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OU's Caleb Kelly Getting Work at Both Inside and Outside Linebacker

Oklahoma's redshirt senior can be a utility knife for the Sooner defense in 2021.

NORMAN — The Oklahoma defense has a simple goal.

Get the best guys on the field.

As Alex Grinch and his coaching staff have successfully built depth on their side of the football heading into their third season on campus, the bar has been raised from getting the best 11 guys on the field to rotating the best 22 into the fold.

So naturally, some guys might have to move around a bit to fit the most talented players on the field.

Linebacker Caleb Kelly appears to be one of those guys headed into 2021.

Arriving on campus as an outside linebacker, Kelly has made the transition to the interior under Grinch and linebackers coach Brian Odom. But with so much depth on the interior between Kelly, Brian Asamoah, David Ugwoegbu, DaShaun White and Shane Whitter, Kelly is once again getting a look at outside linebacker in case the Sooners need him behind Nik Bonitto.

“We’re playing around with guys like that,” outside linebackers and defensive ends coach Jamar Cain said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Nothing solid right now, but we’re definitely playing around with that stuff.”

Cain pointed out Oklahoma’s schedule as a reason the coaching staff will continue to move guys around and get them different looks, as the Sooners open with nine straight games before hitting their bye week after OU’s matchup with Texas Tech.

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“If you go in nine straight (games) you’re going to have to play around with some guys at different positions,” Cain said. “And that’s one of those guys that we’re going to try and play around with.”

Kelly’s familiarity with the position should allow him to float between the outside and the inside, as he’s one of the most experienced players on the roster with now six years of college football under his belt.

“Caleb’s a guy that if he can’t fit in one room, he’s playing with us,” Cain said. “He played (outside linebacker) at one point here, so you obviously he can play (rush linebacker) if we need him to.”

Last season, the Sooners were able to shuffle bodies around on the defensive line with success. When Ronnie Perkins was on the sidelines, Isaiah Thomas was able to be incredibly productive both on the interior of the defensive line as well as at defensive end, where he will play this season.

Jalen Redmond is another guy that bounced inside and out in 2019, and Cain said that it’s something they’ve looked at again this year in fall camp because the defense is just trying to find ways to maximize their talent.

“In our defense, we just want to get the best players on the field,” he said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to get the best 11 on the field or the best 22 on the field, we’re going to do that.”


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