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December 15, 2017

Stopping Baker Mayfield

I'm not plowing fresh ground here, but dang can Baker Mayfield move the pocket around quickly. I keep getting asked will he hurt us more with his legs or arm, and I remain convinced it is his arm, but that answer has a lot to do with his ability to move around and create time...and confusion. Watching Mayfield in clips, it is easy to see defenses, linebackers especially, get undisciplined in their assignments. Oklahoma's offense will run at least two receivers, with an Hback or Split End exploiting the middle zone area, while sneaking a RB out for quick in/out or wheel route. The linebackers in coverage have to be very good pass defenders, especially on plays that Stidham is baiting them into peeling off coverage to pursue him.

Think Stidham on Auburn's third FG drive in the regular season or their longest pass play completion in the SEC Championship game with wheel route combos to Chandler Cox.

Like many big play offenses, Oklahoma dares you to be aggressive, then beats you with it. The difference is that offense also clicks well on the 5-7 yard play, which is all about Mayfield's ability to find an open receiver in the 3-6 yard range. They faced about 6 3rd and longs (7+ yards) a game, that from a team that had over 140 offensive drives this season. That is comparable to Georgia, but they use their short passing game to accomplish that. Then they lull you in and hit a 65 yard pass play.

That is all about Mayfield's ability to move the pocket and extend plays, not necessarily by rushing, though he can do that, too.

So, what's the trick to stopping them? Baker Mayfield isn't great with walls between him and open ground.  When he is pressured into rushing around a wall to escape, he tends to get caught and put on the ground face down pretty easily.

Go back and watch how Mel Tucker's defense played against Auburn in the SEC Championship game. Georgia made Stidham uncomfortable in the pocket, making him throw the ball away a fair amount. That is the best example of how you can hope to slow down Oklahoma. Make Mayfield uncomfortable by pressuring him to run into that wall or get rid of the ball, probably without blitzing too much.  The magic is in actually doing it again, this time against a better QB and an offense that has a month to prepare for what you did.


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