When defensive players break the huddle, instead of saying "Sooners" this season, they're going with “12” to honor linebacker Austin Box, who died in May.
“Austin is still a big part of us,” said defensive tackle Jarmarkus McFarland. “It's a coincidence his number was 12 because I feel there are 11 guys on that field and he's still with us, the 12th man. Besides (the Texas) A&M (slogan), I feel a 12th man is out there watching over us, motivating us.”
D-LINE HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE
Since the overriding consensus is that OU's defensive line is the weakest link on a team ranked No. 1 in preseason, defensive tackle Stacy Walker was asked if the D-line will play with a chip on its shoulder.
“It's a lot bigger than a chip. It's like a boulder,” Walker said. “We've got to prove a lot of people wrong. Even ourselves. It's more stepping outside of the box, showing everybody what we're capable of doing and what we're going to do.”
OFFENSIVE LINE WORKS ON GOAL LINE
Being more physical, especially in short yardage and goal-line situations, was an area of emphasis during two-a-days, which ended on Friday.
Coaches and players said there has been noticeable improvement compared to last year's struggles inside the 5-yard line in a loss at Texas A&M.
“Technique for being on the goal line obviously is leverage,” said center Ben Habern. “You have to stay on the defensive linemen if an (offensive) tackle has to reach that linebacker. He has to get under his pads and drive him.
“One thing (offensive line) coach (James) Patton always emphasizes is to get your man past the goal line. Score with you man, basically.”
Quarterback Landry Jones said: “We're getting a lot of movement on the offensive line, more than we've had in years past.”
GET YOUR HANDS UP
Coaches have instructed defensive linemen to get their hands up to bat down passes when it's apparent the play is a quick three-step-drop pass where they have no time for a pass rush.
“If (the offensive lineman) jumps real quick, you know it's either the run game or a quick pass," said defensive end Frank Alexander. “You know you're not going to sack the quarterback. You try to make something happen by batting a ball down, anything to get an incomplete pass. That's still big.”