Tony Jefferson has dropped Twitter and started piano lessons.
He sings now – says he sounds like Justin Bieber, too – instead of tweets.
Plenty of changes for one of the most dynamic players and social media users on the Sooners defense.
Call it a lifestyle, not a football, change for Jefferson.
While Jefferson promises none of the tweeting and talking done through the World Wide Web or the cameras that showed up at summer practice a season ago had any impact on what turned out to be a more bummer than boomer of a season, he did say things would be different this time around.
“Last year is last year,” said the Sooners free safety who has shown up on a few national watch lists this summer. “But it’s still in the back of our heads. Once we start winning and stuff, we can have the edge to start showcasing ourselves.”
There was none of that a season ago, and regardless of what Jefferson said, clearly there was some negative fallout. OU started the season a preseason No. 1. ESPN latched on, showing up and showcasing the Sooners from the inside out during summer workouts. Jefferson, the talking and everything else was showcased from the beginning.
The defensive backs called themselves “The Sharks,” but ended up being the prey by season’s end. Record-breaking receiver Ryan Broyles went down with a knee injury, but the real downfall of the season came through the secondary as the defense was unexplainable in a loss to Texas Tech and somewhere beyond underwhelming and unimpressive in defeats against Baylor and Oklahoma State.
This year? Coach Mike Stoops returns to Norman to head up the defense and a new attitude.
“You try not to think about it,” said cornerback Demontre Hurst of last year. “But when you step out there on the field, it dawns on you when things don’t go your way. It gets emotional. It’s a hard deal. You try not think about it, but then again, it will never leave. We’re trying to redeem ourselves. We’re just trying to get better.”
Getting better seems to start off the field for the Sooners. While many of the secondary errors last year were egregious, many of the same players are back, including Hurst, Jefferson and safety Javon Harris.
What’s changed is on the sidelines. Stoops has made a grand return, and speaks on the OU defense like he had never left.
“We’re a different team than we were a year ago,” said Stoops, who had been out of Norman for eight years as the head coach at Arizona. “We have to have a short memory.”
Yet, it’s Stoops who seems to use the memory of last year – which clearly had to come via the film room or word of mouth – as a slight, real and troublesome. He wasn’t around as the defense gave up ground by the acre, but addressed the media earlier this summer, talking about taking things more personally like a bouncer from “Roadhouse.”
And maybe that’s what the Sooners need more than anything.
“Anyone that has been part of Oklahoma football feels what happened,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who is back to his natural position from playing safety from a season ago. “We don’t want to hear about last year.”
Colvin and his teammates don’t want to hear about it, or want to talk about the past, either. Moreso, if they’re talking about the future, it’s not as bold as it was a season ago.
And maybe that’s a good thing, too.
“Were we distracted?” Jefferson said about last year. “I don’t think we were. It was lack of preparation, and mistakes on the field. Nothing that happened outside of the football arena hindered us.
OK, the meltdown came between the lines, so what’s next?
“We’re trying to stay out of the media. We just want to play ball. We’re under the radar. I like that,” Jefferson said.
Hard to imagine any scenario where Mike Stoops stays under the radar. Hard to imagine any situation where the Sooners stop talking.
Then again, Jefferson, with some of the sharpest thumbs on the team, gave up Twitter. No word on whether he sounds like Bieber, either. He wouldn’t showcase himself after practice recently, “I tell myself I do,” he said.
Now, if the Sooners can only tell themselves last year didn’t happen.
“Coach Mike says whatever happened last year was last year,” Colvin said. “This is a totally different year. New slate.”