Oklahoma: Fast and furious

Florida Defensive Coordinator and Associate Head Coach Charlie Strong answers questions from the media in a press conference held at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 3.

Tricia Coyne/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 11:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 11:53 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE When opposing defensive coordinators sit down to study tape of Oklahoma's offense, they're in for a real horror show.

There's lots of scary stuff on there.

Like quarterback Sam Bradford standing in the pocket all day and throwing the ball to wide-open receivers who don't stop running until they're in the end zone.

Or a game tape that looks like a highlight reel, with big plays and touchdowns coming one after the other.

But maybe the scariest sight of all is one that is almost comical in a way. It's watching bewildered cornerbacks and linebackers looking the other way while the Sooners go dashing past.

Charlie Strong has seen plenty of this.

"You see some defenders who don't even get lined up," said the Florida defensive coordinator. "I saw one where the cornerback was looking over to the sideline, and (the Sooners) are running the play right behind him."

Of all the problems OU's offense creates, it's the Sooners' no-huddle, fastbreak approach that seems to concern the Gators the most. The Sooners have a way of keeping defenses off balance and out of place with how quickly they get lined up and fire off plays from the shotgun.

"One of the keys is we have to get lined up," Strong said. "It's critical. You watch on tape and you see some defenses don't even get lined up. Just talking to people, everyone always talks about how hard it is to match the tempo of the game.

"We have to get lined up. Once we do, we have to tackle. They're going to make their throws. The key is yardage after the catch. We can't allow that to happen. Let's get lined up, and when they catch the football, let's go tackle. We're working a lot on the up-tempo."

During early bowl preparation in Gainesville, UF coach Urban Meyer said OU's fastbreak offense is impossible to prepare for in only a week, which probably explains why so many defenses in the Big 12 were seemingly running helter-skelter in attempts to slow it down. Unlike those defenses, the Gators have had a month to get ready for the fast pace of play, and they have worked on it extensively.

"We've been practicing it with our guys," Strong said. "We're getting our scout team to get up there and snap the ball when no one is aware of it. We've had problems in practice where the cornerbacks were lined up on the wrong side. We're doing it because when it happens to them, no one panics. Let's go line up. If it does happen to us, just run to the football and tackle."

Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes said the Gators have been doing a lot of extra conditioning in practice to prepare for the lightning pace dictated by the OU offense.

"We haven't faced one of these offenses all season," Spikes said. "We don't know what to expect. We have to be on the ball after every play and getting ready for the snap. I think we'll be game ready.

"It's going to be a challenge, but I'm pretty sure if we prepare the right way and continue to practice hard and keep everybody healthy, we're going to be OK. We have to get them off rhythm. Defense wins championships, and that's what we're here to do."

The Gators will be facing an offense that has put up ridiculous numbers this season. The Sooners are averaging 54.0 points and 562.1 yards a game, and have scored 60 or more points in each of their last five games.

"There's no doubt, this is the best offense we've played all season," junior outside linebacker Ryan Stamper said. "But I think we can handle it. When they do the no-huddle, we've got to be ready. A lot of teams they played this season weren't ready and didn't line up correctly. We have to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We have to get lined up and do some things to try and confuse them show blitz and not blitz, make it look like we're not going to blitz, then blitz. By doing stuff like that, I think we can slow them down."

Stamper said the defense goes into every game with 12 goals, and when they hit the majority of the goals, it's considered a good defensive performance. One of those goals is to hold the opposition to 16 points or less.

Is that point total an achievable goal against an offense that seems to score at will?

"I think we can do it," Stamper said. "They're putting up 60 points on people, so obviously, they have a good offense. I think we have a really good defense as well. I think we have speed on the defensive line they haven't seen before.

"I just think we'll match up well with them. They have the best offense in the country and I'm excited about playing them."

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