The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 15, 2013

OU firings deliever message

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Number of coaches fired by Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops from 1999-2010: 0.

Number of coaches fired (or reportedly forced out) by Stoops from 2011-12: 4.

This may tell us something about where the OU football program is headed.

Stoops’ job is not in danger. The Sooners still are solid after back-to-back 10-3 seasons and will contend in a wide-open Big 12 this fall.

But getting embarrassed in the Cotton Bowl (41-13 against Texas A&M) is a cause for concern. OU traditionally has based a successful season on whether it contended for the national championship.

That has not been the case the last two years.

The secondary was a major problem in 2011. Baylor’s Robert Griffin III might have won the Heisman the night he threw for 485 yards in a 45-38 victory over the Sooners.

Goodbye secondary coach Willie Martinez and hello again to ex-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who returned to the staff after being fired as Arizona’s head coach.

Mike Stoops’ work could be seen in a much-improved secondary.

OU’s problem defensively in 2012 was in its front seven, especially defensive tackle. Even UTEP was able to penetrate the Sooner front wall. OU allowed 5.2 yards per carry rushing this season.

Goodbye to defensive line coach Jackie Shipp, who came with Bob Stoops in 1999.

The ousters of line coaches James Patton, who had been on the staff since 2006 and Bruce Kittle, who was concluding his second season might have been a different story.

The line gave good protection to quarterback Landry Jones (OU allowed 15 sacks in 13 games). Senior tackle Lane Johnson could be a No. 1 draft choice.

The Sooners, though, had problems running the ball in their three losses, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry against Kansas State, .6 against Notre Dame and 3.6 against A&M.

Patton, who coached guards and centers, had to be Mr. Fix-It with the loss of seniors Ben Habern and Tyler Evans for the season. His players spoke very highly of him.

The Sooners obviously need to be more physical up front on the ground.

It will be interesting to see how Bob Stoops selects their replacements. Stoops historically has gone with assistants: (1) who have played at OU; (2) played with him or Mike Stoops at Iowa; (3) coached with him at Kansas State or Mike Stoops at Arizona and (4)  have a connection to Stoops’ hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

He might want to get away from that. Nothing against past hires, but some new blood may be good. He made wise choices in 1999 when his first hire was ex-Texas assistant Bobby Jack Wright because of his Texas connections. Wright and Cale Gundy are the lone assistants who have been with Stoops from the beginning.

He picked then Kentucky assistant Mike Leach because the Wildcats were the hardest team for then Florida defensive coordinator Stoops to stop. Leach was instrumental in signing Josh Heupel and was successfully able to give OU an offensive identity it had lacked for the past few seasons.

Stoops is a good coach to work for. Five of his assistants left to be head coaches. A sixth, Bo Pelini, eventually became the head coach at Nebraska. Three left for assistant jobs in the NFL. Three left for other schools, all as coordinators.

The new assistants’ first priority might be recruiting. As ex-Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones said, “the Jimmys and Joes are more important than the Xs and Os.’’OU needs to get better Jimmys and Joes

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.