Shark attack: OU secondary devours wide receivers

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: November 10, 2011

NORMAN — ESPN's behind-the-curtains look at the nation's preseason No. 1 team put Oklahoma's secondary players squarely in the spotlight.

They called themselves the Sharks, a nickname created by reserve safety Sam Proctor.

“Someone tweeted me they read in a paper in Florida there's a high school (team) that says they're the sharks,” said cornerback Jamell Fleming. “It's kind of cool. Everybody around the country has kind of picked up on the sharks.”

OU's defensive backs gained notoriety after they were shown on national television bragging on the sidelines and the training room how they devour wide receivers.

Because of ESPN's entertaining feature, and the way the season has played out, the Sharks will be in the crosshairs the final three games.

The secondary has played well much of the season. Including rover Tony Jefferson, and OU's secondary has compiled nine interceptions, 273 tackles and 23 pass breakups.

But the one blemish is Texas Tech threw for 452 yards to upset the Sooners 41-38, a shoot-out loss that severely damaged OU's hopes of playing in the national title game.

“You can't let guys behind you,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “You have to play the wide receiver screen better, play on edge and respect your opponent.”

One variable in the Tech loss was the Sooners were playing without Fleming. The Sharks are now healthy with something to prove.

“I didn't get to play, so I can't speak for the other guys,” Fleming said. “We just have to play better. We had a little stumble, but we'll be ready.”

Two of the final three games are against Baylor and Oklahoma State, two of the top offenses in the country.

“A year ago, going into this stretch run, we had the same questions,” Venables said. “We recognize they're the same teams they were a year ago in their personnel and their execution. And they're running through everybody.

“Nobody has stopped them. Great quarterbacks, receivers, skill (players), systems. Scoring a million points a game, 700, 800 yards of offense every game. It's going to be a great, great challenge.”

The Sharks passed a big test last week. Texas A&M is the most balanced offense the Sooners will see all season.

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