OU has shifted to a 3-3-5 defensive alignment this season, for good reason. Baylor, OSU, Texas Tech, West Virginia. You can’t play well in this conference without spreading your defense the way opponents spread their offense.
But that’s not Notre Dame’s style.
The Irish are coached by Brian Kelly, who has plenty of 21st-century innovation, but still use old-fashioned principles of ball control and fullback/tight end usage.
So does that mean we’ll see the Sooners revert to the four-man front that was the staple of Bob Stoops’ defenses his first 14 years?
“Good chance,” Stoops said. “Not going to give you any percentages on it.”
But why wouldn’t the Sooners? OU’s defense actually played solid last season in a 30-13 loss to Notre Dame. The game was tied 13-13 midway through the third quarter, before two plays swung the game – a deep pass by the Irish to set up a touchdown, then a Landry Jones interception.
A month ago, the Sooners using more defensive linemen seemed like a dubious move. Depth was a huge concern.
But in OU’s first three games, ends Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom have played great, and tackle Jordan Phillips has been solid.
“I’m very excited and pleased with our D-line play to this point,” Stoops said. “These guys have done a great job making plays, being disruptive.”
The Sooner depth has improved to the point that Chuka Ndule, OU’s only returning D-line starter who was moved from end to tackle, wasn’t even mentioned by Stoops as a tackle prospect. He’s primarily back at end. Stoops said that Torrea Peterson, Jordan Wade and Quincy Russell would be the next in line to supplement Phillips should OU need two tackles.
Stoops said new D-line coach Jerry Montgomery is a “great communicator. Players have really taken to him. Great motivator. Very smart coach. Guys are playing with better and better technique.”