After two historic offensive seasons in the first two years under head coach Lincoln Riley, it’s a safe bet that scoring won’t be an issue for the Oklahoma Sooners football team very often in the near future.
However, the Oklahoma defense has been a different story. Through 13 games, the Sooners ranked 89th out of 130 FBS teams in defensive S&P+, which measures efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers to produce an adjusted points per game average. That was actually an improvement from the 2017 season, when Oklahoma finished 101st, but still not great for a team with title aspirations.
Oklahoma was able to reach back-to-back College Football Playoff Semifinal games behind Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, but even they could not help the Sooners overcome bad defensive performances against Georgia in the 2018 Rose Bowl and this past weekend in an Orange Bowl loss to Alabama.
Oklahoma class of 2019 signee Trejan Bridges, who is rated as a 247Sports Composite four-star wide receiver, hopes to add to a potent Sooners offense next season. But the wideout also recognizes that he will need help from the other side of the ball if the team is going to capture a national title during his career.
“I think the defense is going to have to step up a little bit,” Bridges told 247Sports Director Of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong on Monday after arriving at the All-American Bowl. “We’re bringing in key defensive players. We have (four-star safety) Jeremiah Criddell, so he should play a big part. (Four-star cornerback) Jaden Davis. I think that’s what we’re missing in the secondary. Linebacker I think we’re straight, d-line as well. If we get corner and safety fixed up I think we’ll be straight. OU offense always going to score regardless.”
Bridges, a 6-foot-1 recruit, hopes to make an early impact in a Sooners uniform. Wide receiver Marquise Brown could decide to enter the 2019 NFL Draft after a strong junior season. Brown caught 10 touchdowns, and he accounted for nearly 30 percent of Oklahoma’s total receiving yards and receptions this season.
“Filling the big role of Marquise Brown and the only starter left will be CeeDee Lamb,” Bridges said about his goals for next year. “I’m going to go in this spring, of course go in there work hard in the weight room and class room as well and get bigger and faster as well.”
After firing Mike Stoops from his defensive coordinator role on Oct. 7, Riley named defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeill the interim defensive coordinator for the rest of the season. With the season now over, Riley could opt to hire a replacement. It will likely be the most important personnel decision Riley has made thus far in his tenure as head coach.
“I think we’re right on the doorstep,” Riley said on Saturday after his team’s loss to Alabama. “There’s no doubt. And I think the talent level is growing, the recruiting is going great, the program I think is headed in such a great direction in large part because of these guys up here, and the fight in this program has never been better. It’s agonizingly close. It is. But we’ve got to continue to take steps in the right direction, and we’re going to do everything we can to get that done.”