After having a Monday to break down film and recover from the sad Saturday in Nashville, the Cats had their first chance to respond in full pads. A team that seemed mentally beat up Saturday had their heads back in the game, “I believe we handled it the right.” Stoops said after practice today. “Everybody was disappointed but I see no sulking today, we’ve moved on. Once we graded the film yesterday we came out here and made corrections, we moved on. It’s about preparing to win the next game.”
The primary issue at hand is stopping the run, something I addressed earlier that will be exponentially more important when facing Miami’s triple option attack on Saturday. The first way the Cats will attempt to remedy the solution is by moving TreVaughn Paschal to starting Weak LB. TreVaughn brings more size to the table along with surprising speed. TreVaughn isn’t completely new to standing up; he has been running the 3-4 OLB position since the beginning of camp, referring to it as a ‘slight’ transition rather than a large one. For TreVaughn, there is a positive in knowing both spots, “I know what the end is going to do in most of the stunts that we have, so when I blitz I know where to line up.” TreVaughn will be taking the majority of reps, but Coach Stoops still expects the team’s second-leading tackler Khalid Henderson to get playing time.
Another possible defensive solution was thrown out by Coach Stoops on Tom Leach’s radio show last night, suggesting that Bud Dupree could return back to linebacker. While it makes short-term sense, there’s no need for knee-jerk reactions just yet, but until then DJ Eliot will have Bud on standby, “We have some 3-4 packages (where) he’s at outside linebacker, so we may call those schemes more often, or we may not.” Bud replaces Paschal’s old spot, which tells me that they might not be hesitant to quickly pull the LB trigger after a bad week. Schematically it allows the defense to become much more versatile -especially against no huddle teams- by not having to substitute players in order to completely surprise the opposing Quarterback with a new front.
The linebacking crew may need to go through some significant change, but there is talent on the defensive line, all that is left to improve is in-game execution. Mike Douglas isn’t listed as a starter at DT, but for Coach Brumbaugh he’s the 3-technique pass rusher that the team needs. Douglas was a half step from making a couple of sacks Saturday, but the pass rush was limited with Brumbaugh saying, “Earn the right to rush the passer by stopping the run on 1st and 2nd down.” For Douglas, consistency can give the D more 3rd down opportunities, “the main thing is really being more and more consistent with staying gap disciplined… if we’re not disciplined in our gap he can turn for a 40-yard run.” Once the Cats can force a couple of 3rd downs, expect the speedy Douglas in the game. After coming up a half-step slow last week, he is concentrating on perfecting his pre-snap reads, reading the offensive linemen’s feet, and increasing play-action pass reaction time.
The defense has a long way to go before Mark Stoops can pull a FSU-esque turn-around, but the team is taking concrete steps moving forward. They know exactly what to work on, and won’t stop until the results show on the field.