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Oklahoma State's Improved Defense: Heard's Next Test

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If Cal's defense was a 2.5 on a 10 point scale, OSU checks in at a very solid 7.  I expected them to show major improvement from 2014 and they haven't disappointed thus far.  Their defense is loaded with junior and senior returning starters and the unit has been carrying the team in the early part of the season.

If we want to evaluate how much the Texas OL has come along (and how much starting Heard helps them) OSU's DL will be a great test.  They're better than Notre Dame's DL and we know how that went.  OSU features the best DE combo in the Big 12 in Jimmy Bean and Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah is a 1st round NFL talent, goes 6-4, 275 and was the 2014 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.  #38 is a problem and we're going to have figure out a way to deal with his speed and physicality.  Bean is an active, rangy 6-5, 250 pounder who has notched a sack in every OSU game this season. They're going against a guard playing tackle and a true freshman playing his fourth college game. ADVANTAGE: TEXAS!

Given this, Heard is going to get his first taste of real containment and collapsing pockets while being asked to stand and deliver against disguised zone coverages.  Heard's athletic skills will allow him to break containment, but not without paying a price.

OSU is going to test Heard in a few ways:

1. Recognition blitzes.  They'll bring a CB from the short side of the field when we go empty set.  They'll overload on likely passing downs and see if Heard accounts for the extra man.  Basic stuff that veterans usually handle, but young QBs too often give up a blindside sack and strip.

2.  Zone, contain, constrict.  The Cowboys saw the Cal film and will fear Heard running wild.  OSU will rush four or five and have the DL collapse the pocket without losing containment.  No crazy stunts.  Just steady constriction.  Given the quality of their DEs and the state of our OL, this is achievable. Their remaining secondary and linebackers will zone up and demand Heard demonstrate that he can make conventional reads and throws.  He did this against Cal, but OSU has better athletes across the board and the potential to inflict honest pressure.

3.  This puts the onus on a young Horn receiving corps to show discipline, hands and good route running.  They can't hang Heard out to dry.

The staff can't either.  Texas has to put the OSU DEs into conflict early, stay out of obvious passing downs, use heavy doses of misdirection and get Bluiett or DLT involved to help out on Ogbah.  This Cowboy secondary is beatable, but it's going to require some set-up and execution.

Mostly, we can't ask Heard to be the entire offense.  Just catalyze it.  The zone read dive and our inside zone can't be useless. That's on the OL, but it's also on the RBs to not collapse at first contact.  Making someone miss and adding 20 to a run blocked for 5 would also be appreciated.

Heard had 24 carries against Cal.  Our RBs had 25. That's not sustainable.