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Not Following The Logic Behind The 'OU Could Shift To A 4-3 Defense' Narrative That Came Out This Week

Brett Deering

I've never claimed to be the world's foremost expert in the x's & o's of the game of football.  Never claimed to be the most well versed in the realm of defensive schemes.  I'm quite confident there are a number of people both here on CCM and within the SB Nation universe that could speak more accurately to both than myself.  So I suppose in posing this question, I'm directing it at those people.

Help me understand the logic behind the 'OU could play more 4-3 defense versus Notre Dame' narrative that both the local media (here & here) and the OU message boards (here) seem to have latched on to.

I know where it started.  It emanated from a somewhat innocuous comment from Bob Stoops during his Monday press conference.  Stoops was asked if the Sooners might play more four man fronts defensively after having played primarily with three down linemen through their first three games.

"There's a good chance, but I'm not gonna give you any percentages on it."

Evidently that lone comment was enough to generate this, in my opinion, fabricated storyline that I'm having a difficult time buying into.  And I'm having a problem with it because the argument for this proposed idea seems to be based on two main points.

(1) OU will switch to a 4-3 in an effort to better contain and/or stop Notre Dame's running game.

(2) OU will switch to a 4-3 in an effort to better generate pressure on Tommy Rees.

To both of the points above, I would have only one very simply question in retort.


What Notre Dame running game exactly is it that presents such a formidable threat?  The one their own fans have been lamenting through the Irish's first four games?  The one that is currently averaging a robust 113.3 yards per game, good enough for 100th in the country?  The one that has yet to produce an individual rushing performance greater than 68 yards?

All of that is not to say it is inconceivable that Notre Dame could have success on the ground against this Oklahoma defense.  It's not as though they are lacking for talent at the running back position, although probably not the elite talent some likely expect them to have year in and year out.  If the Irish offensive line can push the Sooners around, it's easy to see them having success rushing the ball.  However, it warrants mentioning by most accounts this is not an Notre Dame offensive line that is as talented as the one they brought to Norman last year.

If you think back to last year's game, while also addressing the second point above, a decent portion of the success the Irish had on the ground (215 total yards on 39 carries) were a result of the 62-yard Cierre Wood run and Everett Golson making plays outside the pocket.  And I suspect I don't need to tell you neither will be playing in this game on Saturday.

Rees is a virtual clone of Landry Jones when it comes to elusiveness in the pocket.  He's not going to present the threat Golson did last year and as a result OU's front six (or seven) won't have to pause that split second with the fear that the quarterback could take off and pick up positive yards.

Furthermore, what is it exactly from either what we thought we knew in the preseason and/or what we've seen in OU's first three games that leads people buying into this 4-3 talk to believe an extra defensive tackle would produce a more successful pass rush?

Sure, Jordan Wade has played some.  And Torrea Peterson has played a little more.  While Quincy Russell has played sparingly, at best.  I suppose, to a certain extent, putting anyone next to Jordan Phillips considering the level he's played at thus far couldn't be a bad thing.  And that's probably a valid argument.  But at the same time, as far as I'm concerned we've seen virtually nothing from any of the players I mentioned above to believe they help generate more pressure on the quarterback than what Mike Stoops and this defense have been able to produce either in their 3-3-5 formation or the 3-4 we've seen more of in their previous two games.

In fact, I'd argue you can get much more creative in both who and where you bring pressure from in a 3-3-5 or 3-4 than you can in a 4-3.  I believe there is a reason, if you watched the film as I did, that in both the West Virginia and especially so in the Tulsa game you saw OU playing more in a 3-4 alignment.

To me it just makes more sense that we've seen them working on this in actual games, thus the odds are greater we see it this weekend against the Irish.  Rather than the fact they've played virtually zero 4-3 in their first three games, but with the advantage of a bye week they are now going to switch to a four man front.

Hey, as I said in the open I'm far from the smartest guy in the room.  OU could come out and play exclusively in a 4-3 and I'll look like a complete idiot for ever having written this.  We'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, if there is something I'm missing and/or a reason/s you feel strongly why we will see more of OU in a 4-3 alignment then sound off in the comments section.

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