Bob Stoops tells me he's not worried that Austin Box weighs less than his other standout MLBs. Box told me yesterday he is 6-2, 225. Curtis Lofton and Torrance Marshall are examples-each around 250 pounds. Stoops says that in today's schemes where offenses spread out looking to get skill players in space, quickness and speed are more important than weight which helps in taking on offensive lineman in more run oriented offenses.
With all due respect, Ryan Reynolds was closer to 250 and I've gotta believe that being able to take on blockers against the run game AND being able to chase skill players is preferred-not unlike having a QB who can both run AND pass...two dimensional.
But size is not OU's biggest problem on defense. It's tackling. Remember this is tackle football. Heck, much of the time some of these guys wouldn't be successful in touch football. No chance in flag football where you've got to be close to the man with the slick pig to snag him.
Football was originally about blocking and tackling. If OU is to get back in the hunt to somehow find its way into the national title hunt, or even have a good chance of beating quick and dangerous TTech and O-State, they'd better play what my eight year-old son plays in the backyard: Tackle the man with the football.
Before you throw DC Brent Venables under the bus, remember a few things. OU has been one of the very best tackling teams in the country in the Stoops/Venables era.
Practice tacking more-caviat being you don't want to injure your own players down the stretch...More importantly, simplify the schemes. Several current and former defensive specialists have told me that OU makes it too complicated and the players have to think too much and not just rely more on instincts and go play.
That is especially true when you have three new LBs and two new corners. One source consistently says "don't draw up stuff in the dirt-on Friday night-and expect your guys to be able to handle it. Keep it simple, stupid (KISS)."
Multiple players tell me they'd be waiting on defenses to be called in so late the offense was ready to go putting them at a disadvantage. These former players and supporters of the OU staff, but guys who've been in the trenches and talk with first-hand knowledge.
All I know is that if Kansas and K-State can score 31 and 35 points Sooners everywhere cringe at the thought of what Michael Crabree, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant might do. Maybe that is why the majority of OSU fans and many OU fans believe the Cowboys will win a potentially critical Thanksgiving Bedlam game in Stillwater.
FYI...I'm getting lots of emails, calls and predictable grief from OSU fans who believe I am dead wrong in saying OU would be favored if the two teams played today in Stillwater.
To set the record straight, a 40-year 24/7, 365 days a year point spread officianado confirms my suspicion. Quoting, "Before the season you could bet the game with OU being a 13-point favorite. The week of OU-Texas (when OU was rolling and No. 1) it would have been around 14. Last week, it would have been OU minus nine. This week OU is minus 6. In the eyes of the linemaker, OU is a very public team (meaning traditional powers like OU, USC and Ohio State get more credit than they might deserve).
Right now, I'd call the game a toss-up with a possible lean to OSU. But for now, OSU fans should take it as a major compliment that in the eyes of the experts they have improved what is essentially eight points from the preseason prognostications-and that's in comparison to a strong OU team that is ranked No. 4 in the country.
Critics say the Cowboys have beaten no on except Missouri and before there's too much excitement OSU must go win at Tech. Supporters say that their team is about to win its 8th game this weekend (I predict a 52-10 rout of ISU), the defense is so improved that it will slow down Bradford and Company, and that OU has no chance of tackling these balanced Cowboys.
So we end this blog where we started. The onus is clearly on the Sooner defense.