Here’s a harsh dose of truth in regards to Oklahoma’s season opener against Missouri State on Saturday night. The Sooners are more likely to hurt themselves than to have the Bears produce a prolific offensive performance. That’s not saying that MSU is void of talent but we’re talking about a new coach, a new quarterback no spring ball and a recent COVID-19 scare. You have to wonder how much the Bears are invested in this game, especially considering they have just three games against two opponents on the schedule this fall.
All that said, Saturday night’s defensive performance is bigger than Missouri State. The defensive liability storyline has lasted way too long in Norman and year two of Alex Grinch is when everyone hopes to see that begin to change. Here are a few keys we’ll be looking for when the defense takes the field.
Granted the Sooners were much better in this aspect in 2019 than they were in the two to three years leading up to that, but you have to wonder how much live contact Oklahoma has done in practices leading up to this game. Let’s go ahead and beat the dead horse again and mention that the majority of spring practice was canceled, summer workouts were limited, and unless they just went after it in fall camp there’s a good chance that some basic fundamentals could be lacking as the game gets underway. A limited dose would be acceptable under the circumstances but if it turns into an issue that plagues the team for all four quarters then frustrations are going to run high.
I don’t care what the depth chart says, I’m not expecting to see Ronnie Perkins on the field Saturday night. That puts the Sooners without their best best pass-rushing end. That’s just fine though because the Sooners can bring pressure from other places. What Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Grimes, Marcus Stripling or whoever else Oklahoma puts at defensive end needs to focus on is containment.
Missouri State quarterback Jaden Johnson has some wheels and can be dangerous if he gets outside the pocket. That’s where Oklahoma’s defensive ends come into play. If pressure comes up the middle the natural flushing point for a mobile quarterback is to go outside. Hopefully the pressure flushes him directly into the arms of one of the defensive ends as they kept containment.
Good Safety Play
The last time we saw Oklahoma’s safeties they were abused by LSU. Granted Delarrin Turner-Yell was out with a broken collarbone and Brendan Radley-Hiles had been ejected. Regardless, it left a bad taste that Sooners fans have had to deal with for eight months now. It also showed just how much OU was lacking in depth at the safety positions.
Oklahoma has basically the same cast of characters returning at safety in 2020 which means they have to be vastly improved beyond the starters. This is a game where the Sooners should run through the depth chart and Missouri State has some guys who could challenge the seam.
Junior Damoriea Vick is averaging 11.9 yards per reception through two seasons and will be the guy Missouri State tries to stretch the field with. The Bears also announced that Jordan Murray (6-4/233), also a junior, has transitioned from tight end to receiver.
There will be opportunities for the safeties to shine in this game. Those same opportunities will could also reveal any potential issues that might have lingered from that fateful night in Atlanta.
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