Sunday, October 23, 2016

Imaginary Conversation This Morning with Mike and Bob Stoops

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following conversation is entirely fictional and does not represent the views of Mike or Bob Stoops or for that matter David Boren or the University of Oklahoma. It is strictly intended for the humor of OU fans who remember when we used to play defense.

Location: Norman, Oklahoma.
Scene:  Bob Stoops kitchen table Sunday, October 23. Approximately 9:30 a.m.

Participants: Brothers Mike Stoops, Oklahoma defensive coordinator; and Bob Stoops, big brother, boss and head coach of University of Oklahoma football team.

MIKE: "Hi big bro!"
BOB: "Hi, Mike. Have a seat."

MIKE: "Am I in trouble?"
BOB: "Well, no, not exactly. I just..."
MIKE: "Whew! That's good news!"

BOB: "What do you have behind your back?"
MIKE: "My Fruit Loops."

BOB: "What?"
MIKE: "My Fruit Loops. I always have a bowl of Fruit Loops for breakfast on Sunday mornings."
BOB: "So you brought your cereal over to my house?"
MIKE: "Well, yea. I like my routines. By the way, can I borrow some milk?"
BOB: "What? You don't have any milk at your house? I pay you $1.2 million to coach my defense and you can't afford to go buy milk?"
MIKE: "I was going to but I didn't have time last week to go to the Reasor's."
BOB: "What the hell were you doing all week?"
MIKE: "Watching West Virginia game film."
BOB: "What? We played Texas Tech!"
MIKE: "I know but we couldn't stop Tech any way so I thought why bother watching game film. I wanted to be prepared for the Mountaineers. I know how much you hate Dana Holgorsen!"

BOB: "Ok. Whatever. Listen Mike. We've got some problems on defense..."
MIKE: "I know but nothing a 66 point offensive outburst can't cure, right big bro'?"
BOB: "Look, we're now ranked 127th out of 128 teams in pass defense..."
MIKE: "But we're #37 against the rush!"
BOB: "Who wants to run when we suck so bad in pass defense?"
MIKE: "We're ahead of Arizona State!"

BOB: "What can we do to fix your defense?"
MIKE: "Oh, now it's "MY" defense. So much for we're in this together!"
BOB: "You know I love you like a brother..."
MIKE: "I am your brother!"
BOB: "I know that but we've got to do something. People are getting antsy."
MIKE: "Antsy. Who? Boren? Castiglione? We own those guys!"
BOB: "Listen, you have got to make some changes."
MIKE: "I mixed it up a bit last night."
BOB: "When?"
MIKE: "We changed our pre-game playlist on Spotify. Bon Jovi for Kings of Leon."
BOB: "What?"

MIKE: "I know it hurts to play so bad. I was here when we were good. Remember 2000 against Nebraska?"
BOB: "I do but this is 2016. The game has changed. Some people are saying the game has passed you by."
MIKE: "It's not so much different. The name of the game is still blocking and tackling."
BOB: "But you're not doing anything in pass coverage. We were a school-worst last night and that includes John Blake!"
MIKE: "Ok. Ok. I hate it when you make those comparisons. That's pretty low, bro!"

BOB: "Just change some things for Saturday, ok?"
MIKE: "Who do we play Saturday?"
BOB: "Kansas."
MIKE: "Whew. I thought it was someone good."
BOB: "You have got to start taking this seriously."
MIKE: "Geez, Louise. Sense of humor?"
BOB: "What's it going to be? Scheme? Personnel? What?"
MIKE: "Can I have Mixon?"
BOB: "What?"
MIKE: "Lincoln O'Riley doesn't need him! Besides, why does he get all the good players on offense?"
BOB: "You can't have Mixon. And he doesn't have all the players on offense. You recruited your guys. You reap what you sow."
MIKE: "Ok. How about if I go without linebackers? Kind of like we did against West Virginia in 2012?"
BOB: "You gave up 700 yards rushing to a receiver that night."
MIKE: "So. Mr. Picky, I remind you we won that game 50-49. Those were the good ole' days."

BOB: "Listen, Mike. This is serious. People are starting to notice..."
MIKE: "I know. Did you see that OU administrator guy hugging O'Riley after the game? Shameful. He's a traitor right under your nose. On enemy territory no less, too!"
BOB: "No, that's not the problem. Your defense is the problem and I can't cover for you much longer..."
MIKE: "Oh, why Mr. Smarty Pants? Didn't you see the Big 12 choke last week on the expansion thingy?"
BOB: "We can't worry about things we can't control..."
MIKE: "Hello. Anyone home? Don't you get it? We've got another 8 seasons in this sucko-league. We can mask our mediocrity for another 6 or so Big 12 titles. It gives me time to grow my winery."
BOB: "You have a winery?"
MIKE: "Yep. You don't know everything about me."
BOB: "What kind of wine?"
MIKE: "Boones Farm! I have a merlot and chardonnay!"

MIKE: "What time is it?"
BOB: "Don't you wear a watch?"
MIKE: "No. Well, not anymore. I "lost" it after the Ohio State game. Speaking of, did you see ole' master Urban No-Meyer last night? He sure got his, didn't he?"
BOB: "We can't worry about other coaches what about us?"
MIKE: "What is the time?"
BOB: "It's 10:30. Why?"
MIKE: "I have to go."
BOB: "Where in the hell do you have to be at 10:30 on a Sunday morning that's more important than our futures?"
MIKE: "It's Andy Griffith marathon Sunday on Norman Cable. Today is the one where Barney takes Otis with him and Thelma on a picnic at the lake! It's my favorite episode!"
BOB: "Ok. Get the hell out of here. But our futures are numbered unless you fix our defense!"
MIKE: "No prob big bro! I got this!"


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

BMD--Beast Mode Defense.

I was fortunate to meet Randall Stephenson in June at AT&T Global Headquarters in downtown Dallas.

Stephenson is the CEO and Chairman of AT&T and makes $25.1 million a year according to an article in The Dallas Business Journal that appeared a few weeks after our visit.

I told him I was a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. He said, "Me, Too. When did you graduate?" I told him 1984 and he said he was a year ahead of me in Norman.

As our discussion naturally turned to football, I suggested we were going to be pretty good in 2016. The telecom chief quickly told a story from the Masters Golf tournament in April that belied my belief.

"I saw Coach Stoops in April. He was as relaxed as I have ever seen him. He feels really good about his team this year."

As I mentioned the tenuous situation of the back up quarterback situation, he smiled and said, "Coach Stoops thinks the kid behind Mayfield is going to be very special."

Thus, the confidence that makes Bob Stoops the "most relaxed" in his 18 years in Norman.

Beast Mode D

Bob Stoops is relaxed because even with a freshman quarterback as his #2 entering fall camp, he knows he has a Heisman candidate at quarterback, two of the best running backs in the country, a wealth of talented returning wide receivers and a deep if not green offensive line on one side of the ball.

And, he has put 100% faith in offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's ability to have these guys pick right back up where they left off in 2015.

But it's not the offense that is relaxing Bob Stoops.


It's on the other side of the ball that has him giddy.

I know.

No Eric Striker. No Charles Tapper. No Devante Bond. No Zach Sanchez. And, not even a Dominique Alexander.

That's a total of five starters lost to the NFL on the Big 12's top rated defense.

What gives?

Stoops is relaxed because after 17 seasons in Norman, one national championship, 9 Big 12 Championships and the only active coach to have a win in all four BCS Bowl games, he finally has the defense he was born to coach.

The Sooner Defense

Six starters return on defense:

Matt Dimon and Matt Romar on the defensive line.

Jordan Evans at one linebacker.

Jordan Thomas at corner.

Ahmad Thomas and Steven Parker at safeties.

At first glance, that doesn't look overwhelming.

But when you figure in the players who figure to step into the starting line up, they are familiar faces:

Charles Walker at defensive tackle (who missed the Orange Bowl due to an injury.)

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo at outside linebacker.

Tay Evans at inside linebacker.

Will Johnson at nickel.

Dakota Austin at corner.

So the starting 11 will feature a blend of youthful inexperience mixed in with returning players who have made game-changing contributions on the field.

This defense looks, on paper, to compete with the 2015 unit that was the #1 in the Big 12 in defense.

But what gets Bob Stoops excited about this defense is what is behind the front 11.

For the first time ever in his OU coaching career, Bob Stoops has a plug-and-play group of reserves that are depth-chart equal to the starters.

How good are the back ups"

Well, Kerry Cooks, OU's recently promoted assistant defensive coordinator in just his second year as defensive backs coach whose 2015 unit held opponents to a league best 202.8 yards passing per game, was just quoted this week as saying his secondary is so loaded he's going to implement a platoon in the defensive backfield to keep his starters fresh.

Say what?

In Norman?

Bob Stoops is the Bill Belichick of college football coaches when it comes to playing starters.

Last season, Sanchez and Thomas, when healthy and not suspended, played 100% of the snaps in 2015.

Not anymore and it's not because just because he wants to keep his players fresh.

The Sooner secondary is loaded with returning freshmen and a talented group of incoming freshmen.

Will Sunderland, Kahlil Haughton and Prentice McKinney are all heralded 2015 signees at safety who all return for their sophomore seasons.

And P.J. Mbansaor returns at corner after playing in spot time in 2015.

Waco, Texas corner Parrish Cobb switched his commitment from Baylor over the summer and he will immediately fight for playing time as a true freshman as will true freshman Parnell Motley from Washington, D.C.

Plus, Jordan Thomas, Ahmad Thomas and Steven Parker are all third year starters. All are in the secondary. Most teams would love having three returning starters period. To have them all in your secondary speaks to the confidence the Sooner head coach has going into the season.

So the Sooner secondary is loaded. Albeit with an influx of fresh faces but all of these cats can flat out play and the returning starters will be called upon for team leadership which is one reason the head coach is as relaxed as ever.

The other reasons?

A slew of returning players have enormous potential to step in and play immediately if not compete for starting spots:

Defensive Line

Marquis Overton, the Jenks, Oklahoma star, made his debut against Kansas State last October and was brilliant. He returns as a sophomore and will fight for more playing time this year.

Du'Vonta Lampkin, the original Texas signee who arrived late in Norman last fall, returns as a redshirt freshman and had tongues wagging in Orange Bowl practices.

Neville Gallimore, the Canadian recruit, returns as a redshirt freshman who will push Charles Walker at one end.

What these three players mean is not only added depth but also a hefty 300-pound disruptive pass rush to a recent depth-lacking unit that may even give Mike Stoops reason to implement the old Stoops brothers staple not seen in recent years: the 4-man front.

Overton, Lampkin and Gallimore are studs. They will push Matt Romar, Matt Dimon and Charles Walker for playing time. Along with returning senior stalwart Jordan Wade, the Sooners will have the most depth at defensive line in Bob Stoops OU career.

How deep is this group?

Orange Bowl starter D.J. Ward and former Alabama signee, JUCO transfer Austin Roberts may find themselves on the outside looking in.


Dominique Alexander's departure for the NFL was a shocker. No one expected him to leave a year early.

His loss will be hard to replace because of his proven play and leadership.

He will be replaced by returning redshirt sophomore Tay Evans, a Sooner legacy whose brother Bobby is on the offensive line.

If he plays to his potential, Evans will make Sooner fans forget about Alexander quickly. At 6' 2" and 240 pounds, he's bigger and potentially faster than the other Evans at linebacker.

Jordan Evans, the second Evans starter is a Norman kid who was a second team All-Big 12 selection in 2015, returns for his senior season and will immediately be placed in a leadership role to fill Alexander's void.

Behind the two Evans' are redshirt sophomore Curtis Bolton, Arthur McGinnis, a returning redshirt freshman standout from New Orleans, and Kapri Doucet, the JUCO transfer from Lackawanna Community College in Pennsylvania.

On the outside, replacing Devante Bond and Eric Striker will be difficult. Both were solid the past two seasons and Striker is getting first team reps with the Buffalo Bills.

So that task falls on fan favorite redshirt junior Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, redshirt freshman Ricky DeBerry, the highly touted 2015 signee from Mechanicsville, Virginia, and Will Johnson, a returning JUCO senior who played very well in 2015 at nickel back. Expect little drop off from the edge rushing pressure Striker and Bond brought in 2015.

Expect the linebacking unit to be very, very talented and athletic albeit on the inexperienced side.


Bob Stoops' defenses at Oklahoma have been built on an attack-style and long appreciated for its speed and aggressive attitude.

This group will give the Sooners plug and play ability across not only the two-deep but the three-deep.

Something unheard of in Norman the past 17 years.

Bob Stoops is pretty basic on defense. Nothing fancy. No smoke and mirrors. He and his brother, just line em' up and play and if you can beat 'em, you're the better team.

And, he usually takes a page from Belichick's playbook and plays his starters the overwhelmingly majority of the time.

If the cream rises to the top, expect Bob Stoops to have an inter-changeable rolodex of players of equal talent and size on defense who will wreak havoc on opponents.

With a top ten 13-1 Houston team on the road for the opener followed two weeks later by Ohio State, the young-uns better grow up fast because there is no margin for error in 2016.

If the stars align, I expect the Sooners to roll through the regular season undefeated for the first time since 2004.

A Championship Playoff berth looms very possible and an opportunity for a school record 8th national championship.

And, that my friends will make Bob Stoops even more relaxed!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2015 Sooner Preview

Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners lost five games for just the third time in 16 years in 2014 and all hell broke loose in God's Country.

Oklahoma lost three conference games by a total of 8 points but ended the season with 34-point blowouts in embarrassing fashion to Baylor at home and Clemson and former assistant coach Brent Venables in the Citrus Bowl.

What in the name of Mike Stoops is going on?

The good news for Sooner fans is OU bounced back both years following the previous 5-loss seasons and won a National Championship and Big 12 Championship.

However, 2015 might be a bit steeper climb than 2000 and 2010 after a major overhaul of the coaching staff, a loss of 21 seniors and four captains from a team ranked #4 to start the season, an influx of JUCO recruits into the starting lineup and a much improved Big 12.

Can you say rebuilding season?

The Sooners haven't won an outright Big 12 title since 2010, haven't beaten Baylor in two years and are 2-2 against in-state rival OSU the last four outings.

Yes, the wolves are howling and major moves were made to satisfy them but will it be enough?

So without looking back any further, here' s a preview of the 2015 Oklahoma Sooners football team.

Coaching Staff

This season is so much of a rebuilding season that I am starting with the musical chairs off-season in the coaching staff.

How can you not start with the coaches after Bob Stoops staff had a major overhaul in the off-season?

The changes were so severe that you will need a knee bone is connected to the leg bone organizational chart to know the coaches because only offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh returns to his original position.

The running backs coach is now the inside receivers coach, the special teams coordinator is now coaching the running backs, the linebackers coach is now only coaching the inside linebackers and the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach is now coaching the outside linebackers in addition to calling the shots from the press box.

Oh, and Bobby Jack Wright, an original member of the 99' staff, retired.

Got it? Let's hope the players get it before the first game!

Oh, and the Stoops loyalty?

Long-time Sooner offensive coordinator and the player who won Big Game Bob his only national championship at quarterback, Josh "Jekyll/Heupel" Heupel, was dismissed. He is now the offensive coordinator, where some critics said he belonged all along, at Mountain West power Utah State. Any questions?

Stoops former Iowa Hawkeye-Mafia confidant, Co-Offensive Coordinator and wide receiver guru of Ryan Broyles, Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison--Jay Norvell: banished to that burnt orange school in the south after his receivers corps was exposed when Sterling Shepard went down against Iowa State.

Defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire Jerry Montgomery? Escaped from Norman for greener pastures on the frozen tundra in the NFL after one too many second guesses of Bedlam punting strategy and personnel miscommunications with baby brother.

How about baby brother and Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops?

His unit ranked #51 in the country in total defense and suffered Donald Trump-embarrassing blowouts to Baylor and Clemson. Did he get the boot, too?


Well, sort of.

He was booted upstairs to the press box after one too many sideline meltdowns.

Don't worry Sooner fans. He left his Mini-Me desert sidekick Tim Kish in charge on the sidelines!

So, for the first time since 1999, a slew of new faces in coaches uniforms will dot the Oklahoma sideline:

--31-year old Lincoln Riley from American Athletic Conference powerhouse East Carolina replaces Heupel as Offensive Coordinator. Riley has been tabbed by Stoops to resurrect the original Hal Mumme Air Raid offense that his mentor Mike Leach installed at Oklahoma in Stoops first year. He brings an impressive five year resume, albeit at East Carolina, following seven years as an assistant at Texas Tech. He inherits an immediate quarterback controversy whomever he selects as his starter, the all-time NCAA single game rushing record holder and an offensive line that lost 144 career starts and returns only 19 game starts from 2014. Welcome to Norman, son!

--Diron Reynolds replaces Montgomery on the defensive line. Who? Reynolds was most recently a defensive assistant coach with Stanford and has 12 years NFL experience with the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and won a Super Bowl ring with Indianapolis in 2005. He inherits a line that loses its top two tacklers from 2014 amid rumors a switch back to a four man front is looming.

--Kerry Cooks left Notre Dame and will be on the defensive back hot seat replacing Mike Stoops with big brother Bob still on the sideline and in his ear every play. He is a 1997 graduate of Iowa. At least he has that going for him!

--Dennis Simmons leaves Leach's pirate nest at Washington State to take over the outside receiver post in Norman. Simmons spent a full decade in Lubbock coaching receivers for Leach at Texas Tech including alongside Lincoln Riley from 2002-2009. He also brings former Washington State recruit Dahu Green, from Moore, Oklahoma, who flipped his commitment from the Cougars to the Sooners upon announcement of Simmons departure.

So what to make of all these coaching changes?

For a coach who demands and rewards loyalty and was stubborn to ever make any coaching changes his first 10 years, he has basically turned the tables in 2015.

Was it pressure from President Boren who had to dramatically dampen plans for stadium expansion following the late season collapse? Or whispers from A.D. Castiglione following the most disappointing season in Stoops' history? Or did his tin ear finally hear the boos from the Sooner Nation?

Maybe a combination of all three. But make no mistake. This is a major "Caitlyn Jenner" overhaul of a Sooners coaching staff unprecedented in Bob Stoops 16 years roaming the sideline in Norman.

Signs of a desperate man whose team has lost its' identity and who is trying to save his legacy?

After all, since 2006 in 28 Sooner losses, Stoops defenses have lost 13 times by double digits and 6 times by 28 points.

Or a coach with enough success equity who is secure enough in his own skin to do major reconstruction work on his team and strong enough to not give a damn what anyone else thinks?

We'll know the outcome on the field in five months.

The Offense

--The Air Raid Passing Game

Lincoln Riley inherits a run-heavy squad that returns 7 offensive starters, including last year's starting quarterback who excels in a read-option running game, the top wide receiver, the NCAA single game rushing leader and a running game that averaged 6.1 yards per carry while amassing over 6,000 yards of total offense running 60% of the time.

So what's to worry about?

Riley's Air Raid offense he is bringing with him to Norman threw the ball 65% of the time last year at East Carolina while amassing only 1,800 yards rushing.

Freshman sensation Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 of Oklahoma's 3,400 rushing yards in only eight starts last year.

Something's gotta give. And it will.

A Baylor offensive coach who played at OU in the glory years of the "naughts" (00's) told me last month that Riley will throw the ball every down at Oklahoma.

There's no question Riley likes to throw first and run only if he has to but there is more in the running cupboard in Norman than what he left in Greenville, North Carolina.

The problem isn't with the running game. It is he doesn't have the personnel to run the Air Raid offense in Norman.

At least not yet.

His offense will require more wide receiver depth than what the Sooners had on the field in 2014 (only 4 Oklahoma receivers caught balls in 2014) using an 8-receiver rotation and a more predominant use of four-receiver sets.

And, the good news is help is on the way.

JUCO signee Dede Westbrook was a first team JC All American at Blinn College with 76 catches for 1,487 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. At 6'1" and 167 pounds, Westbrook is no physical specimen ala Dorial Green-Beckham, but possesses explosive speed and breakaway potential. He looks a lot like former Sooner Jalen Saunders to me. Returns punts, too!

Westbrook will take the pressure off of returning starter senior Sterling Shepard who missed the last five games in 2014 due to a nagging groin injury. Shepard was named a first team All Big 12 despite missing the final five games in 2014 while amassing 970 yards on 51 receptions for five touchdowns.

Sophomore Michiah Quick and Senior Durron Neal both return to bolster the rotation. Quick was a highly touted freshman from California who had two starts, 25 receptions for 237 yards receiving and one touchdown but failed to live up to preseason expectations. Neal broke out for 51 receptions for 513 yards and three touchdowns to finish as the #2 receiver. But freshman K.J. Young, the fourth receiver in 2014, was dismissed from the team in the off-season leaving the Sooners desperate for game experience in the new pass-heavy offense.

So who fills the receiver void to fill the 8-receiver rotation Riley demands?

Incoming freshman John Humphrey is listed #2 at the slot behind Quick in Phil Steele's Sooner Preview followed by junior Grant Bothun.

Remember Bothun?

He is the holder who threw the fake extra point touchdown pass to kicker Michael Hunnicutt in Stillwater in 2013.

Others expected to compete for starting time are juniors Austin Bennett and Connor Knight, sophomores Jordan Smallwood (will miss games with a torn ACL) and Jeffery Mead and freshmen Carson Meier, A.D. Miller, Dallis Todd, Mark Andrews and Eric DeLay.

And, don't forget Dimitri Flowers. The, multi-purpose sophomore was supposed to have replaced versatile Trey Millard in 2014 but was limited to 9 receptions for 92 yards. He will replace Aaron Ripowski in the power running situations but should flourish in the new Air Raid system out of the backfield.

New receivers coach Dennis Simmons won't get much of a break from Sooner fans replacing fan favorite Jay Norvell unless he produces immediate results.

Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley are placing their coaching chops on the line hoping he will produce immediately.

--The Quarterback

So the million dollar question to Sooner fans is who will pull the trigger in this new Air Raid offense?

Riley inherits returning starter senior Trevor Knight and back up sophomore Cody Thomas who replaced Knight last year the final three games.

Add Texas Tech transfer, social media and dancing sensation Baker Mayfield to the mix and you have a full blown quarterback controversy before the fall camp begins.

--The Case for Trevor Knight

After Knight's poor performance against TCU and Kansas State last year, many insiders are disqualifying him from the competition before the season starts.

But not so fast my friend.

Knight was miscast last year by Josh Heupel's clueless game-calling and was forced into a pocket passing game he was ill-suited for because of lack of depth at quarterback.

Yes, Knight is best in a zone-read rushing attack not the Air Raid. But the junior has more game starts than any of the other two, the arm to make all of the throws and the athleticism to keep defenses honest with his feet. He was the fourth leading rusher last year with 339 yards on 68 carries for five touchdowns and a 5 yard per carry average.

All of that and he is one of two captains returning in 2015. And, Coach Stoops just announced his representatives to the upcoming Big 12 Media Day in Dallas and Trevor Knight is making the trip!

I'd like to see what he could do in a new system, with a new coach and a damn-the-torpedoes approach ala the Sugar Bowl in 2014.

His competitive nature will keep him in the race regardless what the other two do.

--The Case for Cody Thomas

Thomas didn't have much of a chance last year filling in the last three games following Knight's injury at Baylor.

The loss of Sterling Shepard against Iowa State didn't help him much either.

And, the depleted receiver corps and run-heavy Perine attack did not give him a fair fight to show what he is capable of coming in cold for three starts.

However, at 6' 4" and 211 pounds, Thomas has the size, arm and athleticism to handle anything Riley throws at him.

I like his pocket presence, leadership and command of the field. He's athletic and can run, as well.

He's no Sam Bradford but he could be with a little more seasoning. I think he has the most upside potential of the two he is competing against.

I just hope he gets a fair shot to compete.

--The Case for Baker Mayfield

I am on record as saying I don't like Baker Mayfield's reckless, gunslinger style at quarterback on a championship contending team in the Big 12.

His one season as a freshman at Texas Tech in 2013 was misleading.

Yes he was named the Big 12 Freshman Offensive Newcomer of the Year but he wilted late against Big 12 competition and threw 9 interceptions his last five games. He continually throws the ball into tight coverage for interceptions (anyone else watch the spring game?) and cavalierly brushes them off as necessary evils to make plays.

I don't buy it until I see it.

I know he is tailored made for Riley's Air Raid offense but he'll have to show me he is disciplined enough to play winning quarterback to Oklahoma.

So who starts?

Your guess is as good as mine but knowing Bob Stoops, he will select the guy who makes the most plays with the least turnovers in fall preseason camp.

My bet/hope is Knight or Thomas will start with Mayfield coming off of the bench in spot situational plays.

--Running Game

The running game will be anchored by returning starter Samaje Perine following his breakout season as a freshman in 2014. The single game NCAA rushing record holder, Perine was a man-child who destroyed defenses rushing for 1,713 yards in 263 carries for 21 touchdowns and a 6.5 ypg average.

Junior Alex Ross returns following a 595 rushing season in 2014. However, he is much better returning kicks than in the backfield. He averaged 31 yards per return with two touchdowns including a 100 yarder. And, he was just nominated to the Paul Hornung Award "watch list" signaling he is already being recognized as one of the country's most versatile athletes.

Sophomore Keith Ford rushed for 392 yards last year and also had 11 receptions for 140 yards but was suspended in the off-season and announced his transfer.

Much heralded freshman Joe Mixon returns following a one year suspension following an altercation with a female student last summer. By all accounts, if Mixon returns to his preseason form last year, the Sooners will possess one of the top running back corps in the country.

True freshman Rodney Anderson rushed for 2,662 yards and 39 touchdowns his senior season at Katy, Texas averaging 10.1 yards per carry. However, he suffered a MCL sprain in the spring season but is expected to be a full speed in August. While a strong, physical runner, Anderson lacks the explosive, breakaway speed of Mixon and Ross. I smell a redshirt unless injuries open up a spot.

The running game won't be a problem baring injuries, suspensions or transfers.

Unless the offensive line takes too long to jell.

--The Offensive Line

The Sooners lose 144 game starts in 2015 with the departures of NFL draftees Tyrus Thompson, Daryl Williams and Adam Shead. They will be sorely missed as the Sooners averaged 6.1 yards per carry--the best in Bob Stoops 16 years in Norman.

Returner senior starters Ty Darlington at center and Nila Kasitati at guard will bolster a line that only returns 19 game starts from 2015 and 28 career game starts.

JUCO transfer senior Josiah St. John will anchor one tackle spot and senior Derek Farniok will anchor the other in hopes of replacing Thompson and Williams who were two of the Sooners best tackles since Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson. Let's hope they do because redshirt freshmen Kenyon Frison and Orlando Brown are the immediate #2's.

JUCO transfer Jamal Danley, a junior, will try and replace Shead at left guard. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Alvarez and true freshman Drew Samai are the backups.

A slew of others will compete for back up roles.

--Offensive Summary

There is no question that Lincoln Riley will throw the ball more than the Sooners did in 2014 totaling 210 completions in 386 attempts for 2,646 yards. Although the Sooners did rack up 465 total yards per game and averaged 36.4 points per game, as well.

This offensive line was built for the run as evidenced by the 6.1 yard average per rush and 3,395 yards rushing in 2014 but has the versatility, returning coach and new faces to easily switch to the pass happy Air Raid offense.

The key will be how long the newcomers take to fully grasp the new system and jell as a unit.

--Special Teams

A hallmark of Bob Stoops championship teams, his special teams unit will drop dramatically in class in 2015.

The Sooners lost their all-time leading scorer in Michael Hunnicutt, the 4th highest scorer in NCAA history. But Hunnicutt melted down in key games that cost victories against Kansas State and OSU at home in 2014. He will be replaced by true freshman Austin Seibert.

Jack Steed, Jr., a true freshman, will have first crack at replacing Jed Barnett at punter who averaged 41.9 yards per punt in 2014.

Senior Nick Hodgson returns for kickoffs and had 58 touchbacks on 86 kickoffs in 2014.

Alex Ross is back for kickoff returns and expect Sterling Shepard back for punt return duty if not replaced by speedy newcomer Dede Westbrook.

Return game will be solid. Let's hope the kicker and punter can keep it long, high and straight. 


So a defense so bad we were ranked 117th in pass defense nationally, gave up a total of 276 yards passing per game and suffered blowout losses at home to Baylor by 34 and in a bowl game to Clemson and former assistant Brent Venables, kept its' coordinator?


Bob Stoops fired his two offensive coordinators who averaged 36 points a game instead.


Because he believes in his brother and thinks they were "right there" in three tight Big 12 contests that if not for bad quarterback play, kicking collapses and bad coaching decisions cost him three losses.

He's right.

But where it gets difficult for the Sooner Nation is when Baylor rolls into town and abuses our soft corner play and runs roughshod over our overmatched defense for the third time in four years.

It doesn't help when baby brother gets a microphone shoved in his face after the game and says there is a "talent gap" between the two programs.


So where do you start with this Oklahoma defense in 2015?

First, six starters and 19 lettermen return to a defense ranked #1 against the run in the Big 12 last year.

But those 5 departing starters include the top two tacklers from the defensive line in Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Phillips and a versatile off the edge rusher in Geneo Grissom. They will all be missed.

Safety Quentin Hayes and oft-abused Julian Wilson at corner won't be missed as much.

A new defensive line coach with a heavy NFL resume comes to town and there are immediate rumors of a switch back to the Stoops brothers staple, the four man front.

So with that background, here's who is who in the Sooner defense:

--Defensive Tackle

So what does incoming new coach Diron Reynolds inherit?

How about a 3-man front defensive line featuring returning junior tackle Jordan Wade who played six games and had nine tackles last year backed up by true freshman Neville Gallimore, redshirt freshman Courtney Garnett and sophomore Matt Romar, 12 games and 10 tackles?

True freshman Marquise Overton from Jenks may not get the benefit of a much-needed redshirt with these guys.

Sophomore Dalton Rodriguez at 6' 6" and 258 may see playing time as well.

I hear the rumblings for a four man front but I think the numbers don't support such a move especially with returning sophomore Charles Walker moving to end.

I am afraid that this group will be too inexperienced and lack enough depth to match last year's unit which led the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per game.

Let's hope they grow up fast, stay healthy and Reynolds can coach them up quickly.

--Defense Ends

Senior Charles Tapper returns following a 13 start year and honorable mention Big 12 team last year. He'll be backed up by converted tackle in sophomore Charles Walker and true freshman Gabriel Campbell.

Sophomore D.J. Ward is the projected starter opposite Tapper at the other end. Ward played in 6 games in 2013 with 5 tackles and will be hard-pressed to replace Chuka Ndulue.

Ward will be backed up by junior Matt Dimon, who participated in 8 games and had 13 tackles, redshirt freshman Dwayne Orso and converted tight end junior Isaac Ijalana.

Potentially better than the tackles but if Tapper goes down this unit drops way down in experience and talent.

--Outside Linebackers

New outside linebackers coach Mike Stoops will take over a unit that features starters senior Eric Striker, an elite pass rusher with NFL potential who was named 3rd team All American in 2014, and Senior Devante Bond, a JUCO transfer who had 29 tackles in three starts last year.

Striker will be backed up by Toby Rowland favorite Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, a sophomore who played in 11 games last year with 8 tackles.

Devante Bond will be backed up by senior Frank Shannon who returns after a one year suspension following a Title IX sexual assault case in 2014. Shannon was a 2nd team All Big 12 selection in 2013 and brings a physical presence, experience and attitude to a unit which could use some toughness.

Junior Ruben Hunter will back up Shannon and highly-touted freshman Ricky DeBerry should see immediate playing time outside, as well as his projected #2 slot at inside linebacker.

Senior P.L. Lindley is still around and will provide much needed depth.

If Shannon shakes off the rust and returns to his 2013 level, this could be an elite unit.

--Inside Linebackers

The Sooner Nation was stunned linebacker coach Tim Kish kept his job in 2014.

Kish, a frequent target of fans in the blogosphere, was frequently seen on camera with a confused look on his face as his former boss at Arizona, Mike Stoops, constantly yelled at him for his coverages or lack thereof.

In fact, at one point in 2014 Oklahoma was tied with Kansas and Iowa State for the most defensive time outs, a sure sign of sideline confusion.

But say what you want about Kish, his two inside linebackers Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans were the Sooners top two tacklers in 2014!

You have to give Kish some credit for those two juniors because they have been with him since freshmen his second year in Norman.

Perhaps with less on his plate and Mike Stoops upstairs in the press box out of his face, Kish can focus on his two inside studs and be more organized in 2015?

True freshman Ricky DeBerry will see time as the #2 backing up Evans and true freshman Tay Evans will see time backing up Alexander.

After those two, true freshman Arthur McGinnis and redshirt freshman Curtis Bolton along with sophomore Cade Newhouse-Parker will fill in.

Do you see a pattern here?

After Alexander and Evans, the Sooners have no legitimate experience at inside linebacker.

Let's pray for health here but in a pinch Frank Shannon is versatile enough to slide back inside.

Let's also pray for Tim Kish, as well.


New backfield coach Kerry Cooks will welcome back junior Zach Sanchez, a 1st Team All Big 12 selection, at one corner and open up the competition for the other spot.

How bleak is the talent pool?

JUCO transfer William Johnson is favored to start opposite Sanchez.

Sophomore Jordan Thomas will battle for a starting spot and played well last year--at times but suffered freshman growing pains.

After that, juniors Stanvon Taylor and Dakota Austin are first up.

True freshmen Marcus Green and PJ Mbanasor will also compete as will late addition Prentice McKinney, who followed Notre Dame coach Kerry Cooks from South Bend.

Not a lot of quality depth here, there is a reason Taylor and Austin haven't played much, but if Johnson adapts quickly and Thomas jumps up in class, this could be a good but not great group.

Let's hope so. Because any improvement from last year will be a positive for the defense.

The truth is that Mike Stoops outstayed his welcome with the defensive backs and his overbearing, in-your-face coaching style turned off a lot of younger players who tuned out the coach.

The second half meltdown by senior Julian Wilson against Baylor was seen by a nationwide television audience and replayed on SportsCenter all weekend.

Perhaps Kerry Cooks can instill newfound confidence in a group who needs a lot of positive encouragement.


Probably the most disappointing unit in 2014.

Gave up way too many big plays and basically looked clueless at times.

Much heralded juniors Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd have failed to live up to expectations and appear better against the run than pass.

Sophomore Steven Parker struggled mightily last year but shows the most upside for improvement.

Freshmen Will Sunderland, Kahill Haughton, Antoine Stephens and Prentice McKinney all will compete for immediate playing time. Which says a lot about the frontline talent of this group.

Sophomore Brian Walker will also compete.

This is a unit that definitely tuned out Mike Stoops the past two years so a coaching change is the only hope to motivate a complete turnaround because the talent isn't getting any better unless a couple of freshmen step up and contribute.


So where do we stand?

We have the winningest head coach in school history returning for his 17th season who made radical off-season changes in his staff that show he realizes 8-5 and 34 point losses are unacceptable to his bosses.

He moved his brother up to the press box, brought in four new assistants and fired his two closest offensive coordinators.

The returning frontline talent is decent but depth across the board is suspect and young.

A new offensive coordinator is trying to dig back into the early years of Stoops tenure to resurrect a winning offensive strategy.

The running game could be elite reminiscent of 1,000 yard rushers Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray in 2008 but the offensive line is far from elite and lacks quality, experienced depth to dominate the Big 12's best defenses.

They will miss Aaron Ripowski's blocking skills, as well.

Quarterback is an issue and although highly-touted transfer Baker Mayfield appears to be in the catbird seat, don't rule out Trevor Knight or Cody Thomas.

The Sooners lacked an aggressive pass rush last year but an elite outside linebacker unit could make a major talent upgrade if suspended senior Frank Shannon returns to his 2013 form.

The secondary was abused by their coach and opposing offensive coordinators and appeared to lose  its identity and will to compete.

Their head coach made his chops in the secondary with tight, press-man coverage.

However, it was so bad last year he fired his brother and moved him upstairs to the press box.

New secondary coach Kerry Cooks brings an impressive resume but the last defensive back coach not-named-Stoops who tried to coach the Oklahoma secondary didn't last very long.

Can you say Willie Martinez?

Let's hope Cooks has a tough hide and can withstand the Stoops' critique from the sideline as well as the press box.

A slew of incoming freshmen across the board are very talented but green and you can't expect all of them to step into major roles.

Of the bunch, Ricky DeBerry appears to be most ready to step in immediately at linebacker.

However, it troubles me that four JUCO transfers are slated to start. Especially two on the offensive line. That is never a good sign and the record shows these type of players are hit or miss at this level.

For every Damian Williams and Lacoltan Bester you have a Quincy Russell.

So where will we finish?

I think with this group of new coaches assimilating with this young and inexperienced talent that it is reasonable to expect early losses at Tennessee, in Dallas against Texas, at Kansas State and against Baylor and TCU.

However, if the new coaches and systems infuse new life into a talented but thin unit and we get excellent quarterback play, avoid the injury bug that has plagued the Sooners, and a few freshmen step up and contribute, we could just as easily be 9-0 heading into the final November stretch against Baylor, TCU and OSU.

That's as wide-open an assessment one can make at this point with this much turnover and change in Norman.

But one person who didn't go anywhere is the head football coach.

We are in rarefied air here with Bob Stoops because he is attempting to go where Switzer never did and Wilkinson hung it up in year 17.

He has passed Switzer (16) and now only trails Bud Wilkinson (17) and Bennie Owen (22) for the third highest coaching tenure in the University of Oklahoma.

No other major football program has had four head coaches with 100 career wins other than the Oklahoma Sooners.

Bob Stoops has already surpassed Wilkinson and Switzer in the all-time win column with 168 wins against 44 losses for a heady 79% winning percentage.

He is now trying to reignite a fire in his players with new coaches and a new system on both sides of the ball.

We've loved his passion, competitive spirit and his swashbuckling style that earned him the moniker "Big Game Bob" in his early years when he ran off a 72-2 home win record.

And, although he is 90-8 at home and ran off 31 consecutive wins at Owen Field from 2006 to 2010 with five straight undefeated seasons, he's 18-6 the last four years with three losses last year including the embarrassing collapse at home against OSU.

So, even with the feel-good Alabama Sugar Bowl win only 18 months ago in the memory bank, lately the "Big Game Bob" catchphrase has been more of a shallow cry of a proud program searching for past glory in their wonder boy coach who led them back to the promised land in 2000.

The problem is that wonder boy is now 55 years old and facing a mid-life coaching crisis of biblical proportions in the heart of the bible belt where football is worshipped every fall Saturday.

This all leads up to one question regarding the 2015 season:

Are we witnessing the resurrection or burial of Bob Stoops?

Only time will tell.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Bob Stoops Bill O'Reilly Interview

Oklahoma Head Football Coach Bob Stoops is tonight's guest on The Factor and we appreciate the coach taking time from the recruiting trail to visit with us tonight.

NOTE: BOR = Bill O'Reilly; BS = Bob Stoops.

BOR: "Ok, welcome Coach Stoops to The Factor."
BS: "Thanks for having me, Bill."

BOR: "First of all, Coach, you and I hail from similar backgrounds."
BS: "Oh?"

BOR: "Yes we do. I grew up on the mean streets of New Jersey and I understand you're a Youngstown steel kid."
BS: "That's right!"

BOR: "So, I wanted to establish right up front that we are cut from the same cloth. We're both blue collar guys."
BS: "Ok."

BOR: "Now Coach, I get the overall 80% win record, the national championship in just your second year and the Oklahoma all-time coaching win number which is really a big deal since the two guys you passed were named Wilkinson and Switzer. I get that. And all of those Big 12 Championships. I think 6 in 10 years? Very impressive resume. But that was a long time ago. What is the problem now at Oklahoma? You just lost 5 games for the third time in your career. That won't cut it at OU. You and I both know that. What say you?"
BS: "You forgot we beat Alabama last year."

BOR: "Exactly. And Coach, I gotta tell you, that's what has the folks back in Oklahoma up in arms. You seem to be living in the past."
BS: "Well, you know, we won 8 games this year and have won 8 games every year over the past 16 years. So winning hasn't been our problem."

BOR: "But Coach, you have to admit, this is Oklahoma. Eight wins is not acceptable and you lost to Oklahoma home!"
BS: "We were ahead with 1:01 to go."

BOR: "Ok. Ok. I get it. Coach, there are some saying it's time for a change at OU. What say you?"
BS: "I'm trying to find my baby brother a job."

BOR: "Dean Blevins just reported today he's interviewing with LSU. Any truth to those rumors?"
BS: "I would never talk about a rumor. And I haven't talked to Les Miles since 2002."

BOR: "Ok. What about Heupel?
BS: "What about him?"

BOR: "The folks back home are upset with his play calling and seemingly lack of a grasp of personnel and the quarterback development or lack thereof of Trevor Knight. What say you?"
BS: "So what?

BOR: "Well now Coach, isn't that cavalier, "So what?", attitude what got you in hot water last fall?
BS: "I could care less."

BOR: "But coach, you're the leader of the flagship program in the Sooner state and you are telling me you don't care what the fans back home say?"
BS: "I'm repeating myself here but in the end I could care less what anyone thinks."

BOR: "Ok, Coach. You've always been a standup guy and I appreciate your candor but this is The Factor home of the "No Spin Zone" so can you identify what needs to be corrected at OU to get back on top? I mean, you finished in fourth place this year in the Big 12 and lost three times at home where you used to be invincible. People are telling me Owen Field has lost its' mystique. Are you the guy to get things back on top?"
BS: "I've always been that guy."

BOR: But Coach, that's exactly what the folks back home are upset about. You simply won't answer any questions or give any specifics about what you are thinking. Don't the Sooner fans deserve a straight answer from their coach?
BS: "We just have to get better beginning with me. It all starts with me. We have to recruit better and coach em' up better and work harder as a group."

BOR: "But c'mon coach. That sounds like a bunch of coach-speak to me. Why can't you be more specific? Like will you ever beat Baylor again?
BS: I am 13-3 all-time against them!"

BOR: "I realize the totality of the win record is great but coach, you've lost twice in the past two years to Baylor by a total of 63 points. Your brother even admitted a "separation" in talent between the programs, his words not mine, as the reason for the back-to-back losses. What say you?"
BS: "I don't care what my brother thinks."

BOR: "Ok, Coach. Let's move on.
BS: "Uh, huh."

BOR: "I have some pretty good sources down there in Norman and the Sooner state and I'm gonna get a little specific on you and try and get some answers."
BS: "Ok."

BOR: "You brought your brother back in 2012 to replace Brent Venables after Venable's defense was ranked 55th in the country and you lost three games in 2011 to Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State. And, this year before the bowl game against Clemson your brother's defense was ranked 53rd in the country, in the middle of the pack of the Big 12 and at one point during the season tied with Iowa State and Kansas for defensive time outs with 12. Was it a mistake to bring your brother back?"
BS: "No, I don't feel that way."

BOR: "But a lot of folks in Oklahoma are demanding he go and say the reason why he is staying is the "N" word. What say you?"
BS: "My brother is not a racist!"

BOR: "I didn't say he was. The "N" word in this case is "nepotism." Is that why he is staying?
BS: "No. I don't want him going to Youngstown State with Pelini."

BOR: "What about the sideline rants?"
BS: "Me or my brother?"

BOR: "Both. Coach, some say you two became a sideline side-show this past season.
BS: "That's their opinion."

BOR: "But Coach, you have to admit the situation with Julian Wilson during the second half of Baylor caught national attention with the rant by both Stoops brothers and Wilson's response. Was that the jumping the shark situation with your brother?
BS: "What?"

BOR: "You know, the "Happy Days" sitcom toward the end of its' run in the 70's where the Fonz went waterskiing in his leather jacket. Critics said it was time to go because they had just "jumped the shark" with that scene.
BS: "I never watched that show growing up."

BOR: "OK. Coach, what are you going to do with Josh Heupel? It's evident by his play calling and offensive ineptitude this year that he is in over his head. Can you really keep him next year?
BS: "We averaged 35 points a game this year and set an NCAA rushing record against Kansas. So I would say you are wrong."

BOR: "But c'om coach. That was Kansas. I could have run for the NCAA record that day as could of you and you know it. The problem folks have with Heupel is it took him to the Kansas game in November to figure out his offensive identity was to run behind that massive Oklahoma offensive line. They were compared all-season on ESPN as the second largest line in the NFL this year. Why didn't you run first and pass second with that line from the beginning instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole trying to make a running quarterback into a pocket passer and forcing a running quarterback to stay put who you wouldn't let run?
BS: "I am not going to get into play calling with you."

BOR: "Ok Coach. But that is a cop out. And you know it. You are a straight up guy and I'm trying to help you out here but you gotta work with me on this and meet me halfway if you are going to be believable to the folks back home."
BS: "Ok. I'll try."

BOR: "Let's go back to Fort Worth and the TCU game. You were favored in that one by I think 3 points. And, I might add, you were favored in all 13 games this year including the bowl game. But you have 3rd and 2 in the third quarter on the TCU side of the field, tied at 31 and you try a slant pass that is picked off for a pick six. Ball game. Why not run it behind that line with Perine? Wasn't that a classic example of Heupel not understanding situational football and trying to squeeze one in against a defense that was one of the top in the nation?
BS: "You don't see what Josh sees."

BOR: "But isn't that the problem coach? No one sees what Heupel sees. Ok. Let's move on. Kansas State. At home. Your favored again. This time it's early in the game on your own goal line. Conventional wisdom says you grind it out with Perine, get some yardage to set-up a punt and play field position football. Yet, incredibly, Heupel calls a pop-up pass on the goal line that he telegraphs to everyone in the stadium and it's another pick six. What say you?"
BS: "Again, in the end, you don't see what Josh sees."

BOR: "Ok. Let's move on from the coordinators. What about Bedlam? Why in the world did you decide to punt again to Tyreek Hill? He's the fastest guy on the team. The only way OSU can win is with a punt return. You had just punted and downed the ball at the 15 and your guys were exhausted from just running the length of the field. Why didn't you just let them have the ball at the 15 yard line and make them go 85 yards without any timeouts to beat you?
BS: "I tried that in Waco in 2011 and it didn't end too good."

BOR: "You mean the game where you called a defensive timeout with just over a minute left in the game and your defense made RGIII's Heisman-moment for him?
BS: "Uh, huh."

BOR: "Coach. I appreciate your candor and I only have a few more for you. What would it take for David Boren and Joe Castiglione to fire you?"
BS: "I have no idea. You would have to ask them."

BOR: "But coach even you have stated recently that they were happy with your work at Oklahoma. "
Can't you envision a scenario where even you would have crossed the line?"
BS: "No, not really."

BOR: "Ok. Fair enough. Does Heupel stay in 2015?"
BS: "I don't discuss personnel or coaching changes."

BOR: "But a lot of the folks in the stands are calling for his head."
BS: "They don't count in my book."

BOR: "Who does count, coach, if not the folks who attend the games and buy the tickets."
BS: "There are a lot of other fans than just those who attend the games."

BOR: "But even the fans around the Sooner Nation are lighting up the social media message boards."
BS: "I don't read those."

BOR: "Can you survive another 8-5 season at Oklahoma?"
BS: "I don't predict the future. That's your job."

BOR: "I can't either coach but it sure seems a little contrition on your part might go a long way to patching things up with the Sooner fans back home. What say you?"
BS: "I could really care less."

BOR: "Will you consider bringing Brent Venables back to replace your brother after the Clemson fiasco. Venable's defense was ranked #1 in the country and they sure took your offense to the wood shed down in Florida Monday night. Wow. 40-6. Didn't see that one coming."
BS: "No."

BOR: "Ok. Bob Stoops. Thank you for taking time for this interview. You are a stand up guy. I wish you well and hope you find the Sooner Magic this off season."
BS: "Thank you."

Friday, December 12, 2014

R.I.P. Bob Stoops--1999-2014

The Bob Stoops era ended Saturday, December 6 at approximately 6:30 p.m.

Ended in the most appropriate fashion for the most disappointing season in the Stoops eras 16 years.

A mind-boggling decision by the head coach to punt a second time with 1:01 seconds remaining in a 35-28 game.

Tyreek Hill's 92-yard punt return for a touchdown amidst the fog-mist skies to tie the game was about as surreal a moment as I have witnessed in 35 years of attending football games at Owen Field.

And completely justified for the stupidity of the head coaches decision as it was a final nail in the coffin of a coach and a disastrous football season.

A microcosm of a season that was derailed in early October in Cowtown by a series of coaching miscues and bad quarterbacking.

A follow up performance in Norman two weeks later again featuring more questionable coaching, bad quarterback play and a record-setting field goal kicker who went astray when we needed him most.

A complete melt-down three weeks later once again in Norman in embarrassing, crowd-booing fashion to the new king of the Big 12. Same culprits hit again. Poor quarterbacking, poor coaching and a complete lack of competitiveness which was non-chalantly explained post-game as "separation" between programs.

And, finally a complete meltdown in the final moments of a Bedlam game that will go down in infamy one day prior to Pearl Harbor Day as the most sorry coaching decision in the Stoops era.

Sadly, 21 seniors played their last game at Owen Field and left with about the worst scenario they could ever imagine--walking off the field the better team but defeated by their in-state little brother in walk-off fashion.

The shock and disgusted feeling that overcame myself and the remaining fans who stayed to the bitter end (local media reported about 1/3 of the announced 85,000+ crowd had hit the exit gates prior to the painful final 1:01 of the game) was only a small percentage of the feeling of anguish that must have overcome those seniors.

Blake Bell. Mr. Bedlam-killer last year whose last minute heroics while coming off the bench stunned OSU with a last minute touchdown for the win. And, his last-second touchdown in his patented Bell-Dozer formation for the tie leading to the overtime win in 2012. He switched to tight end this year to give his team a better chance to win a championship by paving the way for Trevor Knight to take over the starting quarterback job. His final game as a Sooner won't be remembered for his spectacular catches but the last second loss. I am left to wonder how he would have done staying at quarterback all year.

Aaron Ripowski. The unsung senior fullback whose bone-jarring blocks sprang countless runs by OU running backs the past four seasons as well as leading Samaje Perine to smash the college football rushing record against Kansas earlier this year. Ripowski incredibly scored three touchdowns in Bedlam, one by pass from freshman Cody Thomas, and no one is even talking about it after the game.

Tyrus Thompson/Daryl Williams. How about two of the best tackles in Oklahoma history going out to this Bedlam disaster?

Chuka Ndulue. How about Mr. Bedlam buster in last years' game in Stillwater when he bulled through the line and stuffed an OSU running back on the goal line ending a last minute scoring opportunity? Nope. My lasting memory of Chuka will be after the final field goal for the win watching him sitting on Owen Field, helmet off with hands by his sides looking helplessly around to the scene as if saying "WTF?"  Ndulue summed up his coaches decision like this: “If you’re a smart guy, you’d figure the defense can hold them from going down the field,” said OU defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue. “But you know, things didn’t go as planned."

Michael Hunnicutt. How about the best kicker in OU history? Shanking a 42-yard field goal in overtime that layed the foundation for the ending? Nope. He'll go down in history as the kicker who blew two games by choking on field goals and an extra point.

There are other seniors who played their last game Saturday. Julian Wilson, Adam Shead, Quentin Hayes, Tony Feo, Caleb Gastelum and Tyler Evans among others. All but Hayes played Saturday. They will all be remembered for better moments than the final scene in Norman Saturday but this one will reverberate in their minds forever.

My final images from Owen Field last Saturday will remain a long time as well.

Bob Stoops. A eerily fidgety Bob Stoops standing on the field before the pre-game senior introductions with their families at mid-field. Coach Stoops was leaving for the locker room after just huddling with the players only, when he suddenly stopped in the end zone and turned and looked back upon the scene. I am sure it is hard for any coach to not feel the sense of loss of losing his senior players, many of whom have been in the program for five years or more. But this moment seemed more poignant. Stoops stopped, looked back, put his hands on his hips, turned back toward the locker room, stopped again, put his hands in his pockets while looking one final time at the players and their families and then finally turning and walking off of the field. I am sure I am making more out of this than there is but it sure looked like a coach who was unsure how to handle his emotions and who might have just been taking in the scene one final time. Who knows?

Tony Feo. A senior offensive lineman who hadn't played much in his career. I noticed he was in the last few series of the game at left guard. Amazing. Feo hadn't played much if any at all this year but there he was with the game at 35-28 in the final moments. I was thinking, "What the hell is Stoops thinking?" A tight ball game that was not at hand and needing a couple of first downs to run clock and keep OSU off the field and there was Tony Feo at guard. Was Coach Stoops rewarding his seniors with mop-up playing time during crunch time? No. As it turned out Feo was subbing for starting Adam Shead who was injured during the game but it was a head-scratcher to look up and see Feo playing in such a pivotal moment.

Julian Wilson. The much aligned senior safety turned corner had made national network highlights during his Baylor sideline meltdown yelling at Mike and Bob Stoops after Baylor marched right down the field twice for scoring drives to open the second half essentially putting the game out of reach. He of broken thumb fame suffered during the first half against Baylor. Julian had not played much if at all in the games since Baylor including Saturday during Bedlam. Replaced by freshman Jordan Thomas. But lo and behold, there was good ole' Julian Wilson inserted back at right corner during OSU's final touchdown drive. You can bet Mike Gundy and the freshman quarterback spotted Wilson because two passes later, OSU scored over Wilson. My picture frame moment of his career flashing right before the Owen Field eyes. Like Feo, was Coach Stoops giving Julian one more series in his career? No again, as Wilson was subbing for an injured Jordan Thomas. Which begs the question--how much more did the Stoopses brothers need to see of Wilson to know that he couldn't cover in that situation? Is he the only corner OU has?

Just a few final images.


For the record, Bob Stoops is certainly not dead and probably not going anywhere.

Too much success equity.

Arrogance. Stubbornness. Complacency.


But the Bob Stoops era as we once knew it is certainly dead.

Gone as suredly as is Big Game Bob.

And 8 Big 12 Championships.

And 1 National Championship.

And a once potent home field advantage that blew up with a 3-3 home record this year.

And a four loss season record.

Losses to TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

Don't look now but there is a new sheriff in the Big 12.

And their names are Patterson, Snyder, Briles and yes Gundy who has now beaten Stoops twice in the past four games.

Bob Stoops who is one of the best coaches the past 16 years isn't even the best coach in the Big 12 anymore.

Will he ever surface again?

Not in his past form.

It will have to be a reincarnation and rebirth that began at 6:30 p.m. last Saturday in Norman because that Bob Stoops is certainly dead.

Stay tuned to see how long the second act lasts.

History shows it may not be too much longer.

Bud Wilkinson hung it up after 17 years.

And, yep. Barry Switzer only lasted 16 years as well until the rapin', shootin' and druggin' ran him out of town. His words not mine.

Coincidentally, Switzer's last game was January 2, 1989 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando against Clemson. A 13-6 loss was his last as coach of the Sooners. He resigned under pressure the following summer.

If you haven't noticed, Bob Stoops just finished his 16th season in Norman and his next game is the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando versus Clemson. Against his former defensive coordinator Brent Venables who was pushed out in 2011 in favor of a return of brother Mike Stoops for posting the 55th ranked defense in the country. Don't look now but brother Stoops just turned in the 53rd ranked defense in his third season. What a turnaround.

Somewhere I think there are disgruntled Sooner fans hoping for a 50-0 beat down by Clemson and Venables to put a final nail in the Stoops era once and for all.

I'm not one of those but after this disastrous season, the thought did cross my mind.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tell Me, Who Are You?

I woke up in a Soho doorway
The policeman knew my name
He said, "You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away"
I staggered back to the underground
The breeze blew back my hair
I remembered throwing punches around and
preachin' from my chair

Well, who are you?
Who are you
Who, who, who, who?
I really wanna know
Who are you
Who, who, who, who
Tell me, who are you?
Who are you
Who, who, who, who?
'Cause I really wanna know

The most disappointing season in Bob Stoops 16 years as head coach of the University of Oklahoma comes to a whimpering stop next Saturday.

And, it's fitting the season of futility ends against a Bedlam opponent that has shown no teeth this year and has been close but no cigar in several years past against the Sooners.

No championship this year for the coach who continually says he coaches to win championships.

In fact, there has been only one championship for Stoops and his Sooners the past five years. That's not the intended meaning of the oft-repeated school slogan "There's Only One Oklahoma!"

A closer analogy is the Big 12's dual-meaning "One True Champion!" moniker that repeatedly aired during Big 12 games this year. Since 2010, the Big 12 has had five different champions:

Oklahoma State.
Kansas State.*
TCU/Baylor/Kansas State (TBD)

*No, we're not claiming a co-championship in 2012 with Kansas State because we lost the head-to-head in Norman.

So, the five year Big 12 conference record for Bob Stoops is: 32-11, 74%.

Decent numbers but not by Oklahoma standards. And therein lies the rub.

Bob Stoops has slipped the past five years.

Art Briles, Gary Patterson and Bill Snyder have caught up and passed his Sooners.

Gone is the 39-game home winning streak. Up in flames to a bad Texas Tech team in 2011. Gone is the stranglehold he had on Big 12 Championships his first 10 years. Gone as in winning the recruiting wars in Texas.

And what is worse yet for Sooner fans, gone is his Big Game Bob advantage in key games. Just ask any TCU, Baylor or Kansas State fan about how good Oklahoma used to be...


No, just pragmatism.

A closer look reveals why Oklahoma football has slipped.

PLOT STEALER: It all points back to the head coach who has lost his identity!


Bob Stoops is loyal to a fault. Perhaps too loyal.

He brought his brother back from Arizona in 2012 after he was run out of the desert in hopes of resurrecting the defensive mojo of the early 2000's.

The results: 0 Big 12 Championships. The worst defensive showing in school history in 2012 in West Virginia. Two back-to-back beat-downs by Baylor. That's right. Baylor. The team his brother was
brought back to beat!

After his corner who had a broken thumb and couldn't tackle continually played soft against a lethal pitch-and-catch Baylor offense opening the second half, Mike Stoops even had the audacity to say this post-game:

"There's been some separation in the programs."

Ya think? And it's not just on the field.

And what is worse, Mike Stoops has become a defensive sideline, side-show with his former Arizona assistant Tim Kish. The Stoops defense has not only been destroyed on the field but mocked by television announcers live on network television and chided by the fans in the stadium.

It's not just the win loss record. It's the way the record is being accomplished.

Embarrassing total breakdowns in coverage which result in angry outbursts at players.
"John Blake Bad" sloppy time management.
Inexcusable substitution penalties.
And, one statistic that any true Sooner fan will get: Oklahoma was once tied this season with Kansas and Iowa State for defensive time outs with 12! That my friends is inexcusable.

And those examples are just on the defensive side of the ball! A Stoops area of expertise in past years.

There is only one way to describe Mike Stoops and his defensive scheme: epic failure.

And that falls back directly into the lap of the person who sent the Sooner Schooner to Raising Arizona for him three years ago.

Bob Stoops has lost his defensive identity.

He made his chops on press-man coverage. Dana Holgorsen, a longtime Stoops brothers nemesis, once called it "cat" coverage.

You know. "You got that cat, I got that cat."

It was vintage Bob Stoops defense.

I'll put my best man on your best receiver.

Lock them down.

And force you to beat us one on one.

That philosophy went up in flames for the second year in a row in Norman on November 8 and is the Rosetta Stone of everything that is wrong in Stoops Land.

Baylor marched right down the field untouched for two opening second half touchdown drives.

Sooner corners played 8-10 yards off the ball every snap.

No adjustments from Mike Stoops.

Just a lot of sideline yelling at broken thumb corner Julian Wilson from the brothers Stoops.

National television cameras just happened to catch the exchanges.

A fiery Wilson was unapologetic and unwavering in his response.

From the sounds of the boos ringing down from the soon to be half-full crowd in the stands surrounding Owen Field, most of the fans took Wilson's side of the debate.

A coach who has lost his identity.

A brother who is trying to find his.

Somewhere in Waco and Austin and Fort Worth and Manhattan, smiles are beaming from ear to ear.

Josh Heupel

On the offensive side, Josh Heupel continues to show his amateurism by his on-the-field play-calling and personnel management.

Think I am being too harsh?

Check this out. SMU isn't even considering Josh for their vacant head coaching job. Do you blame them?

I could go on for days about my disappointment with Josh Heupel and his lack of development as an offensive coordinator. But I'll save you some reading time and be concise.

In four years as offensive coordinator, he has averaged one game per season that is in the loss column because of his ill-conceived game plans (you can read further if you want but you get the point!)

OSU in 2011.
Kansas State in 2012.
Texas in 2013.
TCU or Kansas State in 2014. Pick one!

In just four seasons, Josh Heupel has shown he has no grasp of how to consistently put his players in position to win games by his game plans. He is too "textbook" in his approach, has no clue what situational football means and continually calls plays where his players make bad, game-changing choices.

I know. Players make plays.

But oh my gosh, Josh, what in the Heupel were you thinking on these four examples:

2011 Stillwater

An injury-depleted Oklahoma team limped into Stillwater in 2011 against a senior-laden OSU team laying in wait to win their first Big 12 Championship against their arch rival.

Everyone in Oklahoma knew the only way the Sooners had a chance was to control the clock with a run-heavy offense into a weak OSU defensive front seven.

So what did Sir Josh do? He unveiled a pass-heavy game plan with a depleted receiving corps that resulted in a 24-3 first half beat-down. Sooner running back Damien Williams had 10 carries for the entire ball game. Sound familiar Sooner fans? Samaje Perine had five carries against Baylor!

What did Bob Stoops have to say for himself afterwards:

"I noticed that too during the first half. (OU ran 8 running plays vs. 38 passing plays in the first half.) I brought it up to our coaches at half time."


2012 Norman

Sooner fans will remember two quarterback fumbles in the red zone that resulted in defensive touchdowns or stopped Sooner drives as the reason for this loss to Kansas State.

But I will submit that Josh Heupel's ill-conceived game plan also contributed heavily.

He continually put Landry Jones in bad situations with his play-calling that caused this loss.

His pass-to-run ratio of 47-23 flies in the face of reality. He had an injury depleted receiving corps and a strong running attack.  Instead, he chose to pass and "Bad" Landry reared his ugly head.

First up, with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter of a 3-0 Sooner lead, Heupel calls a three-wide set to the wide side of the field on 3rd and 13 from his own 13 yard line. If the ominous numerology of this play didn't hit home to him, he should of at least had a memory recognition back to last December in Stillwater.

Early in the 2nd quarter facing a 10-0 deficit, Heupel faced a similar situation and called a similar play with similar results. Landry Jones was flushed from the pocket from blindside pressure, scrambled to his right and was stripped of the ball resulting in a 59-yard fumble return to the one yard line that OSU punched in on the next play to make it 17-0. Later in the 3rd quarter down 24-3, flashing back to Saturday night's near fumbled pitch that was ruled an incomplete pass, Jones somehow lost the ball during his throwing motion which was picked up and returned five yards for an OSU defensive touchdown. This was just one of four turnovers by Landry Jones.

Kansas State circumstances were virtually identical. Jones faced blindside pressure, panicked and scrambled to his right when all of his receivers were spread left, was blindsided, stripped of the ball and Kansas State recovered for a 1-yard defensive touchdown.

Think Kansas State didn't notice his bad play calling tendencies?

“What we did all week was work on trying to flush him out of the pocket,” defensive end Adam Davis said. “We know he’s not good with pressure. If we get to his blind side he’s going to start getting jittery and try to move out of the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We really tried to cause pressure and get after him.”--Kansas City Star, September 23, 2012.

When pressed further, Stoops said,

"It was bad football."


2013 Texas

Anyone else still baffled how bad Heupel's game plan was in the Cotton Bowl?

A running quarterback had given Texas all kinds of problems in previous losses.

So what did Josh do? He tried to make Blake Bell a statuesque pocket passer and he got clobbered by an inspired Texas defensive line in Mack Brown's last stand in the Cotton Bowl.

No BellDozer, no diamond formation, no running game. Let's try and make good ole' Blake a pocket passer ala Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

The Texas fans are still laughing at this one they stole.

And this was a year before Texas Strong came to town!

2014 TCU or Kansas State--Pick-em'

Ok, where do we start?

How about 3rd and 2 late in third quarter in Fort Worth in a tied game.

Instead of bulking up behind the largest offensive line in the nation, ESPN crawls continually showed how the OU line would rank as the 2nd largest in the NFL, Josh outsmarted himself again and called a slant pass that Trevor Knight telegraphed right into the TCU linebacker's arms.

Pick 6.

Ball game.

Let's try 4th and 1 late in the game trying to take the lead.

Instead of going heavy with the BellDozer or diamond or pistol formation, Josh dials up a quarterback read option out of the spread complete with a pulling left guard who runs right by the A-gap which Samaje Perine will soon occupy.


Stuffed. No gain.

Ball game.

How about K-State in Norman?

First and 10 on your own goal line?

Let's not try and hammer out a few yards and punt for field position

No. That's not in the Josh Heupel playbook.

Unfortunately, what is in there is sadness in Sooner fans eyes.

Josh dials up a pop-up pass down the goal line that everyone in the stadium including the K-State corner knew was coming.

The Wildcat corner took one step and picked off the lame duck for another pick-6.

Ball game.

How much more do you need?

Just like his head coach, Josh Heupel is living off his past glory in Norman. He also has a sister who is married to President Boren's son. Think he is feeling any pressure? Hardly.

Keep on keeping on, Josh. You'll be a fine assistant head coach at North Dakota State when your run is done in Sooner Land.

Unfortunately, by then Bob Stoops legacy will have been written in Norman and you'll be in the epitaph as an in over your head play caller who should be coaching quarterbacks somewhere in the Mountain West.

Bob Stoops

I'm afraid I am seeing an imperial head coach in Norman.

Coach Stoops body language, actions and words have been screaming he is not happy or just doesn't care to be in Norman.

He doesn't seem to get too much involved in the game plans anymore by his on-the-field results leaving most of the heavy lifting to his coordinators and just offers his Monday morning excuses, bye week vacations and post-game comments.

Yes, it was Sooner legend Jimbo Elrod who called into a Tulsa radio station after the Baylor loss and said Bob Stoops doesn't work hard anymore. Said he went to his Florida vacation home during the off-week before TCU. Say it isn't so Jimbo!

His arrogance, stubbornness and complacency has resulted in legendary shortness with reporters and is well documented during his 16 years in Norman. But now his comments are aimed at the fans with his unusual post-game response to a question about his thoughts on fans comments following the Baylor melt-down:

"So What?"

He tried to crawl back the next day and explain his comments were directed at social media and taken out of context but it was too late. Us season ticket holders who like to post on social media got it the first time.

Only time, built-up success equity and a mediocre team the past five years have sharpened the tone of his barbs with the media.

I would submit that Coach Stoops run of 16 seasons in Norman should come to an end sooner than later if this is as good as it gets.

He won't ever satisfy all of the boo-birds who finally surfaced at Owen Field on November 8 against Baylor and there aren't enough records to run through against the bottom half of the Big 12 to satisfy the remaining 50% of fans.

Bob Stoops isn't going to fire his brother or his disciple Josh Heupel and it's doubtful any other Power 5 conference would hire either of them.

And, David Boren nor Joe Castiglione aren't going to fire him either.

No, he will have to take a long hard look at his future and decide where he wants to be in five years.

Frankly, I don't see him coaching in Norman that long.

So why not go out on your own choosing instead of being run out of town by your record, attitude and nepotism?

At $5 million plus a year we don't have the luxury of waiting any longer to prove us wrong. And before you say I am being too harsh, we are not paying him Nick Saban money to go 9-3 every other year while making the same mistakes year after year!

We're appreciative of the results the first ten years. You resurrected a dire program looking for its' past success.

Unfortunately, the record the last five years shows a program on the decline that has been passed by the former Big 12 rug rats who are now laughing at the once mighty Sooner program.

We are now once again a program looking in the rear view mirror for its' past success.

I think a new approach from a new coach, or the old Bob Stoops, would be the best place to start. I just don't know where to find the old Bob Stoops. I think he has been kidnapped by arrogance, stubbornness and complacency.


The Oklahoma program is bigger than one coach.

Ask Bud who never resurrected his program after his former player turned nemesis in Austin and was run out of town with his three national championships in 1963.

Or Barry, who did resurrect his program and claim another run and national championship #3 and was still run out of town three years later.

Just don't ask Bob, with his one national championship claimed 15 lonely seasons ago.

He acts like he is untouchable, isn't listening and doesn't care.

Leaving the fans who have supported him asking:

Who are you?