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!

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