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The Wednesday newsletter: Mailbag questions about early NFL entry, running back injury situation and next defensive coordinator | OU Sports Extra

Every Wednesday, we dip into the mailbag and answer your questions in our newsletter.

With Friday’s showdown game against West Virginia approaching, we talk about early NFL Draft departures, the running back injuries and answer a question from former fullback J.D Runnels.

Which underclassmen have realistic possibilities of leaving for the NFL after this season? – Jim N.

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There probably will be a handful of players who will consider early entry into the NFL. While wide receiver Marquise Brown said he won’t make a decision until after the season, the players to watch are offensive tackles Bobby Evans and Cody Ford. Ford has made huge strides since moving to tackle. Brown wouldn’t be easy to replace if he leaves, but the loss of Evans and Ford would be a heavy chore.



Oklahoma defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill talks to linebacker Curtis Bolton (left) before last Saturday’s game against Kansas State in Norman. McNeill has coached at 12 schools over 38 years. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

When 1s go against 1s in practice: Does the D ever get a stop? – Perry P.

Ruffin McNeill, in a light-hearted moment, said that he hasn’t tried to stop Lincoln Riley’s offense in practice since their Texas Tech days. He added that at points during currents practices, sometimes the offense gets the best of the defense and vice versa. My guess is it sways in the offense’s favor.



Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks (26) tries to get past Kansas’ Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Kansas Jayhawks (KU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Abdul Adams left, Rodney Anderson and Marcellus Sutton went down with injuries, etc., but how did OU get in a situation of having only two available scholarship RBs for a game, as appeared to be the case vs Kansas? Is TJ Pledger available Friday vs West Virginia if needed? And what do you believe is Trey Sermon’s health going into this week’s showdown? – Scott P.

One of the questions entering the season was how were the Sooners going to keep five scholarship running backs happy. Now the team needs to keep Kennedy Brooks healthy in the season’s biggest game. Anderson and Sutton, of course, suffered season-ending injuries. Trey Sermon played in two plays against Kansas before realizing that he’s not near 100 percent; Riley added he was not even close to being where he needed to be. Riley puts Pledger in that same injury category with Sermon. His undisclosed injury was at a point where he wasn’t ready to play last week. The short week hurts the recovery time.

I think this is just an unusual injury year for the Sooners at the running back position. Five was a big number entering the season, but it’s a number that the team is thankful for right now.


Bedlam 2018 Nov 11

Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Tre Brown (6) attempts to tackle Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Tyron Johnson (13) during the NCAA football game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, November 10, 2018. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

Why doesn’t OU ever play press coverage on receivers? At least jam them off the line so we aren’t giving them a full speed head-start to run by us? I understand many teams will have a size advantage but seems it would be worth a try, especially when nothing else is working – @chaseasher1

Ruffin McNeill was asked this question recently. Here is his answer:

“A lot of times, you can determine the routes. If you press, most of the time you will get a a fade, deep fade or post. We know that. If you are off, a lot of times maybe you can determine what routes, whether it’s a stop route, an out cut, those type of things. We have times where we have tightened down and be in man. To a normal eye, you wouldn’t notice it. There are certain things where you have to be right up in some one’s face for man defense or zone. But you can play off and be in man coverage. We’ll keep pressing and working on it.”


Bedlam 2018 Nov 11

Oklahoma linebackers Kenneth Murray (left) and Caleb Kelly (right) team up to tackle Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard on Nov. 10. Poor tackling has been an issue for the Sooners. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

Eric, the defense, you think it’s a coach issue, player issue, or both? I think the players can be coached up to play good D, Their bios show we beat out some good teams to get them. And they have to be better than the Iowa St. players who play good D – @FromtheJtotheR

I think it is a little bit of both. With plenty of the same coaches in place for multiple years, the expectation is that the defense would progress as the seasons went on. I also think that recruiting more elite talent is a must. The Sooners have good Big 12 talent. They need to target more elite players. Riley understands that and it was a narrative that he made following last year’s Rose Bowl.


2017-11-18 sp-oufoot

Kansas quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley (left) works with Jayhawks quarterback Carter Stanley. This is Riley’s second season at Kansas. KANSAS ATHLETICS/Courtesy

Do you think Lincoln will pick up his KU brother from the coaching waiver wire if the Mad Hatter doesn’t retain him? – @okinfortworth

It would be interesting to see a second Riley on the sideline, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. Garrett Riley is an offensive coach and I just don’t think there’s any room on OU’s staff, which has been working well together since Lincoln Riley arrived in 2015.

How close is Pete Golding to be named DC? – @ben_woods15

Alabama’s co-defensive coordinator is definitely someone to keep a close eye on. I think Riley wants to hire a mirror image of himself to run the defense and Golding fits that bill. A youthful coordinator who can coach and, most importantly in Riley’s eyes, recruit would go a long way.

Will we continue to see the beautiful evolution of Fullbacks? Not saying they are beautiful, just the position itself – @Just_JD38

Former OU fullback J.D. Runnels with the question of the week! When Dimitri Flowers left last season, there were question marks at what direction that position would go. Carson Meier has taken full advantage of his opportunity and has 13 catches for 223 yards and four touchdowns this season. Backup fullback Jeremiah Hall has displayed some skills at the position this year. He even had four carries for 21 yards against Kansas, which could be a hint of who the backup running back could be this week if Sermon and Pledger cannot go.

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