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Dean's Blog: Don't Be A Fool

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I hope all the people who flooded social media with third quarter outbursts that Baker Mayfield should be benched and Bob Stoops fired realize how silly they are. Actually, you are not silly. You are stupid. Social media has led to John Q Public becoming more like a reporter feeling they have a job to let the world know his/her sophisticated thoughts. Note to those to whom this applies: You look like a fool when you say such ignorant and ridiculous things. One veteran press boxer with local ties at Neyland Stadium went so far as to proclaim that Trevor Knight should replace Mayfield and OU had to recruit a JUCO QB to start in 2016. Kindly, no names mentioned. Folks, without Baker Mayfield, OU may not have scored against Tennessee. His moxie, competitiveness and arm give OU a chance to regain its place on a national stage. He’s got game, wheels and rare leadership skills. And contrary to a pal of mine who has seen a lot more college and NFL QBs throw in practices than I have, Mayfield has plenty of zip on his passes. Certainly enough to last past 2 1/2 quarters where his receivers didn’t separate and failed to latch on to catchable balls, and his line continued to show it’s not anywhere close to where it needs to be. If Mayfield had worn a Fitbit Saturday night he’d have registered 14,872 steps scrambling for his life. 


I ran into a fellow at 2pm today who claimed to know that OU center Ty  Darlington is going to miss some time with a knee sprain sustained at Tennessee. I have not confirmed the information but find it believable since Darlington struggled mightily and hobbled on and off the field the second half. Darlington’s a fabulous student, team leader and spokesman. But he’s not playing at the level Oklahoma gets with its good teams. There’s potential along the line and in time they will improve. But there’s a long, long way to go right now. Former Sooner All-American Jamall Brown told me in the Knoxville Airport Sunday morning that they are indeed a major weak link. Brown, a good soul and a guy who works with OU’s line, believes only time and experience can solve the immediate problem. The players are simply not in the system right now to go any other direction. Losing two in-state linemen last recruiting class was a killer, he says, and it’s showing now. Orlando Brown is a great kid with a huge body (6-8, 355) and will become a star. He practices right. St. John did well at times Saturday. Nila Kasitati was singled out by Stoops at right guard for good play. But OU struck out with an unnamed JUCO at guard who just can’t play and they simply don’t have any other answers right now. Bill Bedenbaugh must continue to work miracles as he’s done in the past as one of the nation’s best line coaches. 


OU DC Mike Stoops took a shot at Paul Finebaum after the game Saturday and big brother Bob ratcheted it up a notch at his press conference today. In the minds of the loyal brothers, it’s not as if the man who is promoted as the Mouth of the South and the Voice of SEC football hasn’t taken his share of shots at them and the OU program. Bob Stoops has never negatively responded to some of the more cynical personal shots Finebaum has routinely taken at him throughout the years. But today, he reacted when asked about Finebaum’s recent comments that “OU is irrelevant:”  Stoops said, “I don’t care. He doesn’t deserve that attention from me. The bottom line is ask Tennessee and their 105,000 people if we’re relevant or not. And a few other teams in the last couple years. Doesn’t matter. And he’s getting paid to promote a league. That’s what he does. That’s OK. Everyone has to earn their money one way or the other.”

For the record, Finebaum is a Tennessee graduate and somewhere between an Alabama “homer” and “expert,” depending your taste. Also for the record, Stoops is now 4-0 at Oklahoma against UT and Bama.  Stoops has backed up his accurate but misrepresented belief that the SEC overhyped and that while it is no doubt the best conference in the country, it is not, top-to-bottom, a monster. 

I started listening to Finebaum about five years ago and respect his depth of knowledge and contacts. I found his shows to be highly entertaining and informative as he talked mostly Alabama and SEC football. However, as his audience has broadened from Birmingham radio station WJOX in Birmingham — a station I respect and have frequently appeared as a guest — to ESPN radio and TV, his snipes seemed to have both increased and sharpened. Fairness seems to have lost its priority. I know the regular shots he’s taken at Stoops and Oklahoma have often gone over the edge. But that’s what makes him popular with some. 

What I particularly dislike is that Finebaum can go from calling OU “irrelevant” and Stoops much worse, to having the coach on his show and treating him as if he’s always been a big supporter. At least when Skip Bayless has Stoops on First Take, he goes at him with his infamous criticism of “his OU coach.” There’s not this treating Stoops one way when he’s on the show and another way when he’s not. 


Something’s happened with the OU secondary besides just playing two average passing teams that has seen them jettison from 117th in the nation to No. 6 in pass defense. Last year they were turrible—per Sir Charles. This year they are guarding people, not busting, tackling and playing winning football. Tulsa will probably throw for 300 yards on them but that won’t mean they aren’t on the right track. Shuffling coaches has helped immensely. Cornerback Jordan Thomas essentially said today that it was not smart last season when the corners and safeties were in different meeting rooms. Says the communication is a ton better now that they are always together. That trust has been built there too. Don’t know if that was a Bobby Jack Wright thing or Mike Stoops. But separate meetings does seem silly. And kudos in particular to Steven Parker. The highly recruited safety out of Jenks is having a monster start after a terrific spring/summer. He’s as good as people could have hoped. 


In the end, as Bob Stoops is wont to say, this is a different Oklahoma team than we’ve seen for the most parts of the past few seasons. Much better coaching, much tougher, more committed. A few better players, with much-improved play at QB. A more mature team intent on getting OU back to it historic path. Mental and physical superiority that did not see a single player come off the field once at Neyland Stadium and zero cramps in hot, humid conditions of a double overtime game. 

Still going to be a battle, but the winning at UT sets the 2015 Sooners up for a shot to get to 9-0 before the Holy Trinity finish. Thanks for checking in. And if you’re a fool, shame on you. 

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