Sooners tinker with defensive options in spring
Bob Stoops considers the start of spring practice one of his
favorite times of the year.
For all of the challenges ahead for Oklahoma over the next six
weeks, he still loves the opportunities that are there, too.
The Sooners will be trying to figure out how to replace NCAA
career receptions leader Ryan Broyles and a handful of other
starters moving on in hopes of playing in the NFL and seeking the
right solutions to shore up a defense that gave up huge numbers in
a few losses last season.
Stoops sees the joy in figuring it all out.
”I don’t have any big concerns,” Stoops said Monday before
Oklahoma took the field for its first of 15 spring sessions. ”It’s
just like every year. It’s never going to change. Players graduate,
players leave early and you’ve got other guys that you’ve been
working with and developing ready to play. I’m excited about what
the potential is, so we’ll just see.
”Concerns are everything. I want to see everybody get better,
even guys that have played.”
Stoops will benefit from the services of Landry Jones, who
decided not to enter the NFL draft and instead will be back for his
fourth season as starting quarterback. He’ll be trying to plug the
holes left by Broyles, a two-time All-American, as well as a group
of defensive starters including ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell
Lewis, linebacker Travis Lewis and top cornerback Jamell
Newcomers Taylor McNamara and Brannon Green will get their first
chances to prove themselves at a tight end position left barren
when seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree completed their
careers and Austin Haywood transferred.
”What we’re after is more development, not just where everyone
focuses on where you lost guys. I want to see even guys that were
here a year ago play better and work to make improvement,” Stoops
Center Ben Habern (back), running back Dominique Whaley (ankle),
defensive tackle Casey Walker (shoulder), linebacker Tom Wort
(back) and safety Aaron Colvin (shoulder) are among a group of
starters that will miss the spring. Stoops said there’s a chance
Wort could be cleared to participate later in the drills.
With that group missing and another chunk of the roster gone as
part of the normal attrition on a college team, the spring has a
bit of a rebuilding feel to it.
”It always feels that way this time of year because you’re
always losing guys and you know how much work you’ve got to do to
bring guys along, but I’m never alarmed about it because I always
feel we have young players coming up and guys that haven’t quite
played as much that are now ready to have a bigger impact and for
the most part worked that way,” Stoops said.
”So, we’ll get out there and start working them.”
Among position moves, Lane Johnson will move from right tackle
to left to replace Donald Stephenson and receiver Joe Powell is
switching to defense.
Generally, there could be some tinkering with the addition of
Mike Stoops, Bob’s brother, as defensive coordinator and Tim Kish
as linebackers coach. Still to be determined is whether playmaker
Tony Jefferson will land at free safety or at nickel back after
playing both spots last season.
”This is a time of year where a lot of guys will come on and
then you start to see who’s making the most plays most
consistently,” Bob Stoops said.
”I’m kind of excited even because of Mike Stoops being here and
Tim Kish being new to allow them to see for themselves, moving
these guys around, who they feel are playing the most consistently
or who they can count on.”
Mike Stoops, who was his brother’s defensive coordinator before
spending seven-plus seasons as Arizona’s head coach, came in as
Brent Venables left to become Clemson’s defensive coordinator. When
he left, the Sooners ranked among the nation’s top 10 defenses four
straight years. They haven’t been in the top 50 three of the past
”I don’t think there’s any need for magic fixes,” Bob Stoops
said. ”We’re coming off a 10-3 season. We had a couple of games
that, sure, we didn’t play as well as we normally do defensively
but in our league … I think we’re in the top one or two in
scoring defense and total defense, right?
”I don’t know that there’s a big, drastic fix that needs to