In 2012, the Oklahoma Sooners gave up 5.2 yards per carry, a number deemed unacceptable. Heading into 2013, the coaching staff will look to greatly improve upon that number. The test will come early as OU plays host to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, a team that garnered much attention last season.
Oklahoma Linebackers vs Kolton Browning
When formulating a solution, the group that immediately comes to mind is the defensive line. Yes, this unit plays a major role in stopping the rushing attack, but this game will provide a bigger test for the linebackers. In a self describing title, the linebackers are there to back the line. One thing the Oklahoma LBs struggled with mightily during the 2012 season was being able to shed blocks and bring running backs down at the line of scrimmage.
Make no mistake, not a soul outside of the program is quite sure what the schemes will look like as of yet. But, you can count on the QB of the Warhawks, Kolton Browning, to use the tools he has been gifted with.
Throwing for 3,049 yards and 29 touchdowns make Browning a threat in the pocket. It is knowing that he is also the leading rusher for ULM that makes him special. To combat his abilities, how the Sooner coaching staff chooses to use players like Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson will be crucial.
ULM Defensive Line vs Oklahoma Offensive Line
The Warhawks return every lineman who recorded a tackle from this past season. Needless to say, many are overlooking the experience and talent available to ULM here. Gerrand Johnson is a very talented sophomore who recorded six tackles for loss. However, he might lose his starting job to Kentarius Caldwell, an upperclassman returning from an injury.
As a team, ULM allowed only 3.96 yards per carry. However, on the other side of the equation sits an experienced Oklahoma offensive line.
Bill Bedenbough takes over as the offensive line coach and possesses some very talented players including Gabe Ikard. It is no secret that success in rushing the ball paves the way to victory and Oklahoma knows this. The idea to put more of an emphasis on the ground attack could not have come at a better time with a dual-threat quarterback ready to take the reigns. The goal remains the same though as keeping the facilitator of the offense upright while opening holes for the ball carriers. If ULM is able to disrupt the Sooners game plan on a semi-regular basis, it could turn ugly as youngsters tend to rush a decision on what to do with the ball.
Either of these matchups could very well determine who wins the game.