NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -Jeremy Beal loved playing linebacker in high school, and he's gotten pretty attached to his new defensive end position for No. 3 Oklahoma.
Now he can have the best of both worlds.
Beal had the most productive game of his college career on Saturday, recording a career-best 10 tackles and two sacks after becoming the latest in a line of Sooners stars to be deployed in a hybrid position aimed at wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
The scheme allows Beal to line up as a true defensive end on some plays, while he can roam around as a pass-rushing linebacker on others - finding and exploiting weaknesses after the offense has already lined up.
``If I stand up, I have a chance to make more plays, I think. I can be a little bit more disruptive because offensive linemen don't know where I'm coming from,'' Beal said.
Auston English, the Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year, got his chance last year on his way to leading the conference in sacks.
Beal now joins the exclusive club to play the position formerly called a ``spinner'' but now known simply as a ``flex'' player.
``He's similar to Auston English in that those guys could play linebacker in a heartbeat,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ``They're instinctive, you don't have to tell them a whole lot, they see stuff on their own and they have that size that they're like a half linebacker half D-end and that's really good on the perimeter any more ... I think it's really to their advantage the athletes that they are, the way move, change direction and run.''
Stoops said having one player fit into two defensive schemes has become even more useful with the proliferation of no-huddle offenses and the zone read plays that try to attack the defense's perimeter. It allows a change in defensive formations without having to substitute and keeps the offense guessing right up until the snap.
``More teams are doing that no-huddle with the new 40-second play clock, so it makes us flexible where we can get in that three-man front and we can blitz from anywhere and know where we're coming from,'' Beal said.
ker his senior year of high school, recording 127 tackles and two sacks his senior year at Creekview High School in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, and started out at the position during his redshirt season two years ago at Oklahoma.
Last spring, coaches moved him to defensive end and the immediate results weren't impressive.
``It took a long while for him to get technique, and he wasn't explosive, and he wasn't violent and he wasn't strong and he wasn't fast and was thinking,'' Venables said. ``Sometimes he played like he didn't have any arms. He was that non-effective because you're out there thinking and everything's new.''
Beal said it was particularly hard for him to get used to keeping his pads as low as a defensive end should, but he started coming around after he was forced into duty by a string of injuries last season. His first sack came in the Sooners' Big 12 championship win against Missouri, and by the end of this spring he really got the hang of playing defensive end.
He came into the season as the starter on the opposite side from English, and by Week 2 he became a featured element of Oklahoma's defense.
glish that way.
``They're almost somewhat of clones in that regard. Neither one is a rah-rah, hyped-up guy. They just enjoy playing at a very high level and are very explosive, violent football players.''
Before he hit double-digits in tackles against Cincinnati in the Sooners' 52-26 win on Saturday, Beal had never had more than six in 14 college games.
``It's a little bit of a flashback for me. I still feel comfortable playing linebacker, but defensive end is my home,'' Beal said.
Venables saw Beal as a natural for the ``flex'' position not only because of his history at linebacker, but also because of his ability to learn quickly - without necessarily needing to see a scheme drawn up or walk through it on the practice field.
``You can say, `Here's what we're going to do,' and you can do that on the sideline or you can do it out on the field, and he can get it the next snap,'' Venables said. ``That's kind of a gift that not a lot of guys have.''
English still figures to get some playing time in the flex role that he says ``lets you play on edge and really just go make plays,'' and he was thrilled with Beal's debut.
``Jeremy's done great with that,'' English said. ``That's a nice little wrinkle that we've put in, and being a former linebacker that he is, he really fills it well and flows to the ball and just makes plays all day for us.''

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