Oklahoma is off this weekend but you can pretty much bet that as many Sooner fans as possible are going to be trying to get a look at Kansas State who will roll into Norman next weekend as OU's first conference opponent. So, what is that one concern we're hoping the Sooners address over the bye week to prepare for the Wildcats? That's just one of the topics we discussed in this week's roundtable.
The linebackers are being played differently this year than they were under Venables. The result has been fewer tackles but a stronger defense against the pass. Now the Sooners have a run heavy K-State team on the horizon, do you see the LB's playing any differently in this game than they did the first two weeks?
Rich: You would have to think that Oklahoma will come into this game with the mindset of forcing Collin Klein to throw the ball to beat them. But that does not mean much has to change to be successful in limiting what the running game is capable of. Mike Stoops has gone on record multiple times talking about a simplified defense. Tim Kish must be on board with that philosophy as he has worked with Mike before at Arizona. A simplified defense means just that...simple while not constantly adding schemes etc. Will the linebackers need to be gap aware and assignment savvy? Absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt! When you look at the K-State offense, it is based on the QB-Power and Counter play. Simple is playing sound without constantly having to think and react to a slight change from the offense. If anything, I expect the safety position to play a bit of a different role this week. Kansas St. will see Oklahoma leave Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst out on an island while the safeties are in on run support.
Jordan: Hard to say. I find it hard to believe they would have installed this type of scheme for the first two games only to then change what they plan to do for K-State and going forward. I definitely think we could see a lot more blitzing from the linebacker position, but aside from that I'm sure the gap responsibility they've employed will continue to be a part of what they do.
Matt: I think that the new defensive scheme had a bunch of people scratching their heads and questioning where the linebackers were after the first game. However, the more we learn about the scheme the more, I believe, we'll see the results of sound linebacker play. For now, gone are the days of the middle linebacker going sideline-to-sideline and trying to get the correct pursuit angle. Instead, Mike Stoops has simplified things to gap assignments.
What I believe will happen against Kansas State is that we'll see a few different schemes in which the linebackers will blitz through their gap or fall back while a safety blitzes. I also see them running some schemes where the linebackers have to read multiple gaps. This frees up another defender to blitz or fall back into coverage.
What the linebackers have done through the first two games is get a grasp of the base defense. From there they'll be able to expand their responsibilities and that's exactly what I see happening from this point forward.
Oklahoma's offense seems to be a three-headed monster at this point with Jones, Stills and Williams. Who do you expect to step in and be the next biggest asset to those guys?
Rich: Surprising or not, I would like it to be Trey Millard. He has shown the ability to catch the ball as well as run with success. Oklahoma will open up the playbook a bit more as we progress in the season. What that hopefully means is sightings of the diamond formation, a formation that can utilize the unique skill set of Millard, frequently. The fans have acknowledged it, the coaching staff has acknowledged it, now it's time to put up or shut up about the number of carries this kid will get.
Jordan: I think the obvious candidates are Trey Metoyer, Justin Brown, and Dom Whaley. Of those, I'd probably lean the heaviest towards Metoyer. We've seen some brief glimpses and I fully expect him to get better in every single game. I'll tell you who my super secret darkhorse sleeper would be though, Brannon Green.
Matt: I'm pretty sure that it has to be someone in the passing game. I would love for it to be a tight end but its most likely going to be Justin Brown or Trey Metoyer. Brown seems to be way ahead of Metoyer at this point (that's expected when comparing a senior to a freshman) so I guess, by process of elimination, Brown is my choice.
Does the return of Casey Walker move David King back to defensive end?
Rich: Solely at defensive end? I'd have to say no at this point. However, I do expect him to see significant time at DE specifically against Kansas St. and the zone read they will run nearly 50 times a game. David King has the tools and potential to be great for the Sooners. All the reports coming out of Norman this week indicate that he has been working out solely as a DE. With Stacey McGee still serving an indefinite suspension, depth and experience at defensive tackle are lacking. This causes the notion to be brought forward that King will almost undoubtedly see time as a tackle as well. At the beginning of the season, the plan was to rotate King in at every position on the defensive line showcasing his versatility. In doing so, King creates a mismatch as his speed and explosiveness exploits the inside and his size exploits the outside of the offensive line.
Jordan: Yes, with one caveat. I don't think it's a permanent move, in certain situations I can definitely see him sliding back inside. I'm thinking something similar to what Venables did last year with four defensive ends on the field for obvious pass rush situations. I'm envisioning a 3rd and long front four of - Washington & Ndulue at end, King & McFarland on the inside.
Matt: My thought is that it will be situational. We know for sure that this weekend he will be back at defensive end. However, I don't see it being a permanent move because I fully expect him to slide back inside against passing teams and less mobile quarterbacks. What's the difference? To correctly defend a zone-read or quarterback option attack the defense ends must establish containment. It's not as easy of an assignment as you might think because the natural tendency is to crash in on the running back. However, the quarterback is reading the end and if he doesn't crash then the QB is most likely not going to keep the ball. That's what the Sooners are hoping for against Kansas State.
What's the main area of concern that you'd like to see OU work on during the bye week?
Rich: Where do I start with this one!?!? All kidding aside, it has to be the timing of the receivers with Landry Jones on offense. We saw a significant improvement in week 2 from the likes of Trey Metoyer in knowing where he was on the field as well as where his route was taking him. Justin Brown simply needs to catch up in this offense. He had 2 weeks of work instead of an entire summer to learn a new offense and has done well thus far. What Landry has to work on with both is where he expects them to be when they near the completion of their routes. All of this will come along but it will take time. From what I'm reading, Jones along with Metoyer and Brown are staying after practice is over to develop not only their timing but a better understanding of what is going through the other's mind. On defense, it remains the defensive line. This is a unit that has not had a time to find cohesion as it has been jumbled up this season. Considering the run heavy offense Kansas St. and Collin Klein bring to the field, 4.2 yards per carry averaged against this line isn't a good sign.
Jordan: My concerns remain unchanged. I still think the biggest issues for this team are along both lines. While I don't think it's fair to simply look at the sacks allowed stat because at least half of those are more on the QB than the o-line in my opinion. On the flip side, it's virtually impossible to say this defensive line improved from the UTEP game (in which they obviously struggled) because of the opponent in their last game. Oh yeah, just remembered, one more area of concern I'd like to see them work on. GET TREY MILLARD THE FREAKING BALL MORE!!!
Matt: I think that the return of Walker steadies the defensive line a bit so I'm going to feel more confident about that area on a sight unseen basis. That means that my concern remains the offensive line that has given up six sacks in two games. Kansas State is going to challenge Oklahoma upfront in a way they haven't seen this season and if the o-line isn't ready for the challenge then Landry Jones is going to have a very dirty uniform that night.
Big XII Power Rankings. Rank the teams from first to worst.
Rich: West Virginia, OU, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State, OSU., Kansas
A simple shifting of the ladder for me as OSU and Kansas were the only teams to lose.
Jordan: West Virginia, OU, Kansas State, Texas, Iowa State, OSU, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Kansas
Matt: West Virginia, Kansas State, OU, Texas, Baylor, OSU, TCU, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas