Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

2008 Oklahoma Season Preview: Defensive Line

If you're looking for evidence that Oklahoma isn't paying its players, look no farther than junior defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger.

Granger, a heralded recruit, was pinched just days before OU's date with West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this year, earning a Greyhound ticket straight back to Norman. Granger's crime: shoplifting from a Burlington Coat Factory. Tell me, would a college football standout loaded with under-the-table payola be caught dead at the Sam's Club of retail fashion? Burberry it's not.
Of course, it could be that Granger's just thrifty, in which case he probably won't need to worry about pinching his pennies much longer. He's part of a defensive line full of talent, experience and NFL potential. The likes of Granger, Big XII Newcomer of the Year Gerald McCoy and pass rushing terror Auston English could give the Sooners their best front four since the days of Tommie Harris and Dan Cody.
Check that... It could be a front five.
The word is out that the OU coaching staff has been experimenting with a 5-2 defensive formation. Much like the tinkering going on with the team's secondary and linebackers, it appears that head coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Brent Venables are trying to leverage the talent on the defensive line to get their best personnel on the field at the same time. Of course, just exactly how the coaches plan to implement the new scheme--let alone how often they plan to use it--is more a matter of theory for the public, given the veil of secrecy surrounding the Sooners' preseason practices. 
Assuming we'll see more of the 5-2 formation than other situational strategies, it conjures up visions of the Sooner d-line dominating the trenches. Besides stuffing the run, overloading on linemen could provide some support for an unproven secondary against the pass, as opposing quarterbacks run for their lives in the face of a fearsome pass rush.
The downside: 275-pounders don't cover so well. In other words, trading defensive backs and linebackers for linemen sacrifices coverage ability for a more physical presence up front. As a result, it's a high risk-reward scenario in passing situations.
As for personnel in the base defense, count on the third-year sophomore McCoy starting at one DT spot. Granger likely will hold down the other, unless Stoops opts to prolong his penance for the Burlington affair. Sophomore Adrian Taylor and verteran senior Cory Bennett should prove to be capable backups.
English is a potential All-American at one of the DE positions. Count on a revolving door all season at the two end spots, though, among English and four or five other candidates, including sixth-year senior John Williams.
Whether they line up with three, four or five players in 2008, the line will be the strongest part of OU's defense, with talent that could compensate for other units' struggles.
(Up Next: Wide Receivers)