Oklahoma Sooners: Barry Switzer

Barry Switzer is at it again.

The former Oklahoma coach sat down with Grantland to share some recruiting stories and express his opinion on several subjects, including Michael Sam, Johnny Manziel and Pete Carroll. Take the time to read the full interview, which you can find here. You won't regret it.

Here's a small sample of the interview:

On Marcus Dupree:
"When I saw him in high school, he was better than anyone I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen ’em all. I’d seen the Bo Jacksons, the Herschel Walkers, the Eric Dickersons, Earl Campbells. I recruited them all. I saw ’em play live, I’ve seen the tape on ’em out of high school."
On Billy Sims:
"I told Billy to hide out for two days. I wanted to sign Kenny King. ... But I can’t be everywhere, and Kenny wanted me to sign him at 8 a.m. Once I told Billy to hide out, he went to Houston with his dad for two days."
On Michael Sam:
"I’d rather have a gay guy that’s got game than a straight guy that ain’t got game. It all comes down to the ability to play the game."
On Johnny Football:
"Johnny Manziel is the first football player I’ve ever seen that can control the game like those guys [Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson] did basketball."
NEW ORLEANS -- "The King" tweeted it best.

"What's great about playing Bama," legendary former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer wrote on Twitter this week, "is they are the team to find how good you are or how far you have to go."

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezHow good are Bob Stoops' Sooners? We'll find out in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
Thursday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl (ESPN, 8:30 ET), the Sooners will play in the ultimate barometer game against third-ranked Alabama.

It's a game that will reveal where the Sooners are, relative to the Crimson Tide. And just how far they have to go.

"How could it not be that?" Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops asked. "They're as good a football team as we've played in 15 years.

"So it’s definitely that."

Under coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide have become the standard-bearers in college football. Since 2009, Alabama has won three national championships, and only the wildest ending in college football history prevented the Tide from playing for another.

"They're obviously the program the last five years that has set the bar in college football," Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "Is it any more of a benchmark than any other game? Probably so."

Under Stoops, Oklahoma once set the bar in college football. At the turn of the millennium, the Sooners played for three national titles in five years, and captured the championship in Y2K with a defensive flattening of Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

Like the Tide of now, the Sooners of then rolled in top-five recruiting classes every February. And every April, Oklahoma produced a lion's share of first-round draft picks.

But that was then.

And in the present, the Sooners have fallen on hard times -- at least according to the towering expectations that apply to the likes of an Alabama or an Oklahoma.

"We win 10 games every year," said center Gabe Ikard, "and people feel that we’ve fallen off."

True, the Sooners haven't fallen off into a canyon like their Red River brethren (even though Texas did dismantle Oklahoma this year in Dallas). But in Norman, 10-win seasons minus the championships ring hollow.

It has been six seasons since the Sooners seriously contended for a national title past October. And after seizing six Big 12 championships over a span of nine seasons, Oklahoma has only one outright conference title since 2008.

This November, once they fell 41-12 to Baylor -- yes, the same Baylor that Central Florida roasted Wednesday night in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl -- the Sooners weren’t even a factor in the Big 12 race, much less the national one.

At the moment, Alabama owns RecruitingNation's No. 1 class, while Oklahoma's just barely cracks the top 25. Last year alone, the Crimson Tide furnished the NFL with three first-round draft picks. The Sooners, meanwhile, have had just one first-rounder (OT Lane Johnson) since 2010.

But just because the results have tapered off in Norman doesn’t mean the expectations have.

And against Alabama, the Sooners will find out where they stand.

"This is definitely going to show what kind of team we have right now," said Oklahoma receiver Jalen Saunders. "What type of players we have at OU. Where we stand nationally."

Lately, the Sooners haven’t stood quite as tall.

As a testament to Stoops' unrivaled, long-term consistency, Oklahoma still managed to grind out 10 victories in 2012 despite having no running game and a shaky defense. But whenever the Sooners faced a quality opponent last season, they were vanquished. Kansas State out-executed them in the Big 12 opener, Notre Dame smashed them in the fourth quarter, and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, well, he just made them look ridiculous in an AT&T Cotton Bowl rout.

As a result, Oklahoma opened 2013 outside the top 10 in the preseason polls for the first time since Stoops' second year.

Even though the Sooners stunned Oklahoma State in the 2013 Big 12 regular-season finale to sneak their way into the BCS, Las Vegas oddsmakers have pegged them as 16½-point underdogs against the mighty Tide. That, by the way, is the third-largest point spread in BCS history, behind only this year's Baylor-UCF Fiesta Bowl and the 17-point line Oklahoma was handed over Connecticut in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.

In other words -- at least according to Vegas -- the gap between Alabama and Oklahoma right now is roughly equal to the gap between Oklahoma and Connecticut then.

"They're a great, great team," Stoops said of the Tide. "Great talent across the board."

When facing great talent, however, comes great opportunity. To ascend back atop college football's summit, the Sooners have to start somewhere. They'll find no more opportune setting than the Sugar.

"They’ve been so dominant," said Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay, "that if we come out with a victory, it would definitely say we're a national championship-contending-type team."

The Sooners can't secure a national championship overnight. And they certainly can't on Thursday night. But they can send a message. And in doing so, also can launch their climb back to the top.

"Winning this game would be big," Ikard said. "Big for recruiting, big for the program, big for the fan base.

"It would show that we're still one of the premier, top-five programs in the country."

The Sooners haven’t been a top-five program lately. But in New Orleans they get to find out how good they really are.

And just how far they have to go.

Big 12 lunchtime links

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
12:00
PM ET
All kinds of comedy here, including baby Dana Holgorsen and baby Kliff Kingsbury.


Roughly 90 percent of college football programs would be thrilled to win 10 games in a season. Oklahoma is not one of those programs.

Sharing a Big 12 title? That trophy is a whole lot less satisfying when there are seven others waiting in the trophy case since 2000 that weren't shared with anybody.

"Our expectations are different than everybody else. Everybody’s not Oklahoma," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "When you have Oklahoma across your chest, you expect to win championships, and that’s never going to change here."

He knows firsthand. Stoops helped his brother, coach Bob Stoops, win Oklahoma's seventh national title back in 2000, and the Sooners came up short two more times, once losing in the title game with Mike Stoops in 2003 and again a year later with Stoops coaching at Arizona. Without him coordinating the defense, the Sooners gave up 55 points to USC, more points than any team has ever scored in the BCS National Championship Game.

Arizona fired Mike Stoops six games into the 2011 season, and the Sooners' struggling defense needed an offseason jolt, despite winning 10 games that same season. Mike Stoops returned and brought assistant Tim Kish with him to coach linebackers and help coordinate the defense.

"Sometimes change is good, new ideas are good always, and change is good sometimes," Mike Stoops said. "That happens for whatever reason, and whether it’s complacency or just being stagnant, those things occur. Just trying to reinvent ourselves is something we need to do."

In 2012, there were more late-season defensive struggles after a strong start, but yet again, a 10-win season and a shared Big 12 title weren't enough. Losing three games isn't good enough, and nobody wants to hear that all three losses came to teams that spent time in the top five last season. The Sooners want to get back to competing for national titles, and Bob Stoops went the route of coaching changes to help get Oklahoma back there.

Assistant coaches Jackie Shipp and Bruce Kittle were shown the door, along with offensive line coach James Patton. The Sooners scooped up Bill Bedenbaugh from West Virginia to replace Patton and brought in Jerry Montgomery from Michigan to coach the defensive line. Jay Boulware filled Kittle's spot on the staff after coaching tight ends at Auburn. The Sooners' reboot was complete, and they're working toward results in the spring.

"[They bring] a new perspective in some areas, new ideas. They’re not drastic changes," Mike Stoops said. "Obviously, the coaches we had in here were involved and knew our systems well, but there’s always little changes in technique and little things schematically that can help you, so we’re always looking for fresh ideas."

Ten wins tastes bitter when you're used to winning 11 or 12, which can be the difference between proving yourself as a very good team and a great team. Oklahoma won at least 12 games six times since 2000 and 11 games on three more occasions. Ten wins isn't good enough, and a few former players and one famed coach were more than willing to speak up about it, echoing fan concerns.

Barry Switzer started it in September when he told one local paper that the Sooners "just don't have the talent."

"We’re not as good as we have been," Switzer said. "We don’t have the Tommie Harrises or Gerald McCoys squatting down there in the middle [of the defensive line]."

Offensive lineman Jammal Brown, an All-American who played in Norman from 2000 to '04, said he was "mad as hell" about the Sooners' 28-point Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M to cap the 10-win season, calling the Sooners "soft." CBS analyst Spencer Tillman, a Sooners running back in the '80s, said Oklahoma lost concentration on what made the program great in the first place.

Considering the Sooners let Shipp go at the end of the season, it's hard to believe Bob Stoops didn't agree in part with what Switzer had to say. As for the rest of it?

"We may not be as skilled at some of the positions as we want to be, but our toughness and pride is what made Oklahoma what it is, whether it was Bud Wilkinson or Barry Switzer or Bob Stoops, I think that’s the common thread that goes to being a great team," Mike Stoops said.

"Some of those, from the outside, may have felt like we didn’t have that common thread between us. I never felt that; I always thought our teams played hard and together. They’re certainly entitled to their opinions, you know. We’ve got to look at ourselves, and if it’s true, we need to change it. The things we needed to change, we’re working on changing, and nobody knows our program like we do.

"There’s areas we certainly need to get better at, and we’re aware of those. Some of those take time. Some of those take adjustments each day to get better."

The Sooners lose a four-year starter at quarterback in Landry Jones from last year's team, along with seven starters from Mike Stoops' defense. The task of winning more than 10 games seems difficult in a Big 12 that's deeper than it has ever been.

"We just need to get better, again, individually and schematically and play better across the board and come up with better ideas and a better scheme. We’re not far off when you look at the big picture," Mike Stoops said. "We had a chance to win 12 games, we lost them all late in the game and down the stretch and didn’t make the plays we needed to, but again, we’re not that far off."
With the Red River Rivalry game between No. 15 Texas and No. 13 Oklahoma coming up on Saturday, HornsNation's Carter Strickland and SoonerNation's Jake Trotter answer a few questions.

1. Does OU still have an edge at QB?

Carter Strickland: No. Over the past six games David Ash has actually had the better stats and a better winning percentage, 5-1 to 4-2 for Landry Jones. But the reason OU’s advantage is not as great as is not just because of Ash. Texas has more weapons on offense and is more comfortable getting the ball to the players and letting them create in space.

Barry Switzer talks Red River Rivalry

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
12:30
PM ET
NORMAN, Okla. -- Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who went 9-5-2 against the Longhorns, reminisces with SoonerNation about his Red River Rivalry tenure, and gives his thoughts on this weekend’s OU-Texas game:

SoonerNation: Your most memorable OU-Texas game:
Barry Switzer: The one that sticks out is my first victory against Texas in 1973, which was also my first year as head coach. We scored half-a-hundred on them (OU won 52-13) – the most points ever put on a Darrell Royal team. We had a great football team. It’s fun going into the game knowing we were really better than Texas. I never was concerned. I knew we had a great football team with the Selmon brothers, Rod Shoate, Joe Washington. We had a great offense, a great defense. We had just come off a 7-7 tie at USC. We were so much better, we should have won the game.

[+] EnlargeBarry Switzer
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireFormer Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer says this season's Red River Rivalry game is a toss up.
SN: The best Texas player you ever coached against:
Switzer: Earl Campbell. He had that God-given ability. He was the best in high school, best in college, best in the pros. He did it at every level. Had all the physical talents and toughness. Just gifted. Some people got it, and some people don’t. He had it early on. The Marcus Duprees and Earl Campbells and Adrian Petersons are so gifted and talented, and fortunate to have type of gift.

SN: The second-best Texas player you ever coached against:
Switzer: We dominated them in the 80s, so there wasn’t anyone in that era that concerned us. It’s always the quarterback or running back that makes a difference. Other than Earl, no one else really ever stood out that brought fear into your heart. They didn’t have anyone jumping over the field like a Barry Sanders or Joe Washington, where you’re thinking, ‘Hell, we’ll never get him down.’

SN: The best individual performance by an OU player in the Cotton Bowl you coached:
Switzer: We had a couple of them. I think really for me, defensively (linebackers) Rod Shoate (1974) and Brian Bosworth (1985) had two of the greatest defensive performances. They dominated those games, Shoate one year, Bosworth another.

(Read full post)

Video: Jake Trotter on College Football Live

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
10:00
AM ET
video
Jake Trotter joins "College Football Live" to discuss former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer's criticism of the Sooners.

Video: Switzer says OU not talented enough

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
4:30
PM ET

College Football Live's Chris Cotter is joined by College Football analyst Trevor Matich to discuss comments made by former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer about this year's team.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Blake Bell was named Oklahoma's backup quarterback on Tuesday night. It's not surprising that he has surpassed Drew Allen, but it is surprising that head coach Bob Stoops would announce the move to the media before the season had even started. Still, Bell is now the favorite to start in 2013, when he'll be a redshirt junior.

2. Senior safety Javon Harris called the 2012 Sooners "a more mature team" on Tuesday night. If that's the case with four contributors being suspended -- Stacy McGee, Trey Franks, Jaz Reynolds and Quentin Hayes -- how immature was the 2011 team?

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Book excerpt: The rise of Derland Moore

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
9:00
AM ET
ESPN.com's SoonerNation is running excerpts from Jake Trotter's “I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas,” the first book to detail the Red River Rivalry from the Oklahoma viewpoint, examining the games, moments and heroes Sooners fans love to remember. And those they hate to remember, too. Read the first excerpt from Trotter's book here.

“I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas” is on sale now in Oklahoma bookstores and online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. View the book's Facebook page for more information.

From the chapter, "Red River Heroes We Love," read the excerpt after the jump:

(Read full post)

Florida State became the latest school to ban its players from Twitter. OU head coach Bob Stoops said he’s not inclined to keep his team off Twitter, though it’s clear he’s lost no love for the social media network.

“It’s kind of dumb really,” Stoops said of Twitter during Big 12 media days. “I don’t have much of a deal on it. Except my guys, and I’ve said this – and obviously sometimes they don’t take it to heart – but anything that has to do with our program, that’s just like you had a press conference. (There,) you’re not going to do it. If you’re going to the grocery store, have at it. If it’s something to do with us, I need to approve that.”

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma coach Bob Stoops said a recently-created Twitter account "was a lie."
Stoops’ players have had issues with Twitter in the past. The worst came two years ago when wideout Jaz Reynolds was suspended after making jokes about a shooting on the campus at the University of Texas.

“If they can’t get that, or just if certain guys can’t get that, I’ll just take theirs (away),” Stoops said. “So we’ll see, I don’t know.”

Former OU coach Barry Switzer became the latest to hop on Twitter last week, but don’t expect to Stoops to be following Switzer any time soon.

“I don’t even know the first way to follow anybody, or how it works,” Stoops said. I have nothing to do with that.”

Other OU coaches like basketball coaches Lon Kruger and Sherri Coale and baseball’s Sunny Golloway are on Twitter. Not long ago, the athletic department appeared to have created an account for Stoops, too, before eventually deleting it.

“That wasn’t my page. It was a lie,” Stoops said. “Sometimes people get on and say they’re me, and they’re not me. If anyone is on Twitter saying it’s me, you can bet that it isn’t.”
NORMAN, Okla. -- Even with its best player on the sidelines in tears, Oklahoma didn't know how bad it could get in the season's final month.

No player in the history of FBS caught more passes than Ryan Broyles. When the Sooners' receivers lost their leader and most productive member, one-loss Oklahoma went from Big 12 title contender gunning for an NCAA-most ninth BCS bowl appearance to Insight Bowl participant.

"I just felt like we didn’t know what to do once Ryan went down, to tell you the truth," receiver Kenny Stills said. "We never really saw that coming, and it hit us really hard."

[+] EnlargeKenny Stills
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiKenny Stills and the Sooners receivers will try to replace Ryan Broyles' production this fall.
After the loss, quarterback Landry Jones was shut out of the end zone for the season's final three games along with five interceptions. Oklahoma's sure-handed unit suddenly turned shaky, dropping passes more frequently than it had all season.

The Sooners started slow in a win over Iowa State, but were embarrassed in the regular season finale at Oklahoma State with the conference title hanging in the balance.

"We’re disappointed at the way we finished last season, I don’t think there’s any question," said co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jay Norvell, "and I think that’s motivated our guys to come out and really prove themselves and to step their game up."

That's been the task for Oklahoma's receivers this spring. After Broyles' injury, Stills moved to an unfamiliar slot position, and his discomfort showed. Despite Broyles' presence, Stills managed to top 100 yards receiving three times in his first six appearances of the season.

When the Sooners' needed him to replace Broyles' production, he didn't top 75 yards receiving.

"We were figuring out what to do with different people in different positions and now I feel like the spring’s helped us figure out what we want to do," Stills said.

He's playing some inside and some outside during the spring, but his preference is simple.

"Wherever the ball’s coming, I want to go," Stills said.

He'll get this offseason to learn how to live life without Broyles, whether it's leading off the field or producing on it. He'll also have plenty of reinforcements. Freshman Trey Metoyer has turned heads in the spring and coach Bob Stoops said he could "absolutely" start.

Come fall, freshmen Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard (two of the nation's top 10 receivers in the 2012 class) and Derrick Woods will join the team, along with highly touted juco transfer Courtney Gardner.

"Competition is the best motivator that you have. That’s Oklahoma," Norvell said. "You hear stories about back in the day when all the running backs were here and coach [Barry] Switzer was here, and there’d be another guy come in, and the way guys looked at each other.

"Good players, they have a lot of pride. And I just think we’ve tried to create that environment. We have a lot of guys that can make plays and that also push each other. I think guys get excited when they see somebody come in that has ability like that and it can help the team."

Norvell's message to his receivers this spring was accountability. Replacing Broyles is up to more than just Stills.

"We’ve talked a lot about (accountability), and I think we have to do a better job of that as a unit and as a team, playing hard for each other, and I don’t think we always did that, especially at the end of last year," Norvell said. "That’s what being a part of a team is, it’s the most special thing you can ever be a part of, especially because you know somebody has your back, and that’s exactly where we started this spring."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Room For Improvement For FSU
Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler break down Florida State's performance against Oklahoma State.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video