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December 7, 2013
Under the Hood: Big Changes in Bedlam
Oklahoma, returning to Stillwater for the first time since a brutal beating in December of 2011, is set to take on arch rival Oklahoma State in a game that could play not only a huge role in the perception of their season but also in deciding Big 12 championships. The two in-state rivals are both ranked in the BCS top 20 with the Sooners ranked No. 17 while sporting a 9-2 record meanwhile the Cowboys stand at 10-1 and is currently No. 6 in the BCS standings. In that 2011 meeting the Sooners got off to a slow start and truly never got back off the mat after taking some huge early body shots. Though the two teams have been well known for high-flying passing offense the Cowboys, like the Sooners, are getting things done on the ground under the leadership of Clint Chelf at quarterback. Below we go Under the Hood of Oklahoma State and take a look at the Cowboys in their 49-17 win over Baylor on Nov. 23, and we'll try to give you an idea of just what the Sooners are facing in this early Saturday kickoff.
The first nine plays of the consisted of eight runs and one pass and though it was clear that the idea was to establish the run it wasn't just in the run game that the offensive line shined for the Cowboys. The group may lack a true standout but as a unit they've come to work together very well. However, to single out a few players would almost have to start with the left side duo of Daniel Koenig - who'd probably be considered the star of the group if one had to be named - and left guard Brandon Webb. A lot of the Cowboys running success came behind their left side duo though teh line as a whole put together a really solid performance.
At right guard is powerful junior Parker Graham who somewhat embodies what the Cowboys front line is all about. He's a storng down blocker who did a nice job pushing Baylor defensive lineman off the point of attack, in pass pro he did a solid job but, like center Jake Jenkins, struggled a bit with quick up-field pass rush moves and stunts to the interior.
The group may not be the most athletic in the country but they are incredibly sound in what they do - they know the play's goal and do a good job of simply preventing defense from negating those goals.
As for the man responsible for much of the offensive success, Chelf, he showed a bit of everything. In spite of having a reptuation as something of the passer coming into the season with litlte running ability he popped several nice runs in the game and should be seen as a threat in space. However, his prowess as a passer is largely deserved. He may not throw with all the velocity that wows people but against Baylor he was incredibly accurate and though he may not have the big vertical arm he showed great touch on a couple of key deep balls that would have been incomplete if they'd not been exactly where he placed them. If Chelf can play at that level again he'll be incredibly tough to cope with.
At running back the Cowboys have a three-headed monster led by emerging standout Desmond Roland. Roland is a physical back who looks comfortable between the tackles and though he's not a home run hitter at running back he is a player more than capable of turning short yardage runs into first downs. Not unlike Roland is Cowboys senior Jeremy Smith who isn't a change of pace but is a great pair of fresh legs with loads of experience to help spell Roland.
The interesting change of pace is freshman Rennie Childs who is capable of being physical but when he gets into open space is a bit more able to make big plays down the field.
The marquee name on the entire offense is almost undoubtedly wide receiver Josh Stewart who had a reasonably quiet night but that's because he had several of his fellow receivers making tons of big plays down the field. Notably among those vertical plays were senior flex tight end Tracy Moore, senior wide receiver Charlie Moore, and fast emerging freshman Jhajuan Seales.
Tracy Moore is a well rounded player who is a matchup nightmare for defenses being too big for defensive backs and too quick for most linebackers. His lengthy touchdown early in the second half broke the back of the Bears and showed how difficult he can be for defenses to cope with. Meanwhile, Charlie Moore is a possession receiver who has great hands and is the Cowboys receiver who is most comfortable in traffic. Seales may not yet be well known but he shows real vertical ability and could be a guy to stretch Oklahoma's safeties. Love running WR end around on shotgun one back
Against the Cowboys, Baylor rushed for 94-yards on 36 attempts (2.6 yards per carry) and completed 28-of-48 passes for 359-yards (7.5 yards per attempt).
Almost beyond a doubt the area of the Oklahoma State defense not getting it's credit is the defensive line where the Cowboys have several playmakers - particularly at defensive end.
First and foremost among them is defensive end Tyler Johnson who is an incredibly active player who pursues from sideline to sideline. At just 6-foot-1 and 245-pounds he is far from the prototype but Johnson's level of activity makes him a real difficult matchup for offensive tackles, and that could be even more true than usual with the Sooners potentially throwing out an inexperienced player at left tackle this week.
The rest of the defensive line is rounded out with defensive tackles Calvin Barnett and James Castleman along with Johnson's opposite end, in a four-down front, Jimmy Bean. The trio all have good size though it's Barnett's athleticism on the interior and ability to make plays in the passing game that truly makes him the standout of the defensive line.
The name that no one is talking about, yet, but that figures to change is defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The big and long pass rusher had a pair of sacks against the Bears and showed natural ability in dipping his inside shoulder but his strength and ability to compete in both pass and run situations could make him a future star.
Beyond the defensive line is where the more well known names exist for the Cowboys, at linebacker the Cowboys have a trio of standouts but the unit is led by seniors Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis. Lavey is a throwback player who makes one think of Big 10 linebackers of years gone by with great size and the ability to dominate between the tackles. However, his frame leads people to believe that he can't work in coverage and though it's not always pretty he reads pass routes well and got in the middle of several Baylor attempts.
Lewis on the other hand is a pure athlete playing linebacker and though he has made tons of big plays throughout his career the Cowboys he can at times fall victim to being a bit over aggressive as evidenced by his crashing down on a read option play early in the game in what would set up Bryce Petty's big run that ended in Baylor's big fumble on the one-yard line.
The final piece of the puzzle, that played little against Baylor but figures to play plenty against the Sooners, is Ryan Simmons. The talented sophomore is a key piece of the Cowboys run defense and could be a huge portion of Oklahoma State's plans to slow down the Oklahoma run game.
In the secondary Oklahoma will have their work work cut out for them with so much depth and talent making up the Cowboys secondary.
Leading the way is All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert, who has become arguably the top player at his position in all of college football and for all of the troubles Oklahoma had dealing with Jason Verrett earlier this year a similar 'no-fly zone' should probably be adopted on his side of the field. That said there isn't any easy area to get the ball out with Gilbert being joined by Tyler Patmon and Kevin Peterson amongst the Cowboys cornerbacks. Peterson is an aggressive coverage corner who at times can get himself into trouble while Patmon is a physical cover corner who comes up and makes a lot of plays in the run game as well.
Oklahoma State loves to blitz and play aggressive defensively and it leaves their safeties on islands time after time and that may be the area that Oklahoma can best attack if they can find matchups against Shamiel Gary and Daytawion Lowe. The senior duo makes plenty of plays and Lowe looked good in one on one coverage at times but as an in-the-box safety if he is left along too many times there is no doubt plays can be found against him vertically.
This defense, led by Glenn Spencer, is incredibly aggressive and will blitz in just about any scenario - even shorter third down scenarios. Oklahoma is going to have to make sure and stay out of long yardage situations not only does it work against Trevor Knight who is still finding his way into Oklahoma's scheme but also it plays into the hand of Oklahoma State's defense which relies heavily on turnovers and big plays. If Oklahoma can stay ahead of the sticks and put Knight in the situations he'll need to succeed they can find plays as any defense that relies on big plays, can also die by them.
To that end look for a lot of playaction from Knight to keep Oklahoma State's quality group of linebackers off balance and open up the same passing lanes that they found against Kansas State.
Beyond that I'd be hitting Oklahoma State with a lot of Brennan Clay early to establish the idea early on, this isn't the Oklahoma State offense of years gone by and the Sooner can be a bit more patient in setting up plays to produce results as the game wears on.
Defensively the Cowboys offense may not be what it once was but it is still plenty capable of putting up points and one of the more interesting situations to follow will be how Oklahoma chooses to handle Tracy Moore. The talented receiver is a tough matchup who can do a bit of everything and it will be interesting to see if Julian Wilson draws the first assignment with Moore, another interesting possibility could be Cortez Johnson.
Oklahoma's matchup in the middle of the line could be huge with Jenkins being a less than dominant point of attack player and Jordan Wade but if Oklahoma can decisively win that battle then it could allow Oklahoma's defense more freedom to roam when Oklahoma State starts hitting them pu the middle with the run.
I'd also like to see Oklahoma let Aaron Colvin - assuming he's reasonably healthy - follow Josh Stewart around much as he did with Tyler Lockett in the second half against Kansas State. If he can handle that role it can help Oklahoma get more aggressive with it's blitz packages as the Cowboys offensive line can be confused with some of Oklahoma's amoeba and late blitz calls.