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Dean's Blog: Mike Stoops Staying Put

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As we reported on Sunday night’s Blitz, barring an unforeseen change of thinking at the top, we’ve learned Mike Stoops is expected to continue as the Oklahoma defensive coordinator.

Multiple inside sources with knowledge of specifics, tell me Lincoln Riley gave Stoops his support earlier in the month. Sources say Stoops originally approached Head Coach Lincoln Riley before the Rose Bowl game but that Riley indicated he is expected to inform OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione about things of this much import.

I learned Stoops had spoken with new Florida State coach Willie Taggert about becoming his defensive coordinator and was optimistic about his chances. One of the connections between Stoops and Taggert is that the new FSU coach has the same agent, Jimmy Sexton, as Mike Stoops’ brother Mark, the head coach at Kentucky.

After the Rose Bowl it was clear that Stoops would not get the FSU offer. Contrary to multiple reports, Stoops did not interview at several high-profile programs. Only the Florida State flirtation.

Riley and Stoops next broached the subject not long after the Rose Bowl on a golf course, not in the state of Oklahoma. It was then that Riley effectively told Stoops that after watching the Georgia game video, that the problems weren’t a result of “wrong calls.” That Riley knew what his coordinator could do, and that the issue was to upgrade the talent – recruit better players. That it’s not about making ‘material changes.’ 

One source concluded by saying, “I’d absolutely be shocked if anything happened with Mike after what I was told about the conversations.”

Although many don’t that it’s necessarily a vote of confidence, Riley said soon after the bowl that he supported the staff. And was positive about Mike Stoops. 

Speculation before the season had Stoops telling friends that this would be his last season in Norman. But first, you know about offseason comments and rumor-mill speculation, especially when it comes to Mike Stoops. And you should know if someone says something like that that it’s one thing to say it but another to walk away from an $870,000 per year contract that runs through January of 2019.

The obvious fact of the matter is that even if Riley preferred to go another direction defensively, he would not be the coach without Bob Stoops. And while my experience with both men would lead me to believe if Bob ever broached the subject he’s tell Lincoln to always do what you think is best for the program.

Still, put yourself in Riley’s shoes. You tell me if you’d make a change. And how you’d do it.

Lincoln Riley likes Mike Stoops, and more importantly, he believes he’s a good football coach. There’s no question a large percentage of Sooner fans want a change. But Riley likely believes a move of that significance after one year on the job – when his first team was a play or two from the national championship game – it’s not the right thing to do. And that a move of that significance would be dicey and have significant reverberations.

Stoops enjoyed the OU return-to-glory-years with championship defenses under brother Bob when he and close buddy and co-coordinator Brent Venables were riding high in the saddle in the early two-thousands. Since returning as DC after a run as head coach at Arizona, the 2015 season was outstanding defensively. But, the others haven’t come close to the quality of those early years. Not to belabor the point, but it all starts up front. And OU’s not had a difference maker defensive lineman since Gerald McCoy was drafted third overall following the 2009 season. Alabama has more every year than OU’s signed in, well, a long, long, long time.

ROSE BOWL

I’m one who believes an Oklahoma team should never lose when Oklahoma scores 48 points (albeit in OT and with the help of a late scoop and score). Fifty-four points is 54 points.

Based on Georgia’s offensive personnel and schemes, Oklahoma went with a Gap Sound defensive plan that was logical but proved to be anything but gap sound. Doesn’t matter if it’s Mike Stoops or Knute Rockne, you can’t devise a defense to stop big, strong, efficient offenses with NFL running backs if linemen don’t get off blocks, linebackers vacate their gaps, and DBs fall down untouched.

To be fair, OU’s defense made a number of important stops that gave the offense a chance to win it late. And Riley is standing by his man telling him the problems weren’t about calls, but the Jimmies and Joes. But, it’s absolutely unacceptable for any defense to give up the huge runs Georgia popped the Sooners with time after time after time.

Yes, there’s seems to have been more injuries with Oklahoma defensively than most teams. But playing so many young players is not as much about a Kenneth Murray being a tremendous player as it is about he is actually ‘potentially tremendous.’

When coaches continually blame poor play on needing better players, it’s obvious the truth is it’s the defensive coaches who recruit the players. Great players don’t fall out of trees. It’s unacceptable that Oklahoma’s offenses are consistently significantly better than its defenses. Except on the great teams. Championship teams.  Our championship teams in the seventies had the Selmons. And many, many others. Others had Casillas, Bryant, Harris, and a number of others.

Riley often talks about ‘complimentary football.’ That can’t happen if your talent isn’t good enough or coaching is insufficient.

The Sooners biggest losses defensively will be edge rusher Obo Okowronkwo and safety Steven Parker. The good news – more longterm than short – is that the 2018 recruiting class is loaded with 4-star players, and boosted with the addition of 5-star corner Bookie Radley-Hiles.

Oklahoma will be favored to win a fourth straight Big 12 Championship in 2018. But losing a Heisman winner, Mackey winner, an elite LT and those noted defensively means Riley’s second team won’t be predicted for a third playoff berth in four years. Elite coaching would help. We’ve seen it on the offensive side. Now it’s time for the injection of high-quality talent and coaching to mesh to keep Oklahoma on the path that has seen the Sooners finish the last three seasons finishing fifth, fifth and third nationally. 

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