OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch wants consistency.
Thus far, Oklahoma is ranked No. 20 in the nation in total defense this season, allowing 342.5 opposing yards per game. But the Sooners haven’t looked the part on the field, blowing fourth quarter leads in each of their last three games and allowing no less than 37 points in any of those contests.
Grinch showed his excitement regarding the play of several young defenders and junior college transfers after Saturday’s quadruple overtime win over Texas in a Wednesday Zoom press conference, but acknowledged his unit has to provide more of an equilibrium to the Sooners’ offense on a weekly basis.
Here’s what Grinch had to say about cultivating repeated success during Oklahoma’s bye week and ahead of a road game against TCU:
The main trend from Grinch’s presser was that he wants better play every time out. When speaking Tuesday, offensive lineman Tyrese Robinson said he was excited to see the team carry its work in practice over to its matchup with TCU. Wednesday, it was apparent Grinch wants the same desire to translate weekday play to Saturday performance from his defense.
“What you do in the first quarter, the calls aren't different in the fourth quarter than they are, and I guess maybe they should be. I’ve got to evaluate that … But I think if you can’t have a consistent Tuesday, it's gonna be very difficult under the bright lights of Saturday on national television to consistently execute over a 60-minute long game...We're a better practice team, which is a good thing. But nobody wants to hear that because you’ve gotta go do it on a Saturday...And it's something that each individual position coach has to take ownership (of) and obviously myself as a coordinator and in each individual guy...and then one of the things we talked about is the same guy we coach on Tuesday is the same guy we want to coach on Wednesday.
“And when I say same guy, the same guy making the improvement, so it's knowing the agreement is we’re going to get better every single day. But we don't need this different version of you coming in on Saturday on either side of the spectrum. We don’t need to hope for the magic to show up on Saturday. No, we need the guy who gave us consistent effort, execution on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of game week.”
Young players performing
Redshirt freshman safety Woody Washington had a huge fourth quarter interception for the Sooners against Texas last Saturday as Grinch and his position coaches rotated several players in and out of the lineup. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Nik Bonitto also had five tackles and two sacks in the contest, and Grinch is high on both as TCU’s potent offense looms.
“I think the biggest thing for (Washington) is he kind of came in as a corner and then has taken reps and practice reps at nickel and both safety spots. And so I mean, at this point, he's played really all five (positions) in the secondary…The moment doesn't surprise him which really for a corner means that the ball doesn't surprise him. And you saw that the other day and so I mean, I think he's one of those guys that you know, he's only going to get better. You’re still talking about a redshirt freshman with limited in-game reps…Just wait until he gets good.
“It was good to see (Bonitto) finish plays…“I was glad to see production kind of come his way this past week. And he's a guy that then that position seller we talked about a year ago that needs more production, you know, you call the Russian for reason, and then that is something that we'll continue to look towards, but been pleased with Nick and again, I think, why I say that, there's more from him than we need.”
JUCO transfer linemen progressing
OU acquired the top two junior college defensive lineman in junior Perrion Winfrey and Joshua Ellison during the offseason. They combined for five tackles and a sack Saturday against Texas, and Grinch said Wednesday he’s thrilled with how they’re continuing to improve.
“Specific to (Winfrey) this last week, you saw a guy that can affect a football game. And we expect him to, and so that's something that certainly we're excited about both of those guys. When you take junior college guys, there's pressure on you to make sure that you hit...you only get so much time with them anyway and then all of a sudden, the way this thing worked out this year, you got even less prior to their first snaps for you. And if you didn't need junior college guys, you wouldn't have taken junior college guys. So they have to have an immediate impact.
“And so I've been pleased because (defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux has) done a great job with them. We've been able to rotate in the interior defensive line probably even more so than a year ago. And so I've been quite pleased over the four game stretch, not just this past weekend, but the ability of those guys and again, just continue to improve. Because you're not talking about just rotational guys (who) get a few reps a game. You're talking about guys having a significant impact on your defense in the middle of your defense. And so, yeah, tall order, but now they continue to improve and (I’ve) been impressed with them.”