Sooners Prepared to Battle Stout FSU D-Line

OU left tackle Donald Stephenson has a tall task.

NORMAN, Okla. — To say the Sooner offensive line has a tall task at hand this weekend with Florida State's defensive line would be an understatement.

But don't think they're not ready for it.

"We're prepared to be in a battle," said OU left guard Gabe Ikard. "We know that they're some of the elite defensive tackles, defensive ends in the country. So, we're practicing. We're getting ready to face maybe the best guys we'll see all year."

How good are they?

Well, for starts, they roll out reigning first-team All-ACC defensive end and preseason All-American candidate Brandon Jenkins, who racked up a ridiculous 13.5 tackles for loss last year to put him third nationally and behind one of OU's own from a season ago, Jeremy Beal.

He's already managed eight tackles, including three for loss, so far this year.

OU left tackle Donald Stephenson will be faced with that task.

"He's quick, athletic," Stephenson said. "You know, it just takes a lot of extra focus to block him up. All I can do now is watch a lot of film and pay extra attention in practice."

On the other side is Bjoern Werner, who played in all 14 games as a true freshman last season and had 20 tackles, including six for loss.

Werner, too, has been productive in the Seminoles' opening two contests with three tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a forced fumble.

He'll be left for the right side, either Daryl Williams if he plays, Lane Johnson, or both.

"I know I've got to be ready for them, got to be on my toes," Johnson said. "And just studying film is probably the key, you know, preparing for them, knowing what their moves are, how quick they are off the ball."

They also possess a pair of talented defensive tackles in junior Anthony McCloud and redshirt junior Everett Dawkins who'll be left for the interior of the offensive line.

The two combined for 74 tackles, including nine for loss last year.

So, the production speaks for itself.

They were in the backfield causing duress for opposing offenses frequently.

"A year ago they just mangled all kinds of quarterbacks," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "So, they did a great job of two things, I think: getting pressure, you know, quick pressure and getting to people. But they also did a nice job of making people squeeze the ball in coverage and then getting to the quarterback. So, either way, they've done a great job getting pressure and sacks, so that'll be a big challenge for our offensive line to hold their defensive line out."

The main reason they've been able to have so much success doing so is because of their athleticism.

"They're very athletic," said OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. "They do a great job jumping the ball."

Couple that with their physicality, and it's easy to see why Jenkins and co. are so dangerous.

"Oh, they're very, very talented, extremely physical when it comes to the run game," Ikard said. "And they're very good, very quick off the ball when it comes to pass protection. So, I mean, they're much better and much more organized and you can tell how much more confident they are than they were last year."

All of this makes it not only a battle for the big boys in the trenches, but one in the backfield as well, especially when defensive coordinator Mark Stoops decides to bring the heat.

"Most definitely blitz pickup is the biggest thing in any game, being able to protect No. 12," said running back Brennan Clay. "If you protect No. 12, we have a great chance of winning and our percentage definitely goes up. The less hits we get on him, [the better]. You know, hopefully we get none on him, be able to protect him in the pocket and work his magic."

If OU's able to do so, quarterback Landry Jones could carve them up like he did last year when he threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns, completing 30-of-40 passes.

But if not, it could be a long day back there, and it wouldn't be the first time this FSU defensive line has wreaked havoc.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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