STILLWATER, OK - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Bob Stoops during play against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
While we didn't get a chance to talk with the guys from Oklahoma's SB Nation site Crimson and Cream Machine on "The Rush" podcast this week, we did get a chance to ask their Matt Hofeld a few questions in a Q&A segment. Have a read.
MinerRush: You all lost a handful of offensive lineman in the offseason, and now word is one of your starting defensive tackles, Casey Walker, is questionable for Saturday's game. Talk about the depth issues for the Sooners on both sides of the ball.
Matt Hofeld: Most Sooner fans hit the panic button about a month ago when linemen were dropping like flies but had sense calmed down. The news on Wednesday of Walker being questionable just brought all of those emotions back to the forefront.
The starting offensive line is still very strong and will be one of the best units in the Big XII conference. However, they absolutely cannot afford anymore injuries from this point on and that's a scary reality going into the season. Behind the starters Oklahoma is young and very inexperienced. For that reason I would expect to see the Sooners rotate up to nine players on the line in an effort to get some of the younger guys some game experience.
The defensive line is a different story. Due to graduation and players leaving early for the NFL the Sooners were already paper thin. The indefinite suspension of Stacy McGee not only took a senior out of the middle of the line but also resulted in Oklahoma moving one of their most experienced defensive ends (and that's not much experience anyway) into the middle of the line. If Walker is out then it means senior Jamarkus McFarland will draw the start. It also means that redshirt freshman Jordan Phillips will go from hoping to play to needing to play. It goes without saying that Oklahoma can't afford any injuries here either.
MR: Mike Stoops is back in Norman after an 8 year break where he was the head coach at Arizona. Do you expect his return to have an immediate impact on the Sooner defense?
MH: Yes! The two areas where his impact will be felt immediately are in personnel decisions and simplifying things. I was a huge fan of Brent Venables (in the minority there) but one legitimate criticism of him was that his schemes were overly complicated and resulted in players doing more thinking than reacting.
Mike Stoops has simplified things which will allow for defenders to maximize their abilities by just reacting to the play. In addition, he's made a few changes in the secondary, like moving Tony Jefferson from linebacker to safety and Aaron Colvin from safety to corner, to put guys in a better position to be successful.
MR: Do you see any weaknesses on the team that could potentially be exposed by UTEP on Saturday?
MH: Sure I do. Oklahoma wasn't strong in the middle of the defensive line last season and the word on the street is that UTEP is going to try and establish a rushing attack. That means an area of weakness last season is going to be attacked from the start. I'm very much a "prove it" kind of guy and until OU proves they are stronger in the middle then I'm gonna think otherwise.
On the other side of the ball, the OU passing attack completely disappeared after Ryan Broyles went down with a knee injury last season. Oklahoma has a new crop of receivers this year with Kenny Stills being the only player on the roster heading to UTEP who has caught a pass in an OU uniform. Here's another area where they are going to have to prove themselves.
MR: Landry Jones turned down the NFL to make one last run at a national championship. All things considered, do you see that as a realistic goal for this team?
MH: Its a possibility but more of a long shot than it was before injuries and suspensions. They've got two games (UTEP and Florida A&M) to get things in order before Kansas State comes to Norman for the third game of the season. We'll know for sure then what the true potential of this team is.
MR: What are your thoughts/predictions on the outcome of Saturday's game?
MH: I think this is a game where UTEP can keep it close early but ultimately the talent edge plays in Oklahoma's favor. I see it being along the lines of 45-10 in favor of OU.
Big thanks to Matt Hofeld of Oklahoma's SB Nation site, Crimsonandcreammachine.com, for taking some time out to answer a few questions for us here at MinerRush. Can't wait for Saturday's game. Picks up, and Go Miners!