OU football: Sooners' Alex Grinch says there's progress on defense but still far away
NORMAN — After Oklahoma wrapped up spring football practices Tuesday, first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said there’s still plenty of progress to be made.
“I don’t see a fast defense yet,” Grinch said. “I don’t see a brand of football that would put us anywhere close — certainly not an elite defense, but I wouldn’t even make a claim to the top half of the country.”
That doesn’t mean Grinch is discouraged after the spring, just that the gap the Sooners had to close was a significant one.
“Long way to go,” Grinch said. “But that’s the charge. That’s the job as coaches to make sure we take advantage of these next several months of summer ball — the eight hours (per week). The bulk of that is in the weight room, and we’ll use every last second of it, but there’s a little bit of football time that we get with them.
“There’s a core group of guys who are very anxious to get right and get this thing turned defensively. We’re going to make sure that group grows over the next couple months.”
One of the hardest parts of evaluating the spring performance on the defensive side is in tackling.
“You always have to weigh as a coach how much live contact that you do,” Grinch said.
The Sooners had a scrimmage about midway through spring practice, then the spring game, with a few other periods of live tackling mixed in.
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“I think overall, I was probably fairly pleased for it not to come to the forefront of my brain and say that we were terrible at it,” Grinch said. “Maybe that speaks to the fact that it was pretty good. The willingness is there.”
For a team that struggled significantly in that area a year ago. Grinch has emphasized group tackling.
“If you make a solo tackle, you’re lucky,” has been a mantra of Grinch’s as he works to make the point of getting to the ball.
“That's an effort thing,” Grinch said. “And maybe too much this spring ... I saw individuals having to make tackles. And that's football. That happens, with spread offenses, tempo — they do a pretty good job of spreading you thin — but just the wave of guys running to the football was such a ... with the mindset that, that's my play to make is probably the thing as you talk about tackling, I think that's probably the most glaring thing I saw is guys not fully understanding that. And that's coaching, so we've gotta get that corrected.”
Grinch said he was most pleased with the progress of the defensive line, “just in terms of buy-in.”
“At our best, I see some disruption and guys really buying into the things we're asking them to do,” Grinch said. “Is it where it needs to be overall from a numbers standpoint or just an overall dynamic standpoint ... we've gotta add pieces but been very pleased with their progress.”