The Sooners Will Be Good on Offense, But Will Not Win Championships Without Defense
The Sooners Offense Will Only Get Them So Far Without A Championship Caliber Defense
This past bowl season we watched the Oklahoma Sooners lose to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Semi-final game. This game was unique, because Oklahoma had Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray leading the nation's highest-scoring offense against Alabama, who had one of the most powerful and balanced offenses ever at Alabama under coach Nick Saban with Tua Tagovailoa as quarterback with the one of the nation's best defenses backing him up.
For most college football fans that follow Oklahoma, they know that this has been the trend for the Oklahoma teams since the 2003 team. High-powered offenses with a potent passing game along with finesse, yet physical run game. This has been the Oklahoma Sooners Football team's template since 2003; a team that lost to LSU 13-9. The irony of mentioning the 2002-2003 team is that last of the youngsters of the defense on the national championship team in 2000 were the upperclassmen of the team, and were graduating or were drafted over the next season or so. The 2004-05 Sooners were amazing on offense, but faced a USC Trojan team that was powerful and balanced on offense, and was one of the top defenses in the nation and would hand the Sooners a beatdown 55-19 in the title game behind USC's vaunted "Wild Bunch" defense. Oklahoma would make it to the national championship game with Heisman winner Sam Bradford as quarterback leading the nation's highest-scoring offense that season averaging almost 50 points per game (averaged 49.5 points per game). Oklahoma had one of the best defensive tackles in the country, Gerald McCoy, on defense that was average at best by giving up 24.5 points per game (which ranked the Sooner defense at 58th in the country). Oklahoma's matchup with the Florida Gators was going to be something different, because the Gators average about 43.6 points on offense, and the Gator defense only gave 12.9 points per game (ranking the Gator Defense the fifth best defense in the nation). The Florida Gators would win the game 24-14 over the Sooners to become the national champions.
Fast forward to the era of the National Championship Playoffs, the Oklahoma Sooners have made it to the semifinal game the last three out of four seasons and in normal Oklahoma trending fashion the Sooner offense was Top five in the nation in scoring, putting up huge numbers. Those huge offensive numbers did not pay dividends toward a national championship, because of the Sooner defense or lack thereof. Over the last four seasons, the Sooners defense has ranked 29th, 69th, 68th, and 101st. Since Bob Stoops was hired in Norman, the template for Oklahoma's football teams have been always high-powered offenses, but defense is rarely mentioned unless they had a notable defender like a Gerald McCoy, Zach Sanchez, Eric Striker, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, etc.
The transfer of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma has excited the Sooner nation, and the first thing the Sooner fans are bringing up is that they are going to score a lot of points. Jalen Hurts is also going to be looked at as an asset to the offense, that was the highest scoring offense in the nation at that, seems to be the only thing that the Sooners have cared about, and in the playoffs that yield nothing but a lose, nothing but the hiring of Alex Grinch as the new defensive coordinator in January coming from Washington State. Grinch is the coordinator being viewed as the defensive guru to change the Sooner's defensive culture. Grinch has immediately made personnel profile changes in the players that are recruited in their respected positions. One position that Grinch made changes instantly was in the cornerback position. Oklahoma has had some of the most athletic, but unsound corners on a consistent basis over the last decade or so (ie. Zach Sanchez) Sanchez was assumed to be a good corner due to his speed after he had clocked a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. Most football people know that 40 times do not always transfer over into talent on the football field. Sanchez was drafted in the fifth round in the 2016 draft by the Carolina Panthers, and was cut at the end of training camp, and was picked up by San Antonio Commanders, and was one of the best corners in the Alliance. Grinch has his work cut out trying to change the defensive culture. He is slowly making those changes on the defensive line as well. Oklahoma is usually known to have those big hulking defensive tackles that usually have 300+ guys. He has immediately let it be known that if you are a defensive tackle, the biggest that they can be is 310 pounds. Grinch's ideal defensive linemen are going to be quicker, more athletic penetrators upfront with slimmer, quicker linebackers behind them. Coach Alex Grinch is on the clock, and we are going to see this season if his defense and philosophies will change the culture, and ultimately help lead that high-powered Sooner offense to a national title. Only time will tell, and if nothing changes over the next few seasons defensively; do not expect to see a national championship trophy in Norman, Oklahoma.