Oklahoma Football: What’s different about the defensive line?

“We wish to be a number of on protection.”

It has develop into an ordinary cliche for nearly each new school soccer coach. Generally talking, it means utilizing a wide range of alignments on D. But when first-year Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brent Venables says he favors being a number of on protection, he means it. The longtime defensive architect at OU and Clemson makes a degree of shifting appears to be like continuous all through a sport – usually with out altering the personnel on the area.

Even after OU made a variety of additives to its roster earlier this yr, Venables is basically cooking up his model of a a number of protection utilizing the earlier teaching employees’s groceries. So what is going to that appear to be when the Sooners take the area towards UTEP over Labor Day weekend? Let’s discover that query via the lens of the defensive entrance, which is the place most of the shifts in alignment begin.


The annual performances of Venables’ defenses throughout his stints with OU from 1999-2011 and with Clemson from 2012-2021 have yielded no scarcity of analyzes of his defensive schemes. One of the finest for soccer junkies got here from Throw Deep Publishing’s Cameron Soran, who has up to date his complete breakdown over time to incorporate new wrinkles and developments. The Coordinator Project additionally printed a helpful video on the Venables protection earlier this yr, that includes examples from Clemson’s 2021 season for instance how components of his strategy have advanced.

If you wish to put a label on Venables’ base protection, you could possibly name it a 4-2-5 or a 4-3. More usually than not, you’ll most likely see some amalgamation of 4 defensive linemen and/or edge gamers someplace round the line of scrimmage. Behind them, Venables usually rolls with two inside linebackers and a hybrid linebacker-safety taking part in in area, dubbed the “Cheetah” place. Rounding out the unit are two customary safeties and two cornerbacks.

The shot above, which was pulled from a video by The Coordinator Project, presents a very good instance of Venables’ base alignment. Taken from Clemson’s sport versus Wake Forest in 2021, the Demon Deacons are lining up on offense in 11 personnel with one working again and one tight finish. The Tigers counter with 4 down linemen up entrance and two ILBs straight behind them. The Cheetah (No. 22 Trenton Simpson) units as much as the area facet of the formation in area about six yards off the line of scrimmage.

In phrases of the fronts, what Venables and OU’s earlier defensive coordinator Alex Grinch wish to do is not so different.

You’ll see one clear exception in the picture above from OU’s sport towards Nebraska final yr. In Grinch’s #SpeedD, the edge participant lined as much as the boundary – known as the RUSH LB – is in a two-point stance like an out of doors linebacker in a conventional 3-4 scheme. Doing so means sacrificing some leverage at the level of assault towards the offensive sort out in alternate for granting the RUSH extra flexibility and freedom of motion.

Frontin’ in the spring

This yr’s Red-White Game provided a sneak preview of what OU’s defensive scheme will appear to be in the fall. The overwhelming majority of snaps discovered the protection staying in a four-down entrance.

The picture above comes from the first play of the spring sport, and it encapsulates most of the day for the OU defensive line. With the offense beginning off on the proper hash, the protection comes out in 4-2-5 personnel. The line units up in an below entrance – the nostril sort out, No. 88 Jordan Kelley, is shading the heart in the direction of the tight finish and area facet of the formation. The defensive sort out, No. 77 Jeffrey Johnson, is taking part in a 3 method in the direction of the boundary in the hole between the offensive guard and sort out. Both defensive ends have their palms in the grime, with No. 14 Reggie Grimes aligned to the boundary and No. 8 Jonah Laulu to the area.

The D did throw out just a few three-down appears to be like every now and then throughout the spring sport:

In this occasion, Grimes has moved out of his place on the defensive line to play in a two-point stance with inside leverage on the cut up tight finish (No. 18 Kaden Helms). Meanwhile, the three remaining linemen have shifted right into a Tite entrance. Kelley is taking part in a zero method over the heart. Johnson and Laulu are each flanking Kelley in 4i strategies, so that they’re lined as much as the inside eye of the offensive tackles.


In phrases of who will play the place this season, the spring sport did not provide a lot rhyme or motive about the taxonomy of the positions on the defensive line. For instance, there did not appear to be any guidelines that have been straightforward to decipher based mostly on the run energy of the offensive formations or setting to the area or boundary. For now, it appears finest to type the defensive linemen into two camps.

First, there are the tackles who will play on the inside:

  • Kelley
  • Johnson
  • Isaiah Coe
  • Josh Ellison
  • Corey Roberson
  • Jalen Redmond
  • Kelvin Gilliam

Expect to see a big quantity of rotation amongst this group, though not as a lot as came about below the earlier teaching regime.

Then there are the edge gamers:

  • Grimes
  • Laulu
  • Ethan Downs
  • Marcus Stripling
  • Clayton Smith

Similarly, the separation on this group seems minimal, though indicators level to Smith working just a few steps behind the different 4.

Regarding the incoming freshmen like R. Mason Thomas and Grace Halton, it is arduous to think about something not getting a redshirt in 2022.

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