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Lincoln Riley: Oklahoma Secondary Was 'In Pretty Decent Position,' Needs Help Up Front

Riley says the Sooners, currently in a stretch of nine consecutive games, got "a little bit of down time" to rest up from a debilitating run of injuries.

NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said Tuesday that his team is feeling the effects of playing games on seven (soon to be eight) consecutive Saturdays.

"We gave our guys a little bit of down time," Riley said.

OU has had a debilitating run of injuries on defense, which has led to shaky performances over the last three weeks versus Kansas State, Texas and TCU. The open date isn't until after next week's game against Texas Tech, so there's not much that can be done at this point.

Riley said the run of injuries — particularly in the secondary — has led to a clouded picture for this week's game as to who's available and who's not ready yet.

"We got a lot of guys nicked up," Riley said. "Probably got a lot of 'maybes.' 

"We hope to get Delarrin (Turner-Yell at safety) back at some point."

The No. 3-ranked Sooners (7-0) head to Kansas on Saturday for an 11 a.m. kickoff against the struggling Jayhawks (1-5). 

If KU has an uncharacteristically big game on offense, it wouldn't be shocking against an OU defense that has been missing five starters with injury.

And in the secondary, the Sooners were exposed for the second straight week by giving up big plays.

Riley said last week's 52-31 win over TCU looked different than the previous week's 55-48 win over Texas.

"For us, we go back and evaluate the tape," he said. "The questions then become when we have issues, when we have leaks, where are those coming from?"

Riley issued a proclamation that might surprise his fan base.

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"Watching the tape against TCU, we played better in the secondary than we played on the defensive front," he said. "We got out of position once. Rest of the time we were in pretty decent position."

True freshmen have been forced into action. Players are playing new positions. Career backups have become frontline defenders.

Riley said there's currently no need to make wholesale schematic changes, such as more blitzes, more movement up front, less zone coverage or more man-to-man.

"We believe in our system, the way that it's designed," Riley said. "When we do it well, we play well. When we don't, and you play against other good people, you get exposed."

"In some way," said defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, "we do all those things."

Riley said the whole defense "all three unit," he said, need to play "a little bit cleaner.

"The play on (Joshua) Eaton (a touchdown catch by Quentin Johnston in the end zone), you don't get better position than that. I think as those guys settle in, they're gonna make more of those plays, and we expect them to.

"We gotta play better in all three units. We aren't doing that consistently."

The Sooners' defensive coverage, Riley said, is bigger than just poor pass coverage.

"Lack of defensive front play and tackling," he said. "That's issue 1 and 2, and any other issues are way down the line."

Grinch reiterated that he's constantly making subtle changes to support the secondary a little more. But he also said when the defense produces four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, it's regarded as a great scheme, and when the defense produces zero sacks and four TFLs, like Saturday against TCU, the scheme is seen as flawed.

"It’s everything," Grinch said. "It’s all those things that your’e looking at. It’s a fair question, and one we consistently ask ourselves."