One of the biggest questions heading into the season for Oklahoma was the defensive line. Lack of experience. Lack of depth. Most considered it the weakness of the defense for this season.
It was given a shot in the arm when junior college product Quincy Russell was able to make it to campus last month.
Through two games, though, Russell hasn’t really made an imprint at all. But the defensive line certainly has in helping the Sooners to their 2-0 start.
It has started with alignment as OU has switched it up, showing 3-man fronts and 4-man fronts. It has given opposing offenses something to think about.
“It’s just different,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Schematics are different, our alignments are different. They are all a year older, too. They were all in the system, or some type of system a year ago.”
Defensive end Charles Tapper was the breakout star from the ULM game, while defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had the same type of effective performance against West Virginia.
That depth concern isn’t really as much of a concern anymore. Defensive end was never a huge question mark, and Tapper and Geneo Grissom have held down the fort fine.
Phillips is emerging to go along with Chuka Ndulue, Torrea Peterson and even freshman Matt Dimon is getting quality time at tackle.
“We, as a d-line, have an idea of what we can do, the potential we have,” Grissom said. “And I think that is why we have been playing so good. We had that chip on our shoulder.
“We wanted to go out there and prove everybody wrong – that they had the wrong expectations of us and that they needed to get higher expectations of us.”
Mission accomplished through two games. But Mike Stoops was quick to point out that it has only been two games, and the more physical teams on the schedule are yet to come.
OU is allowing 3.5 points per game and a respectable 276 yards per contest. Just as important, OU is limiting opponents to a 17 percent conversion rate on third down (5 of 29). OU gave up 398 yards per game last season.
“Again, everything seems to be going in the right direction,” Stoops said. “It’s just two games. We are going to play physical teams as we go along so we will wait and see. But they practice hard, their attitude is much better. I believe their effort is much better. I believe they are becoming very disciplined players.”