OU football: Creating a new standard is main goal for Sooners defensive line

March 30, 2018 GMT

NORMAN — Amani Bledsoe says Oklahoma’s defense had plenty of meetings between the Rose Bowl loss to Georgia and the start of spring football.

The College Football Playoff semifinal setback left a bruise. The Bulldogs rushed for 317 yards (averaging 9.3 yards per carry) en route to a 54-48 double-overtime win.

The Bulldogs owned the point of attack and left lingering questions entering the offseason.

“The main thing is just creating a new standard, a new defensive line,” Bledsoe said about the main goal heading into spring drills. “(The standard) is just setting the bar high, having more of an impact on the defense, doing more than your job. Just making plays, expecting to make plays, things like that.”

Bledsoe will be one of the leaders on the defensive line, joining Marquise Overton and Neville Gallimore.

“The group I notice the most is the defensive line, the most improved players, by far,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “You can just tell the experience from a year ago. Neville is so far, so much further ahead than he was a year ago. We just need him to be the player that he can be. Amani has to be a force. We need better play across the board. Calls are calls. It’s how you play them and how you coach them.”

Defensive ends coach Calvin Thibodeaux met the media following Wednesday’s practice. Like Stoops, he’s excited about the potential growth of the veterans and development of the newcomers.

“We have some experience now. You look up and Amani Bledsoe has been in some wars. Neville Gallimore has been in some wars. They’re hungry right now,” Thibodeaux said. “They’re doing some really good things and I’m excited. I don’t think too many people in this league and in the country have those type of body types. They are starting to become more comfortable in their abilities and I really expect big things out of them this year.”

Two other returners to watch include Dillon Faamatau and Kenneth Mann.

“Dillon is having a really good spring,” Thibodeaux said. “He’s helping himself and he’s in the mix. He’s pushing guys. It isn’t just about being a backup. It’s about having quality depth. We rotate a guy in the game, it shouldn’t drop off. That’s when you really have good depth. You can see that with us.”

Thibodeaux on Mann: “He’s almost like a carbon copy and very similar to D.J. Ward. He’s really becoming a technician. He’s not making a lot of mistakes right now. He’s not that flashy guy, but he’s going to do his job and he’s going to do it well. Watching him on the field, I’m not watching him because I expect him to do his job. I’m watching other guys. That tells me he’s come a long way. We’re expecting big things from him.”

Stoops has been encouraged by early enrollees Jalen Redmond and Ronnie Perkins. Both have five spring practices under their belts.

“Jalen Redmond and Ronnie Perkins, these are very talented and explosive players that don’t know what they don’t know until they get on the field, at this level,” the OU defensive coordinator said. “They really don’t. Any of them. They would tell you that. This is like a foreign test to them. But they keep pushing themselves every day. They just got to figure it out. They’re gonna be so much better when they come back in the fall.”

“Overall, I like the group and direction we’re heading,” Stoops said. “I think we’ve got a chance to be better, improved and a much more consistent defense.”