Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Mike Stoops brings bite back to secondary
By Jake Trotter
In five seasons with Mike Stoops coaching the secondary, Oklahoma had five defensive backs named All-America.
Since? The Sooners have had just one.
Mike Stoops will return to Oklahoma as the secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator.
Sources have told ESPN's Joe Schad that Stoops will rejoin the OU staff, with an announcement coming as soon as today. The former Arizona coach will return to his old title of secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator where he served the Sooners from 1999-2003.
Current secondary coach Willie Martinez is expected to take a job elsewhere. Martinez has been connected to jobs at Kansas, Illinois and Auburn.
The Sooners are counting on Stoops to bring some bite back to a secondary that has been up and down since he left.
Just last season, Oklahoma ranked No. 79 in pass defense. The Sooners also surrendered a school-record 616 yards in the loss to Baylor, including 485 through the air.
After 1999, the Sooners never finished lower than No. 25 in pass defense under Stoops, and in his final season in '03, OU ranked No. 2 against the pass, allowing only 146 yards per game.
Of course, Big 12 offenses have changed since Stoops left OU. The spread has made the Big 12 perhaps the top passing league in college football.
But in the pass heavy Pac-12, Arizona ranked No. 45, 34 and 23 nationally against the pass entering this season. The Wildcats finished this season ranked No. 119, but Stoops was fired after a 1-5 start midway through the season.
In Norman, Stoops will have some cogs already in place in the secondary. But he’ll have some work to do, too. The Sooners have a trio of foundational pieces in nickelback Tony Jefferson, safety Aaron Colvin and cornerback Demontre Hurst. All three players have performed at a high level as starters the last two seasons.
The trick for Stoops will be shoring up the rest of the secondary by finding another reliable corner and safety.
After Jamell Fleming got hurt, Texas Tech exploited OU’s lack of depth at corner and torched Fleming’s backup Gabe Lynn en route to a 41-38 win.
Safety Javon Harris, meanwhile, got beat time after time at Baylor, as Robert Griffin III threw for four touchdowns to give the Bears a 45-38 victory.
Stoops could give both Lynn and Harris another chance this spring. Or he could turn to others such as junior-college cornerback Kass Everett or up-and-coming safety Quentin Hayes.
Whatever the case, there’s no doubting Stoops is an excellent secondary coach and defensive mind. Roy Williams, J.T. Thatcher, Brandon Everage, Antonio Perkins and Derrick Strait all thrived under his tutelage.
Chances are, Jefferson, Colvin, Hurst and the others will, too.