New Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has his work cut out for him. The task is to not waste another championship caliber offense on a defense that’s just a slight improvement from air. Motivation isn’t going to be a problem though.
“We don’t want to be 129 this year, we want to be top 10, No. 1 if we were gonna be honest. If we have bad practice, he lets us know we’re looking like 129,” cornerback Tre Brown said.
The 129 is a reference to Oklahoma’s national rank in pass defense last season. It’s a number that players, and fans, won’t soon forget, but it’s also a number that motivates the secondary to work harder to improve.
“That’s the past, and if we were a little better we would probably have a national championship right now so we’re just trying to focus on that and be better,” Brown said.
Yes, the past is the past but when that history includes surrendering 33-plus points per game, on average, in 2018 and four-consecutive Big 12 championships without ever advancing beyond the semifinals it becomes a haunting memory. That’s where Grinch is capitalizing with his motivation of guys who don’t want to be defined that way anymore.
Things are going to be different under Alex Grinch. The defense is going to focus on speed and taking the ball away but the biggest issue to tackle is their mental approach and how quickly that will change.
Changing the approach to practice, holding players accountable to mistakes, and rewarding success can take you to a different place physically. Players are often rewarded with candy bars after practice, but also punished with a 5:00 AM workout in the sandpit for repeated mistakes.
Both are great motivators to reinventing the defense but perhaps the best motivation is taking on the mentality that they don’t want to be 129th anymore.