NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners are back to game preparation after their BYE week. It was more than just a week off of game action, however, because of some momentous events taking place within the program. Now that they’ve had some time to adjust, the Sooners hope to bounce back against TCU.
1. The Ruffin McNeill era begins
With Ruffin McNeill taking over after Mike Stoops’ firing, this is an easy storyline to be curious about. How is he doing? How have the players reacted? What kind of coaching style does he use as a coordinator? Several players were close with Mike Stoops, and his departure has been hard on them. However, they have a tremendous amount of respect for McNeill, and now they’ve had one week to adjust to their new DC. It will be interesting to see what players and coaches say about how the transition has gone so far.
2. So… What changed?
With a new coordinator comes changes, and there’s no exception here. Plenty of reports have emerged that McNeill will be moving towards a four-man front, and that personnel changes were coming. Guys like Ronnie Perkins, Tre Brown and Levi Draper are expected to be impacted by this, but a lot can change through a couple practices. These players, among others, are the kind of guys that Sooner fans have been calling for, but there’s also players that could make that difficult. Mark Jackson, Parnell Motley and Caleb Kelly also have interesting situations themselves, so McNeill and his staff will have to make some difficult decisions regarding the future of the defense and their players. Hopefully they share these changes and decisions very soon.
3. What does Bob Diaco bring to the table?
Another change took place when Bob Diaco moved from defensive analyst to outside linebacker coach. Diaco has previous experience coaching for programs like Nebraska and Notre Dame, but he hasn’t had a chance to actually coach these players. Now that he’s had some time to interact and shape the guys, it will be interesting to hear how he’s impacted the program. McNeill said early last week that it was like letting a tiger loose, but did the players respond to that style? Also, how has he been coaching them schematically with the four-man front potentially taking the JACK linebacker out of the equation? Diaco could be an added advantage if his coaching and personality has provided a positive response from the players and the rest of the coaching staff.
4. Offensive adjustments
Plenty of time has been spent talking about the defense the past few days, and rightfully so. However, this offense was also given some time to regroup. They stormed back in the game against Texas in unbelievable fashion, but there were some struggles beforehand. The running backs didn’t get much going, the offensive line struggled and Kyler Murray turned the ball over twice. This is an unbelievable offense, but now they were given time to get better. What did they do in order to improve? Will Kennedy Brooks receive an expanded role? He sure played well in his limited opportunities against Texas. What adjustments were made on the offensive line? Ben Powers came into the game a bit banged up, but he’s had plenty of time to recover. Also, young center Creed Humphrey surely had some takeaways from his first start in the Red River Showdown. All of this and more could be talked about as ways that a great offense became even better out of the BYE week.
5. TCU familiarity
Oklahoma played against the Horned Frogs twice last season and beat them both times. Needless to say, they probably know what to expect when they see purple. However, some slight changes have been made to this TCU team. Guys like Kenny Hill and Matt Boesen are gone, but guys like Ben Banogu and KaVontae Tuprin are finding ways to move around and impact the game. New starting quarterback Shawn Robinson is still trying to settle in to his role, which means the Frogs might rely on the run game more to take a load off his shoulders. While these changes are minor, they could become even less significant if the Sooners are already confident and prepared. Will the experience of playing the Frogs twice help at all in preparation for this game? Let’s find out.