By Michael Kinney
In his first game as the Sooners defensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill instituted a new change that seems to have met with immediate approval from the entire defense. He told his Oklahoma defense that if there was any play call they didn’t understand or were not comfortable with, they would take it out of the game plan.
According to McNeill, it’s something he learned from his father and he has been employing for 39 years.
“When you go into a game where it’s live, you want the kids to have confidence,” McNeill said. “If they didn’t feel comfortable with the call if it wasn’t clear… they are erased as soon as they raised their hands with each one. It is so that they can play fast and be able to understand everything they’re doing. I think that’s very important. I’ve always done that. I’ve had some ‘coach, I’m not sure about that.’ When one guy says that, then it’s off.”
Was he joking
“He is serious when he said that this week and I was kind of shocked,” linebacker Curtis Bolton said. “Because a lot of coaches are more dictators instead of leaders. It kind of threw me off because he kind of gave us a little bit of power.”
Not going to raise his hand
Even though Bolton is a fan of cutting out the plays that players don’t understand, he wasn’t going to be the one to raise his hand.
“At the end of the day, it’s also my job to know every calling the book, especially as a linebacker, especially as a play caller,” Bolton said. “So you know, I didn’t have a problem with it. He put the game plan on the board. It’s my job to know all those plays. There are not any plays I’m volunteering to get thrown out. I’m not going to be the guy to say ‘coach, I don’t know what I’m doing on that.’
New changes worked well at TCU
“We had a pretty good playlist and call lists because we understood what we had in,” McNeill said. “As the game went on, as the caller I saw some things we could handle in a particular manner, so I adjusted to that. So to the naked eye it looked somewhat the same. But to the kids it was simple. But I thought we handled it well. “
It has only taken one game for Bolton to see McNeill’s plan of attack taking hold of the OU defense.
“I think it can help us out a lot, I think it showed this weekend. Simplified the game plan then let your playmakers make plays,” Bolton said. “At the end of the day, he’s going to preach to us effort. That’s the main thing when he got the job. It’s the first thing he says every time he opens his mouth when we meet as a defense. It’s effort/. I was a believer in that before he said that. I’m buying into his plan. I think he has a good game plan. And just him being a player’s coach, it helps us play faster. He keeps it simple and lets us go out there and do what we do. And do what got us here.”
Improvement in tackling
“We have been working on tackling the whole bye week and every day since then,” safety Robert Barnes said. “It’s something that should be second nature to us now.”
On what to expect from Alex Barnes and the KSU offense
Tailback Alex Barnes has rushed for 817 yards on 138 carries. Oklahoma’s defense should see a heavy dose of Barnes Saturday when the Sooners host Kansas State.
“This is the Big 12. Skill players go here to go three and out then go to the league. That’s no secret. That’s no surprise. Every team we play is going to have an elite premier back. I don’t think this week is any different. I think he is pretty sound. He is patient, he knows how to cut. They are a disciplined team. Coach Snyder runs a tight ship over there. I’ve seen it throughout the years. They are not going to make many mistakes. They are going to come up and execute their coaches game plan. It’s all about physicality and who’s going to punch who in the mouth.”
Perfect game for players who like to hit
“Kansas State has a great running back,” Barnes said. “But as long as we’re turned into what we’re supposed to do… as safeties, it’s a game you want to play because you get to fit gaps and just come downhill a lot of the game. It should be fun, a good challenge. I love games like that. As a bigger safety, you always love when you can fit in the run game. and just give something for those running backs to look forward to every time they hit that hole. Know that they are going to have a big body safety right there competing with them the whole game.”
Younger player getting more opportunities
“We’re trying to get a lot of guys in there and see who can play,” Bolton said. “I know it’s late I the season… but with coach Ruffin getting the DC job, it’s kind of pushing the restart button. We kind of knew what we had. He has different viewpoints than coach Mike. Getting Ronnie (Perkins) into the game a little bit more was something he had planned for. I think he deserves it. He gotten pressure, gotten after the quarterback. He wins his one-on-one pass rushes. That’s a guy that’s demanding to be on the field.”
Teammates happy for Redmond
Freshman defensive end Jalen Redmon play his first game of the season last week against TCU after suffering a blood clot in the offseason that was supposed to keep him out the entire year. Even though he recorded only one tackle the stats don’t tell the entire story.
“I’m excited for Jalen,” Bolton said. “I was excited for Jalen a lot like Perk (Ronnie Perkins). I think those two can be really dangerous, especially getting after the quarterback. I think both of them have a knack. But it was a good week back for Jalen. He is still learning things. He’s still young. The thing that stands out to me is he doesn’t act like he’s young, he doesn’t prepare like he’s young. He shows up like he’s a vet. He’s just willing to learn. No pipe back, no arguing. If you tell him he had a bad play, he will be the first one to own up to it.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider