Oklahoma may not have an opponent this weekend, but that doesn’t mean all eyes aren’t on their next opponent, the Kansas State Wildcats. The Sooners are spending this week on the practice field as they get ready to welcome in Collin Klein and his Wildcat offense Sept. 22.
The Sooners have faced two overmatched spread offenses the last two weeks, but things change drastically as they get set to face the physically demanding K-State offense.
What does that mean for this OU defense? Changes.
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There isn’t a better time for the Sooners to welcome back starting defensive tackle Casey Walker, who was back on the practice field Monday after being absent from practices for the last several weeks.
Walker’s return gives the Sooners another big, experienced body on the defensive interior, and might allow 281-pound David King to return to his normal defensive end position next weekend.
“We’re probably going to need (David King) at defensive end against Kansas State,” said defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright. “Fortunately for us Casey is back so that lends us a little more depth at defensive tackle where we can gain a little more depth back at defensive end. We’ll see how it goes.”
King has been holding down the defensive tackle position in Walker’s absence over the first two games of the season. But with K-State’s ground heavy attack coming to Norman, the Sooners need more bulk on the inside.
They also need King’s experience at defensive end.
Sophomore Chuka Ndulue has been a nice addition to the OU defensive end position. But senior R.J. Washington is struggling as an every down defensive end.
Washington is a solid pass rusher, but the Sooners need him to be more reliable as a run-stuffer. It’s been a bit of a struggle.
“He’s not played well at all,” said a very crucial Wright. “He’s played about like he always plays and there hasn’t been a lot of improvement and a lot of change.
“For a fifth year senior he’s a guy that needs to jump out and show that he’s capable of being an every down player and right now he’s actually not. He’s still, from the standpoint of being an every down player, he’s still lacking a little bit.”
That’s where King can come back into the picture against Kansas State. If Walker can hold down the defensive tackle position opposite Jamarkus McFarland, King can slide back outside to team up with Ndulue in early downs.
That also means the Sooners will need more from redshirt freshmen Jordan Phillips and Marquis Anderson, who performed well against Florida A&M this past weekend.
Right now, it appears that plan is being set into motion.
“Today, I strictly worked at defensive end,” said King. “I'll probably work some defensive tackle later in the week. Casey and J-Mac and the young guys were the defensive tackle rotation.”
It’s just a small glimpse into what the Sooners might have in store for the physical Wildcat offense coming to town in two weeks. But the plan is taking shape.
It could be a plan that continues throughout the rest of the season if Walker and McFarland stay healthy. Right now, Wright is going with the flow and trying to make the best out of what he’s given.
Heading into Kansas State, the best is having King at defensive end and Walker at defensive tackle for this OU defense.
“You’ve got to take it as it is. You go on and you practice and you work the guys you’ve got,” Wright explained. “If something happens where we have the benefit of some guys like Casey coming back and we can get a little more balance with our older veterans then so be it, that’s great. But I never thought too much of it one way or the other. Okay, he’s gone and let’s get the next on ready and see what we can do.”
Right now Wright has more options than he’s had in games one and two.
Expect the Sooners to take advantage of that when conference play begins Sept. 22.
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