There are far fewer questions for Oklahoma's defense than there are for the offense and as the Sooners get ready to start the 2014 season their opening opponent is going to right into the strength of Mike Stoops' crew. Louisiana Tech will bring a power rushing attack against OU's front seven and the result could be a physical slug-fest.
LA Tech running back Kenneth Dixon was a Freshman All-American in 2012 when he broke Marshall Faulk's NCAA freshman record with 27 touchdowns. Injuries resulted in 2013 being a down year for Dixon but he returns healthy in 2014 and ready for the challenge of facing Oklahoma's front seven.
Dixon is a bowling ball runner who stands at 5-10/220. He will get the bulk of the carries and Oklahoma's defensive game plan will be built around just that. Here's what we're expecting the Sooners to attempt with their nine returning defensive starters.
Force third and long. Obviously this means winning first and second down and that won't be a given against a guy who has a career average of 6.5 yards per carry. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has to be huge (figuratively and literally) in the middle. Louisiana Tech center Joseph Brunson is 6-3/295 and Phillips is 6-6/334. Phillips must either gain ground on each snap, by pushing into the offensive backfield, or draw a double-team. Either one will be disruptive, paving the way for inside linebackers Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans to have clear shots at stuffing the gaps and cleaning up. In addition it makes it easier to pull off a run blitz. If Oklahoma can do this on a consistent basis then then it'll be a fun night for the defense.
Plant the quarterback on third and long. Third and long is where the Oklahoma defense will thrive. Charles Tapper, Eric Striker, and Chuka Ndulue live for third and long. It's what motivates them on first and second down because they have the opportunity to be a living nightmare to opposing signal callers. Earlier in the week Louisiana Tech named Cody Sokol as their starting quarterback against the Sooners and if he can't keep the Bulldogs away from third and long then he's in for a long night. OU must get to him on every passing down and plant him. Doing this could easily rattle a first-time starter in a hostile road environment.
Win one-on-one match-ups in the secondary. With extra attention given to Dixon there will be some one-on-one match ups for Oklahoma in the secondary. Bulldogs senior receiver Sterling Griffin led the team in receiving yards in 2013 and had an average of 10.8 yards per reception. Trent Taylor and Hunter Lee join him as the experienced guys in the receiving corps and will do their best to challenge Julian Wilson and Zack Sanchez. I would look for them to attack Wilson more often than Sanchez because of the newness to the cornerback position. If the corners can hold up in one-on-one then the safeties can do more in run support.
The defensive game plan should be fairly simple for the Sooners on Saturday night in Norman. Don't make any stupid penalties. If you're a defensive back, don't get caught looking in the offensive backfield. Whatever you do, don't let Kenneth Dixon get loose.