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December 23, 2013

OU's 3-4 defense has roots at UA

It's only been one season since Oklahoma made the philosophical change to go to a 3-4 defense, but the results for the Sooners are dramatic.

Almost every measure of performance has increased since 2012, including the total defense ranking, going from 65th (399.5 yards per game) to 14th (336.3). Tackles for loss are up 31 percent while the numbers of plays Oklahoma's defense faced are down.

All in all, it's been a pretty successful first season running the 3-4.

The credit all goes to the Sooners' coaching staff, including head coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Of course the Stoops brother also give a tip of the cap to the University of Alabama defensive coaching staff, especially to Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, who helped with ideas before the change occurred.

"We've had a pretty god relationship with those guys," Mike Stoops said. "They helped us transition to a 3-4 defense. When I look at defense I look at what coach Saban and coach Smart have done at Alabama, how multiple they are, they'll be a lot of familiarity with each other going into this game."

Coaches from different staffs getting together during the offseason or down times is nothing new. Former Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin visited Alabama this month to help share ideas with the Crimson Tide offensive coaches. Other coaching staffs have come in to Tuscaloosa, too. It's not unusual.

Saban also shares a long-time relationship with the Stoops family. But Saban downplays how much those meetings are responsible for the turnaround in the Sooners' defense.

"I'm not sure how much of it they actually learned from us," Saban said. "We did talk about it a few years ago, but they didn't implement it then. So I'm sure they did a lot of research to figure out the best way to play and adjust what they do. They do a really good job of coaching. Bob and Mike, I'm long-time friends with both and are very well respected by myself and many other people in the profession. We've always visited through the years..."

Third down conversion rates have improved since the implementation, from 42 percent allowed in 2012 to 33 percent this season. Points allowed have also seen a change, dropping more than four points a game (25.5 points a game in 2012, 21.3 in 2013).

The team's two leading tackles are a sophomore and a freshman, respectively. Linebacker Frank Shannon has 85 tackles followed by Dominque Alexander with 75.

Alabama junior tight end Brian Vogler said the defenses are similar in that they both have physical, speedy athletes running around making plays. Other than that, however, they're not the same, he said.

"I'd say the styles are a little bit different," Vogler said. "It's hard to compare. The teams they go up against are different types of offense than our defense sees throughout the regular season."

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.


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