When Alex Grinch left Ohio State to become Lincoln Riley’s new defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, he knew he was being charged of turning around a defense that had struggled mightily the past few seasons, and whipping it into shape in a way that will compliment their top offense.
So how is Grinch approaching that in his first few months on the job? Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports shares that the new Sooners defensive coordinator is relying on some film a few years old, hammering on a consistent message, and the strategic use of candy bars as a motivational tool.
Before landing on Urban Meyer’s staff in Columbus, Grinch was the defensive coordinator at Washington State from 2015-17, where he found a way to take a bunch of largely unheralded recruits and developed one of the top 20 defenses in the country – with a special knack for creating turnovers. He now uses game film of those Washington State defenses to drive home the importance of effort and sprinting to the football with the intent to get the ball back, and starting with spring practices, Grinch and his defensive staff have emphasized not letting guys get away with anything less. The message is that if the talent at Washington State was able to play defense at a top-20 level, there’s no excuse for the Sooners defense that features loads of 4 and 5-star, highly recruited talent.
Creating turnovers is one area that Grinch has infused some creativity. Instead of a turnover chain or some other prop on the sidelines of game day, Dodd notes that after every practice players going after the football are rewarded with Payday candy bars and the staff is emphasizing stripping at the ball every single play. The top performer every day is rewarded with a little something extra.
“It’s all we talk about — every single play,” Grinch said. “We’re stripping the ball, fighting for the football. It’s the top goal. We make it a big-ass deal.[When players succeed], we throw candy bars. We give them gear. The guy who has the most strip attempts is the ‘Strip King.’ He gets the king-size candy bar.”
After producing back-to-back Heisman quarterbacks, and with former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts now in Norman as a graduate transfer, the pressure is on Grinch to get the defense playing at a level that’s comparable to what their offense has shown themselves to be capable of. If he’s able to do that, and the focus on turnovers translates to more possessions and points for the Sooner offense, Clemson, Alabama and the rest of the national title contenders will be officially put on notice.