With season approaching, Sooners face questions

BY foxsports • August 3, 2013

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops stood his ground Saturday afternoon.

No matter what, there was no way he was going to say who the starting quarterback will be.

Oh, we tried to get it out of him. Tried a number of different ways to get an answer, but Stoops was as firm as a day-old mattress and honestly, I don't blame him.

An answer to that question and suddenly either Blake Bell (who, by the way, will almost certainly be the starter – save some sort of wild plot twist) or Trevor Knight gets targeted with more pressure than an all-out blitz.

Maybe Stoops doesn't think his quarterback is ready for that kind of attention yet, and as is always the case, the pressure might start and end with the quarterback, but it's the burden is on the offense as a whole.

It's never good to have to break in a new quarterback, but it's really bad timing for the Sooners, considering this season the offense is going to have to cover for a defense that has all sorts of questions and very few answers.

Now, after more than an hour with the coaches at Saturday's media day, it's quite apparent the defense would be more athletic this season.

Apparent, because they kept saying it, often, using words like "versatile" and "attitude." But with just four starters returning and with nearly no clue on how the defensive line is going to stop the running game, the most-apparent thing out of Saturday's stop-and-chat with the media is it's going to have to be on the offense if the Sooners are going to win games.

"There are going to be good players," coach Bob Stoops said of the defense. "They are going to do some things differently."

Well, OK. Sooner fans can only hope the first part of Stoops' statement equals a positive and a change from what went on last year when West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M had no problems gouging OU.

"We could have done better," linebacker Corey Nelson said. "Absolutely. There are things that we could have done to not make as hard for us and the offense did have to bail us in a few games."

It took 50 points to beat West Virginia and another 51 to get past OSU and it might take more than that this season. While Mike Stoops is certainly worth giving the benefit of the doubt to, as he enters his second season back as defensive coordinator, he is already hedging, four weeks before his team takes the field against Louisiana-Monroe.

"We'd love to be a dominant defense.," Mike Stoops said. "That's out the window. In this league that's not realistic. We just aren't good enough to line up and maul people. Nobody in this league is."

So, can a defense without a proven talent on the defensive line do enough to get maybe just four or five stops per game? Is that too much to ask?

"I would say there's more pressure on us," running back Brennan Clay said of the offense. But as long as we do our job, there shouldn't be any problem."

No problem if you have Sam Bradford at quarterback or Adrian Peterson at running back. Heck, you could even make the case it's not that big of a deal if Landry Jones is back at quarterback, because you know those guys could put up numbers. And fast.

But this year, with no proven quarterback and no real established running game, no one knows how hard it is going to be to do that job Clay was talking about.

Jordan Phillips looks to be a really good lineman. Mike Stoops says freshman defensive back Hatari Byrd has already played three positions on defense in the first three days of practice.  Bob Stoops pointed out Frank Shannon and linebacker and Aaron Colvin at defensive back. Nelson is a returning starter, too. "Maturity" was another of those buzzwords heard from behind a microphone and podium Saturday.

"As a whole, more athletic than it was last season," Mike Stoops says. But this team isn't the same defensively as it has been historically. Those days may be well past us. There's no Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Gerald McCoy or Roy Williams on the roster. Good players, yes, but dominant? Not at this point, anyway.

That means Bob Stoops has a lot bigger issues than just naming the starting quarterback.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK