Speed D's Goal: Lead the Nation in Takeaways

John. E. Hoover

For all of the improvements Alex Grinch brought to the Oklahoma defense in 2019, it was by one significant measure a failure.

Turnovers.

The Sooners finished 114th in the nation with just 11 takeaways, and it kept Grinch up at night. Now, in Year 2 implementing his Speed D, Grinch hasn’t backed off his expectations for 2020. In fact, he’s ramped them up.

“Last year was just trying to execute your job and this year it’s more about the mission,” linebacker Brian Asamoah said Thursday during a video press conference. “The job this year is trying to get that ball out.”

Asamoah revealed that Grinch’s goal this year is to collect 26 takeaways.

“That just gets us in the conversation,” said safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, who contributed his first career interception last week in a 48-0 victory over Missouri State. “But we need to go past that. So yeah, takeaways have been a big emphasis leading up to the season.”

“(Grinch) was big on takeaways last year and we ended up with 11. As the University of Oklahoma defense, that is unacceptable.” 

Turner-Yell’s pick came late in the game – after two other interception opportunities were dropped.

“For me to get my first, pick,” he said, “that was a surreal moment.”

Defensive back Tre Norwood missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he attended every practice and every meeting, and he felt how important it was to Grinch. Now back from injury, Norwood can do his part to contribute.

“Honestly, we failed in that category last year,” Norwood said. “We didn’t have as many turnovers as we needed or as we wanted on defense.”

This year, he said, the directive has changed, and so have the expectations.

“Just doing your job is not enough. You need to make plays,” Norwood said. “That’s gonna allow us to be an elite defense and allow individuals to be elite as well.”

Turner-Yell acknowledged that getting 26 turnovers at a two-per-game average would equate to 13 games, and that would put the Sooners in the national championship game. That means OU winning its sixth straight Big 12 Championship and its first ever College Football Playoff game.

“We can get those games that much easier if we get the ball back to our offense,” Turner-Yell said, “because we have a high-powered offense.

“It’s a race to 26. We’re trying to average two or more a game. … We’ve just got to continue to stay on ‘em and get ‘em week in and week out.”

Like Turner-Yell, Asamoah said 26 is just the goal. Exceeding that is really the goal this year.

“We kind of have a good idea of where we need to be on each play,” Asamoah said, “so next is just trying to get that ball and leading the country in takeaways.”

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