Oklahoma mailbag: Does playing in Big 12 hurt Sooners’ defensive development?

DieHards tackles the best questions from Oklahoma fans. Look for our Oklahoma question of the day Monday through Friday. Join the conversation by sending your questions to @john_shinn, by email to John at jshinn.oudiehards@gmail.com or at the Oklahoma DieHards Facebook page.

Jonathan Blevins asks, does Oklahoma need to recruit specifically to match up with Big 12 offenses as well as the SEC in order to win in the College Football Playoff?

This is a question Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley highlighted in the days after the 2017 season ended. Specifically, he brought up the physical differences between the Sooners defense and Georgia’s following the Rose Bowl loss.

“You look on the field with the two defenses and one of them looked a little bit different than the other just physically,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to grow in that area. I think we’re starting to.”

For nearly a decade, there’s been this impression that Big 12 defensive linemen and linebackers cannot physically grow to the size of those in the SEC and Big Ten. The up-tempo spread offenses force front-seven defenders to remain a little lighter.

I don’t know if that’s true anymore. I don’t think it was ever true in the defensive line. The SEC separated from the Big 12 defensively because of defensive line depth. Georgia’s rotation surpassed the Sooners in every way.

The best linebacker in the Rose Bowl was Georgia’s Roquan Smith. By NFL standards, he’s undersized at 6-foot-1 and less than 240 pounds. Oklahoma middle linebacker Kenneth Murray (6-2, 242) is actually bigger than Smith then and now.

What Riley is really talking about is the Sooners’ need to get more NFL-caliber defensive talent on the field. Gerald McCoy was Oklahoma’s last defensive player selected in the first round of the NFL draft, and that was in 2010.

The Sooners’ last two recruiting classes upgraded the defensive talent level. They’re getting players SEC and Big Ten schools wanted. Oklahoma has to develop them.

The post Oklahoma mailbag: Does playing in Big 12 hurt Sooners’ defensive development? appeared first on Diehards.

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