NORMAN — Few offenses in college football can line up in I-formation one play, before shifting to an empty set on the next. Then swing from empty to a double-tight end set.
All with the same personnel. But that's a strength in this Oklahoma offense, which boasts several versatile players. Tight end Brody Eldridge is a ferocious blocker at fullback. Fullback Matt Clapp is a tough runner between the tackles at tailback. Tailback DeMarco Murray is a dangerous receiver in the slot. The list goes on, with tight end/slot receiver Jermaine Gresham, tailback/slot receiver Mossis Madu, slot receiver/wide receiver Ryan Broyles and slot receiver/wide receiver Manny Johnson. In other words, the Sooner offense is like a Swiss Army Knife. Numerous functions. Same tools. Factor in the no-huddle, which all but eliminates substituting, and opposing defenses, like Cincinnati's today, could find themselves in a guessing game with no reprieve trying to match up against OU's multiple formations. "I think it's been the luck of our recruiting that has given us this balance,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "That's a real unique thing to be able to do multiple formations with the same personnel. Sometimes when you run on the field, they know you're in a small set or a large set based on the size of your players. But when you can go from more run-oriented sets to passing sets without subbing, that's a uniqueness and that's a greater deal to stop.” Said quarterback Sam Bradford, "They've got to pick the personnel they're going to go with and they've got to stay with those guys. Even though we also have to stay with the same guys, we can go with three or four different formations. And because we don't have to run guys on and off the field, it allows us to go a little bit quicker.” For that reason, OU has the potential to catch opponents off-guard, attacking the weakness of a particular defense on the field.
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OU's Swiss Army Knife Club•Ryan Broyles His emergence in the slot allows Johnson to move to the outside; his versatility to play wide should give Gresham and Murray more opportunities out of the slot. •Matt Clapp Built in the mold of Mike Alstott, able to be the lead blocker or rush the ball out of one-back sets between the tackles. •Brody Eldridge The only thing worse for a defensive end than lining up against Eldridge at tight end is getting kicked out by him from the fullback spot. •Jermaine Gresham A wide receiver in a tight end's body, which explains why he excels at both. •Manny Johnson His ability to play wideout or slot makes it more difficult to predict where Gresham or Murray are going to line up. •Mossis Madu The latest addition to the club is a halfback by trade, but learning to play in the slot. •DeMarco Murray A linebacker's worst nightmare — having to guard Murray out of the slot; not that tackling him out of the backfield is fun, either.