Sooners' Cody Stands Up to Add Disruption

Saturday, October 23rd 2004, 11:51 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma has a new way of getting pressure on its opponents.

Take a menacing, massive defensive lineman and add the element of surprise. The result is an even more unpredictable and disruptive Dan Cody.

The new scheme worked to perfection Saturday as the No. 2 Sooners (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) kept Kansas State's offense out of the end zone for the final 44 minutes of a 31-21 win.

The concept isn't terribly complex. Instead of lining up in a three-point stance with his fellow linemen, Cody stands up like a linebacker and takes advantage of the ability to check out the offense. He then either attacks any weakness or drops back into zone coverage.

``We're not necessarily doing anything different besides me lining up somewhere else,'' Cody said.

The package proved extremely useful against a Kansas State offense with an affinity for throwing screen passes to a speedy and elusive Darren Sproles.

``Running the zone-blitz package gave me a lot of opportunities to rush from different places and disguised a lot of things,'' said Cody, a third-team All-American last season. ``It was new to them. I think that's the reason it worked so well. As time goes on, people are going to catch onto it and we might have to go back to something else. But it's something we know we have now that we can always use.''

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he used Jevon Kearse in a similar position _ he calls it a ``spinner'' _ when he was a defensive coordinator at Florida, but it's not something he can use with just any defensive lineman. Cody is an agile 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds and it doesn't hurt that he played some linebacker in high school.

``He's very athletic, not just with his size and strength, but he's just got great mobility,'' Stoops said. ``He's a smart guy also to be able to find his way to those places.''

Stoops said there's some deception involved, but the main purpose of the set is to give one of his most talented athletes better matchups against opposing personnel and different angles at pursuing the ball.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the Sooners in the past have generally used packages with an extra defensive back or linebacker. Instead, they're able to bring Cody.

``It allows us, when we do pressure, to bring a bigger, stronger, more explosive and violent guy,'' Venables said.

The Sooners practiced the set earlier in the season but didn't deploy it until their game against Texas two weeks ago. Even with Cody's background at linebacker, he wasn't sure about making the change at the college level.

``It's a totally different deal when you're standing up back there,'' Cody said. ``There's a lot of different things you've got to be aware of. I was anxious to try it, but at the same time I didn't know how it was going to be.''

Besides the favorable matchup against Kansas State's screen passes, the package was also the product of Oklahoma's shrinking ranks at defensive tackle and improving talent at end. After losing tackle Tommie Harris to the NFL, starter Dusty Dvoracek was dismissed from the team earlier this season. His replacement, Carl Pendleton, left Saturday's game with a knee injury.

The zone-blitz package allows the Sooners to use Cody, starting end Jonathan Jackson and a steadily developing end Larry Birdine in the same set. Cody, who had two sacks against K-State, leads the Sooners with five sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. Jackson is second with three sacks and Birdine is second with nine hurries.

``It's forced us to find ways to get the best, most athletic guys in pressure situations,'' Venables said.