OU football: DE Ronnie Perkins embraces new defensive philosophy

Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins celebrates during the spring game April 12 Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

Ronnie Perkins consumes football content as often as he can.

The Oklahoma defensive end watches and studies NFL defensive linemen on tailor-made iPad videos he receives from the Sooner support staff.

He’s just as drawn to the battles between the defensive and offensive lines whenever he sees a football game on television.

It all stems from a desire to better understand his position and see what he’s not doing, he says.

He’s sure he isn’t alone considering how the Sooner defense, which ranked No. 114 nationally in total defense last season, has performed recently and is discussed outside the program.

“I'm sure every player on the defense definitely got a chip on us,” the sophomore said. “Like we all got chips on our shoulders to send a message it's a new defense. A new team. I feel like we're way better and a more complete team.

“So, it's definitely like watch how the offense gets the love. I want to get that same type of love. I want people to feel the same type of way about [the defense] too.”

Perkins appeared in all 14 games and made seven starts last season. He racked up 37 tackles, eight for a loss and five sacks to become an ESPN freshman All-America selection.

The St. Louis, Missouri, native adds to an experienced defensive line trying to flip its reputation in 2019.

Perkins says the shift won’t happen overnight but he feels the negativity the team reads about itself could diminish with the strides the defense has made this offseason.

The name of the change is “Speed D.”

It’s the mantra first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has emphasized to his unit and one Perkins and the defensive line has taken to heart.

In addition to studying video of elite players, Perkins says he’s worked on improving his flexibility this offseason.

He says he’s already seeing results in rushing the passer in practices. And the sophomore has trimmed up as well, going from 254 to 248 pounds since last year's opener against Florida Atlantic.

OU defensive tackles Neville Gallimore, Dillon Faamatau and Marquise Overton have all dropped significant weight since last year too. Gallimore and Faamatau are down nearly 30 pounds, while Overton has dropped 10.

“Coaches came in and demanded some things and they've met the demands.” OU defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux said. “Just the energy that these guys create when they take the field, I've been proud of them. And mentally, they continue to push and we want to be the toughest group on a team. And that's easily said, we got to go out and do it in games.”

Perkins and the defense seem to be motivated as well by the success OU’s offense has enjoyed under coach Lincoln Riley.

OU's offense ranked first in total yards (7,908), yards per play (8.60) and second in touchdowns (85) in 2018.

Perkins heard the chatter and praise for half of his teammates. His mind is set on shifting the narrative.

“Just watching how the commentators, like how everybody spoke highly of the offense and coach Riley,” Perkins said, “But then it was like, ‘but the defense.’ It was definitely kind of a weird feeling. But a feeling I feel like that's gonna be gone soon."

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