The Sooner coaching staff is adamant that it’s not going to a 3-4 defense — or a 5-2; I’m going to get militant about this 3-4 reference — but linebacker coach Tim Kish said Tuesday it’s no secret that the Sooners are using a 4-2-5.
It really only makes sense. Truth is, OU is short of linemen and short of linebackers. Which means regardless of strategy, just talking personnel, the Sooners have more stocked with defensive backs than any other area of the defense. So get as many DBs on the field as possible.
It’s not like the nickle defense (five DBs) isn’t a base strategy in the Big 12. When you get spread out and thrown on 50 times a game by virtually every team, might as well forgo the formalities and declare the 4-2-5 your base, since it’s going to be anyway.
Which brings us back to Bill Clay. Les Miles’ defensive coordinator at OSU was ahead of his time. Clay’s defenses didn’t always play stingy — or even occasionally stingy — but his alignment was ahead of its time. Clay used the 4-2-5 as a base, back in the day when some Big 12 schools spread you out, but not all of them.
The 5-2 is a wonderful alignment, but when you’re short of what I call defensive ends and the NFL calls outside linebackers, the 5-2 is a non-starter. You’ve got to have some ballplayers out there. When Barry Switzer’s teams excelled with the 5-2, he had d-ends like Jimbo Elrod and Gary Baccus and Troy Johnson and Kevin Murphy and Darrell Reed.
The 2013 Sooners appear to have only enough linebackers to adequately fill two slots, not four. Corey Nelson and Franklin Shannon and Aaron Franklin and the unproven Eric Striker.
So a 4-2-5 seems like the way to go. In short-yardage situations, maybe you beef up. Or maybe you don’t. In the Big 12, 3rd-and-2 is a passing down.
Despite the massive losses — Demontre Hurst, Tony Jefferson, Javon Harris — from the defensive backfield of 2012, the Sooners appear to be more solid at DB than elsewhere. Aaron Colvin is a star at cornerback. Cortez Johnson, the transfer from Arizona, sounds promising at corner. At safety, Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson have at least played a bunch. And young players Zach Sanchez and Ahmad Thomas have at least encouraged the Sooner staff that they will be players. Throw in veterans who haven’t really had a chance to play because of the logjam and their own off-field miscues — Trey Franks, Quentin Hayes — and the Sooners have a decent array of DBs.
I think the 4-2-5 is the way to go. You’re going to have to play it anyway. Might as well claim it as your own.