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."