Oklahoma fans watch in dismay as their team squandered two national championship caliber offenses due to ineptness on the defensive side of the ball. After bottoming out in 2018 with a 130th rank (dead last) in pass defense, changes have finally come to Norman.
New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch not only has his work cut out for him in terms of player personnel, but he’s also got to face one of the top offenses in the country right out of the gate.
Houston is returning most of its skill players from a squad that was in the top 10 nationally in scoring (43.9 ppg) and total offense (512.5 ypg) last season, and now they have Dana Holgorsen scheming and calling plays.
The margin for error will be razor thin for Oklahoma’s defense on Sunday night and there are three things the Sooners absolutely must do in order to become successful.
Keep Containment On D’Eriq King
Let’s take a quick look at what I wrote about Jalen Hurts on the “offensive keys” post.
It’s difficult to defend a spread attack offense as it is. When you add multiple elite skill position players it becomes even more difficult. Throw in a dual-threat quarterback and you’re looking at mission impossible.Oklahoma Sooners Football | Offensive Keys To Success Against Houston
The exact same principle holds true for King, who accounted for 50 touchdowns in 2018.
The Cougars are replacing four-year starter Will Noble at the center position and that may provide a window of opportunity for Oklahoma’s defensive attack. If the Sooners can get defensive pressure up the middle with Neville Gallimore and company it can become extremely disruptive to the Houston offensive attack, but only if King stays in the pocket. If he is able to successfully flush from the pocket then it’ll present some nightmare scenarios for Oklahoma’s defense.
Don’t Lose Coverage
This should be a no-brainer but we all saw these defensive backs last year. When you rank dead last in pass defense then you’ve got to start back with the basics.
Houston’s top three receiving targets from 2018 are all back this fall. They’re led by Marquez Stevenson, who produced a career-high 75 catches for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
King’s ability to extend plays with his legs makes maintaining coverage a bit more challenging because it extends the time a receiver is working his route and providing run support also comes into play. Oklahoma’s defensive backs have got to trust the front seven to do their job so that they can focus fully on theirs.
Grinch has been unwavering that the focus of the defense is to force turnovers. Two a game is the goal and, there’s no way around it, not doing so would be a failure.
The Cougars fumbled 18 times last season, losing 10 of them, and threw 9 interceptions so the potential to force turnovers is absolute there.
Follow us on Twitter | @SportsHeartland