A new defensive scheme brings new deployments to the Oklahoma Sooners. Unlike the 3-3-5 of the Alex Grinch era, Brent Venables runs more of a traditional 4-3 defense in base packages.
To combat the passing and spread evolution that’s occurred in college football over the last 20 years, teams are looking for versatile athletes to play hybrid positions on defense. For Brent Venables, his answer has been the development of the “Cheetah” position in his defense.
The player in recent years that’s best displayed the versatility that the “Cheetah” requires is former Clemson star, Isaiah Simmons.
The “Cheetah” serves as a hybrid between a linebacker, slot cornerback, and safety. A player that can provide support in the running game and be a difference maker in coverage. They can also rush the passer when called upon. Not only does a player have to have the requisite athleticism to cover a variety of pass catchers and be effective in the running game, but they also have to have the football IQ to understand his responsibilities at a variety of positions within the defense.
The “Cheetah” will line up all over the field, and that’s what the Oklahoma Sooners are asking of senior linebacker DaShaun White. White, who was also elected captain for the week one matchup against UTEP, made the move from WILL linebacker over to Cheetah, and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Ted Roof spoke on how he feels White will fit in there at Cheetah.
“Well, it starts with the versatility, the ability to play coverage and at the same time be physical enough to get in the box and be efficient in there,” Roof said during media availability on Monday. “So, [it’s] a lot of versatility there when you start looking at the overall skill set and job description of that position. And that’s where it starts. So, that’s where we are. But DaShaun’s had a great camp, has adjusted really well because, you know, he was playing WILL earlier in camp, and we moved him to the Cheetah position. But he still has the ability to play WILL as well.”
While Danny Stutsman and David Ugwoegbu will man the Sooners’ traditional linebacker spots, White’s ability to play “Cheetah” allows the Sooners to keep three linebackers on the field in a lot of situations. Even when teams go with three or more wide receivers, Oklahoma won’t give up anything in the running game because of White’s ability to play the run.
Changing positions in the middle of fall camp can provide a challenge, but White’s experience as a three-year starter in the Sooners’ defense provides him the opportunity to find success because of his versatility. He’s seen a lot in his time with the Sooners, and that experience will help White thrive in his new position.
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