Everybody read the D line preview? Good, now we take a look at the linebackers. And I'm going to give you the quickest summary you'll read anywhere about the OU linebackers- they fucking suck.* No really, they suck so bad it's amazing. I have a hard time accepting that a school like Oklahoma has a hard time finding good players, but this batch is terrible.
The Sooners employ a base 4-3 defense as their base, but also play a lot of nickel (when I say a lot, I mean almost always), and most of their formations seem to be an attempt to hide the linebackers. Over the past few games, the Sooners are only starting two linebackers, and not rotating as much as I would expect considering the level of play they're getting from the starters. Why don't we talk about those starters, shall we?
Junior Tom Wort is having his worst year in a Goon uniform statistically, only recording 1 sack to go with 45 tackles. That's down from 3 and 4 sacks the past two years, so he was never a sack master, but his tackels are also down from the same time a year ago (61 vs 45).
Starting across from Wort is another junior, Corey Nelson. This year Nelson has notched 39 tackles and one sack. Neither Nelson or Wort are very effective when blitzing, they have a hard time shedding blocks, can't cover well, don't stay in position, and have a hard time with tackling. I'm not exaggerating much either, when I say this will be the worst linebackers we've seen all season (though we still haven't played Baylor).
What amazes me the most about this situation is that guys like Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin haven't seen more playing time. In his limited minutes Shannon has 26 tackles and 2 sacks. So I'm not sure what's going on in Mike Stoops head (and truthfully, I never want to. Remember A Clockwork Orange? I'd imagine that but with more animal murder), but I'd say it's time to let the young'ns have a go.
I think we can have great succes running Blake Jackson (provided he catches the god damn ball) and Josh Stewart over the middle, where Wort and Nelson have to cover them. Because they can't. We also don't have to worry about them providing run support, as they don't move laterally very well and they get stuck on a block like a fat man on the last package of Twinkies.
I'm trying to find some stats worth looking at to evaluate the linebacker play, and the only ones I can come up with are 3rd down conversions and red zone defense (where the linebackers have to cover or help stuff the run). In Big 12 play the Sooners are allowing opponents to convert 49% of third downs (8th in the conference), and opponents are scoring 87% of the time (7th in the conference) they enter the redzone (and 16 of 24 trips result in touchdowns).
After reading this and the defensive line preview I'm sure your keyboards are all sticky. Well let me slow you down just a tad, as we haven't had the final preview yet, and that is the strength of the OU defense, the secondary. For now though, remember we can win Saturday, but we're gonna need some hairy balls to do it.
*Now they'll have a career day against us.