The Oklahoma football season is off to a strong start, and linebacker Danny Stutsman is leading the charge defensively. The Sooners are 2-0 in their second season with Brett Venables at the helm, and the defense looks much improved. Venables is a defensive-minded coach, so it was concerning how much Oklahoma's defense struggled last year. Stutsman credits the emphasis on tackling as the main reason for the improvement.
“I think it was seven missed tackles from PFF or whatever that means,” Stutsman said, per the Oklahoman. “And then compared to like 33 last year. Coach [Venables] talked about that. You know it just shows how far we’ve come. Those tackling drills every single day with the coaches pays off. And obviously we know we have a lot to improve on.”
Stutsman was close to the mark; the Oklahoma defense has missed 11 tackles through the first two games of this season. As a result they have held Arkansas State and SMU to a total of 11 points. The Sooners started the 2022 season strong defensively, allowing just 16 points through the first two games. However, the notable difference is they did miss 33 tackles in those first two games.
So, while the missed tackles didn't hurt the Oklahoma football team early in the season, they were a red flag that presented major problems later in the year. This year, there isn't that red flag.
In return, Brett Venables spoke highly of Danny Stutsman and his improvement in his third season at Oklahoma. “[Stutsman is] playing in a confident way,” Venables said. “He’s able to have a different level of anticipation because of his knowledge. He’s a lot more comfortable.”
Stutsman leads the Oklahoma defense with a 73.5 PFF pass rush grade and has 18 total tackles so far.
“He’s able to lead. He’s not in the back, he’s in the front,” Venables said. “Last year, David Ugwoegbu was probably our leader there. He’s taken those reins in leadership and confidence.”
When talking about defense, fans often focus on scheme, pass rushing, and one-on-one matchups in coverage. Tackling is an overlooked element of the defense. If you can't tackle, you can't get off the field. That's what killed the Sooners last year. Now, it looks like Venables' offseason focus on the skill is paying off.