SI Take 3: The Baylor challenge

OU linebacker Frank Shannon

All focus is on Baylor this week as OU coach Bob Stoops held his weekly press conference Monday.

Every Monday afternoon during the football season OU coach Bob Stoops has his weekly press conference. Sooners Illustrated will give you the three most important things to take from the session.

Game No. 9: at No. 6 Baylor (Thursday)

Take No. 1: Baylor spacing provides challenge

Through the first two months of the season, there hasn't been a weakness to the Baylor offense. Running or passing, the Bears have been able to achieve balance and rack up yards and points.

Stoops said it's pretty obvious why they're able to have so much success. A lot of it comes down to the spacing on the field.

"They space you out so far, and they have excellent speed across the perimeter," Stoops said. "But they have such a big offensive line. They can space you, run the ball and make big plays."

It might help for OU to have had a few extra days of practice to get ready for the Bears, but there's not much tinkering that can be done at this point.

Sometimes it's pretty simple. It's about executing, and Stoops knows full well the challenge that is ahead for his team.

"You can only do so much," Stoops said. "At the end of the day, have to be able to play. You have to be able to cover and have to be able to stop the run."

It was one big reason why OU switched to the three-man front was because of high-powered offenses like Baylor. OU has used a 3-3-5 at times as well as a 3-4-4 alignment.

"Felt it gave more versatility," Stoops said. "Played to our strengths better and gave us more speed on the field."

Take No. 2: Linebackers will be crucial

If OU is going to slow down Baylor's offense, the linebackers are going to have to come up with their best game as a unit.

Already down Corey Nelson, the status of Frank Shannon remains a bit of a mystery. He has practiced the last couple of days, but there's no guarantee he'll be out there.

"Frank has been practicing and improving daily," Stoops said. "We'll have to see where he is by Thursday. Believe he's set to play."

Regardless a lot of the focus is going to be on the freshmen. Linebackers Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans have been asked to step up early and often for OU. So far they have delivered, but Baylor presents a different challenge than some of the other teams.

Because of that, it was vital to see Evans perform the way he did when Shannon went down. Stoops has full confidence in his two freshmen.

"What's pleasing is how natural it was for him," said Stoops about Evans' performance. "He understands what we're asking him to do. He has the instinct to find the ball and be where he needs to be."

Considering everything that's being asked of Alexander and Evans, Stoops said their performance was remarkable last week. They'll have to play even better Thursday as trying to control the Baylor run game will be a huge factor in how successful OU is.

Take No. 3: Not easy being a coach

Some occupations you have to be wired differently than the rest of the crowd. Stoops believes a college coach is one of those spots.

"Lifestyles are different," Stoops said. "Not everybody understands it. It isn't for everybody. But for the guys that are in it, we love it."

Stoops said it is imperative to find a balance with family and the job, and he understands first-hand how stressful coaching can be.

He said he lost his father when his father was 54 years old on the sideline after a game. His father's death is one reason why Stoops gets routine checkups to make sure he's still OK.

"One thing I tell coaches is to get checked routinely," Stoops said. "We're around great medical teams so use them."

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