You’ll have to forgive us if we take a wait-and-see approach to Oklahoma’s defensive improvement. The truth is, we’ve seen them too soft for too long. We’ve seen then run on and run over. We’ve seen them passed on and passed up. We’ve seen them waste two of the most prolific offenses in college football history. Yeah, it’s going to take a while for us to learn to trust again.
After just one spring with new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, reports are that the defensive room is a different place now. Guys are constantly reminded of how bad they were a year ago. Honesty and accountability are present in team meetings and on the practice field. That’s a fresh approach but it is going to take more than that. It’s going to take forgetting who they were and becoming someone totally new.
“I can’t speak for anything before, but I know that as from day one when we walked into the job to today, absolutely 1000%,” inside linebackers coach Brian Odom said on Monday when discussing the mentality change of the defense. “I think that those guys across the board, because they’re hearing a consistent message from us. It’s a direct message. There’s not going to be any kind of gray area of what our expectation level is. We have things to accomplish, and we want to get them accomplished.”
That message is no secret either. Simply put, 129th isn’t anywhere near good enough. That’s where the Sooners ranked in pass defense last season and, as an attempt to appeal to their pride, the defensive coaching staff is not letting them forget that.
“We love it. We love it,” sophomore defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles said on Monday. “All eyes are on us, and we know that. But we’re doing something right, if they’re looking at us. We’re about to change that culture. You know, the narrative’s going to change. We’re going to get after it and fight through it.”
You have to like what you’re hearing because fight isn’t something Oklahoma fans have seen from the defense is quite some time. What happens when Houston punches back on September 1st still remains to be seen though. That’s when we’ll know exactly how much has changed with this defense.
“We can be one of the better defenses in the country, and that’s been our mindset,” sophomore linebacker DaShaun White said. “Really the 129 thing, that’s always in the back, but like we said, we want to keep that in the past. We want to move forward to proving ourselves as one of the better defenses in the country this year.”
White’s comments are every Oklahoma fan’s dream right now when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. Turning that dream into reality is most likely going to require some patience from both the sidelines and the stands. After all, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The body goes to where the mind leads it. The Sooners seem to be in the right place mentally and that’s an ever so important first step. We’ll see how big that second step is on September 1st.
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