Sugar Bowl breakdown: OU’s secondary relies on speed to compete with Alabama’s high-powered offense
NEW ORLEANS – The Oklahoma defense has been a solid unit this season, even after suffering a few injuries.
However, it will face its biggest test against the high-powered Alabama offense.
Aaron Colvin, OU defensive back, said, “I think powerhouse. They’ve been on top for a long time since I’ve been at Oklahoma they’ve been one of the top teams.”
Alabama has outscored its opponents 465 to 136 this season.
The Crimson Tide has also racked up nearly double the rushing yardage of its opponents, dominating the first down chart.
Colvin added, “Yes, they are very disciplined. You see the reason why they win ballgames. But any opponent you play, you cannot be scared of them. They are a good team but so are we.”
Mike Stoops, OU’s defensive coordinator, said, “There isn’t anything tricky about what they’re trying to do. They try to window dress their formations but they’re going to come at you and they’re going to run their zone plays and they’re going to get a man on a man and see if you can get to where you’re supposed to get.”
The OU defense will try to stop running back T.J. Yeldon, who racked up 141 rushing yards against Auburn.
So far this season, Yeldon has gained 1,163 rushing yards.
While Oklahoma’s defense has a lot of respect for Alabama’s offense, the Crimson Tide isn’t overlooking the Sooners.
Doug Nussmeier, Alabama’s offensive coordinator, said, “I think they’re extremely athletic. They’ve got great team speed, great length. They do a really good job of mixing up their scheme.”
Amari Cooper, Alabama’s leading receiver, said, “Their secondary is very quick and they have a lot of solid players. It’s going to be a good match up.”
The OU defense is led by Frank Shannon, who has 85 tackles on the season.
Dominique Alexander, a true freshman who stepped in after injuries to defensive starters, has also racked up 75 tackles this season.
Gabe Ikard, OU center, said, “We lost some guys and we had some guys step up and make plays, young guys coming in and playing well. So, a lot of things going into this season but the togetherness of this team is one of those things where you really see some character from people in this program. And our coaches have done a great job at putting us in place to succeed and we’ve really played to our strengths this year, especially since we’ve lost some guys. I just think it’s one of those things where we’ve handled adversity very well and for us to go 10-2 is pretty special.”
Alabama is known for being an extremely physical team and many have questioned if the OU linebackers will be able to keep up with the bigger offensive players on the field.
Mike Stoops said, “Our whole defense is a little bit undersized as a whole. We’re built more for speed. So, again, we’re going to have to do some things to create some plays with our speed. And that’s just how it is right now. But they’re going to have to play physical. These are big physical backs and a big physical offensive line. So, that’s going to be a big part of the game.”
He added, “Our edge guys are going to have to be bigger guys to create better match ups for us. Eric [Striker] is an undersized outside linebacker and getting him matched up on a 6’6,” 260 pound tight end gets tough. So, we’re going to have to be creative in what we do and how we do it.”
Gabe Lynn, OU defensive back, said, “We are going to have to put some bigger players out there in short yardage and goal line [situations.] For the most part, though, I think we have enough players in our starting 11 that match up well with them. It’s going to come down to who wants it more and playing physical.”
Alabama’s players say they are used to competing against defenses that are big but OU’s speed could be a challenge.
A. J McCarron, Alabama’s quarterback, said, “They’re fast. They’re not quite as big as some defenses in the SEC but they have speed, which makes them really good on defense. It’s going to be a great test for us. They’re one of the top teams in the Big 12, plus it’s a very historic program and a historic game. I know Coach Stoops will have that team ready.”
While OU is the underdog in the game, some players don’t see it that way.
Eric Striker, OU linebacker, said, “When you come together and play as a team. I know we can do this.”