Oklahoma mailbag: Running struggles, where’s DeBerry and will the Sooners ramp up the defensive pressure?

It’s Wednesday, so that means it is time for the weekly mailbag. Oklahoma is back from its bye week and preparing to face Iowa State on Saturday. This is the final tuneup before the Sooners face Texas.

The bye week did Oklahoma some good. The only starter who is questionable for this one is defensive tackle Matt Romar. The Sooners also get free safety Will Johnson, backup safety Robert Barnes and offensive lineman Cody Ford back from injuries that caused them to miss the previous two games.

Cornerback Jordan Thomas is healthy after leaving the Baylor game early with a foot injury and defensive end Amani Bledsoe will play for the first time since 2016 after completing a 10-game NCAA mandated suspension for failing a PED test.

With that, here we go.

Joe on Twitter asks, what’s the chance Mike Stoops learns the lesson from Baylor and ups the pressure on quarterbacks the rest of the season?

We’ll see about that one. One thing about the Baylor game that must be noted is the Bears ran a lot of four-receiver sets. That’s the traditional Baylor offense, but not what it showed in the first three games.

I think that was the biggest reason Oklahoma looked conservative with its defensive play calls against the Bears. Also, the depth in the secondary played a part in that, too. Oklahoma was in its base defense for a significant amount of that game. Remember, safeties Will Johnson and Robert Barnes were both out with injuries. The secondary depth should be better against Iowa State.

It’s hard to blitz and play press coverage if you don’t have faith in what you’re seeing and the personnel on the field doesn’t fit either.

Also, the Cyclones have played Iowa and Texas. This is Matt Ruhle’s second season at Iowa State. Oklahoma should be confident in what it expects to get from the Cyclones regarding scheme and personnel.

Dave on Twitter asks, is Ricky DeBerry hurt or suspended or something? I haven’t even seen him out on the field.

One of the top recruits in Oklahoma’s 2015 class hasn’t played this season. Lincoln Riley said he would miss the season opener for “medical reasons.” I have seen him on the sideline for games, which indicates he’s in good standing with the team. But I can’t recall seeing him in uniform for any of the games.

The coaching staff attempted to move him to inside linebacker in the spring, but abandoned the experiment when preseason camp began.

DeBerry plays the strong side outside linebacker spot that belongs to Caleb Kelly. It looks like he’s buried on the depth chart. Sophomore Mark Jackson and freshman Addison Gumbs are ahead of him there.

Steve on Twitter asks, What is Oklahoma’s depth situation at linebacker after the injury to Curtis Bolton?

It’s not good to say the least. The only remaining backup inside linebacker on scholarship is redshirt freshman Jon Michael Terry. He remains the No. 2 behind freshman middle linebacker Kenneth Murray.

Stoops said Tuesday that Kelly will get more practice snaps at inside linebacker this week and the foreseeable future.

The Sooners are into the Big 12 schedule and are going to face more spread offenses. The spot Kelly plays favors a defensive back in that spot over a linebacker against four-receiver sets.

Kelly has worked at inside linebacker since the spring. It’s a matter of deciding whether keeping him on the field is a better option than removing senior Emmanuel Beal or Murray.

Joe on Twitter asks, despite the averages and appearances, is the run blocking underwhelming at most points this season, or is that my imagination?

It’s a good point. The Baylor game brought good and bad. Trey Sermon and Abdul Adams had 312 yards on 23 carries. The Sooners scored 4 rushing touchdowns in that game, too.

However, about 60 percent of Adams’ rushing total came on the 99-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Three of his 11 rushing attempts went for no gain. Marcelias Sutton had 5 rushing attempts. All resulted in 3 yards or less.

Most teams tend to run the ball better in the second half. The coaching staff and the offensive line have seen every front and stunt a defense has by then. Oklahoma’s 5.6 yards per carry average is largely due to second-half success.

But the Sooners have been slow running the ball early in the game.

Patrick on Twitter asks, any word on why Trey Sermon only played in the fourth quarter against Baylor?

That did seem odd. One thing to remember is the Sooners only ran 59 plays against the Bears and only 41 through the first three quarters.

I think the coaching staff is comfortable with Sermon in that closer role Samaje Perine previously occupied. He carried the ball on 12 of the Sooners’ 18 fourth-quarter plays.

But I don’t think they are comfortable giving the ball to any of the running backs more than 20 times a game quite yet. Sermon leads the team with 43 rushing attempts. But that’s a little more than 10 attempts a game. Perine averaged 19.02 yards during his three seasons and he missed a few games with an injury.

I expect Sermon to get more attempts in the coming games, but the coaching staff seems intent on spreading the wealth when possible.

The post Oklahoma mailbag: Running struggles, where’s DeBerry and will the Sooners ramp up the defensive pressure? appeared first on Diehards.

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