all but that A&M game. And with plenty of beef and playmakers returning to boost Landry Jones' successor, points aren't likely to be at a premium for these Sooners.

So just get a little bit better on defense. Just keep Baylor somewhere around 30 points. Keep Chelf from folk-hero territory. Hold the ghosts of Tavon Austin to one or two 90-yard drives.

Do that, and this could be quite a solid OU season. A championship season, even.

“I think that's a possibility, that we can be improved,” Bob Stoops said. “And there's a lot of games that we did play really well on defense.”

Just not late in the season, when the cavalcade of spread offenses arrived.

The Sooners return just four starters — Colvin, safety Gabe Lynn, linebacker Corey Nelson and lineman Chuka Ndulue — but sometimes that's not a bad thing. Of course, OU also returns defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. We'll see if that's a good thing.

Little Brother's return to the staff did not go well. Even Bob Stoops admits all the problems last year were not personnel.

“I said it in the first (postseason) meeting, some of our scheme was stronger in pass coverage and pass defense and overall, and that part worked and was positive,” Stoops said. “But we hurt ourself too much in the run game. So we've got to adjust some of that. Be better in what we're asking our guys to do on defense or even up front.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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