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Storyline Countdown No. 2: How Will Knowles’ 4-2-5 Work?

How an aggressive defense might feast on a Big 12 rife with QB turnover.



PFB’s countdown to football season by counting down the 15 most intriguing storylines continues today with a look at the No. 2 storyline we’re tracking going into 2018.

Storyline rank: No. 2
Storyline: How will Knowles’ 4-2-5 work?

Why this matters: Despite recording 10 wins in four of former OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s five seasons, the Cowboys’ defense statistics were middle of the pack. New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles brings his somewhat unconventional 4-2-5 to Stillwater, a scheme that has been a buzzword all offseason.

How it could play out: Dustin Ragusa put out an excellent piece on the scheme complete with videos and comparisons with what OSU did last season, but in summation, the Cowboys are going to be aggressive.

Earlier in the year, cornerback Rodarius Williams said there is “95 percent” press man coverage. Linebacker Calvin Bundage said he “has an option to blitz almost every play.”

It will be interesting to see how some of the league’s younger quarterbacks deal with the pressure. There is no more Baker Mayfield, nor is there Kenny Hill or even Nic Shimonek, so how will the guys who have to step in deal with the Cowboys’ new scheme.

As for how it could play out, I don’t know, but it’ll be exciting to watch at least.

Mike Gundy’s thoughts: It seems as if Gundy has given Knowles free rein, but he has also mentioned aggression this preseason.

“The 4-2-5 is considerably different from what we’ve done over the last few years,” Gundy said at Big 12 Media Days. “I’m really as interested and excited as you are to see what happens. I like watching him coach, very intriguing person. I think he’s a great teacher in mannerisms and the way he goes about getting information across to our young men. I would say more of an aggressive approach, but I’ll be learning just as much as you do as the season progresses.”

Here was Gundy on Friday: “Jim is a different guy. Jim doesn’t talk. When you ask him a question, he doesn’t talk. So, I’m not sure what he thinks, but I let him do his job, and I tell him if he needs something let me know, and he said he will. I haven’t heard from him in three weeks. Seems like it’s going OK.”

My thoughts: I’m not sure there could’ve been a better year in Big 12 football to switch to more of an aggressive defense given the turnover in quarterback play throughout the league and the emergence of the conference’s running backs.

The Cowboys bring back some experience on defense, as well, but it’ll be interesting to see who the leaders are without guys like Chad Whitener in the fold.

As a whole, I think the aggressive approach could be a bit of a coin flip. On one side, you don’t want to sit back and give these Big 12 offenses the freedom to do what they want, but it could be thought of as a way to corral them. The other side is the aggression puts offenses in uncomfortable positions, but mistakes could happen more often.

I’m not sure what to expect from OSU, defensively, but I’m looking forward to seeing it play out.

Previous Countdowns

No. 15: How will OSU use all its running backs in 2018?
No. 14: Will Rodarius Williams, A.J. Green get more breathers this season?
No. 13: Is Tyron Johnson the X-Factor for OSU?
No. 12: Which Cowboy Back Will Emerge for OSU?
No. 11: How does a reloading year shape expectations?
No. 10: Why is Mike Yurcich not more beloved in Stillwater?
No. 9: How much better will the offensive line be in 2018?
No. 8: Who will be “the guy” on defense?
No. 7: Which Wide Reciever Will Emerge as the No. 1 Option?
No. 6: Is OSU’s special teams fixed?
No. 5: Can OSU keep its 10-win season streak alive?
No. 4: Will OSU exorcise its OU demons in 2018?
No. 3: How will OSU use its backup quarterbacks in 2018?

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