Oklahoma Sooners: James Patton

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."

Weak and Strong: Oklahoma Sooners

March, 25, 2013
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: Oklahoma.

Strongest position: Offensive line.

Don't discount Landry Jones' experience and decision-making, but Oklahoma threw the ball 571 times last year -- more than everyone in the Big 12 but Texas Tech -- and gave up just 15 sacks, third-fewest in the Big 12. The Sooners have good depth at running back but not a true gamebreaker, and the offense still averaged 4.85 yards a carry, third-most in the Big 12. Oklahoma dealt with a ton of injuries on the offensive line and at the end of the season, was basically reduced to five guys who could play and depended on true freshman Ty Darlington at times, too. The unit loses tackle Lane Johnson, but Gabe Ikard is the Big 12's best offensive lineman and returns alongside Adam Shead, Bronson Irwin and Tyrus Thompson. This unit perhaps could have been better than it was in 2011, which is part of the reason you saw position coach James Patton shown the door in favor of WVU's Bill Bedenbaugh, but it should be a big strength yet again in 2013. I'd say it's definitely the Sooners' best overall position. The Sooners fought through the loss of center Ben Habern and guard Tyler Evans in preseason camp last year, and Evans is out again after injuring his knee this spring. Here's betting Oklahoma fills the void yet again.

Weakest position: Defensive line

If you watched the Cotton Bowl, you know all you need to know about this position for the Sooners. Texas A&M had arguably the nation's best offensive line, but the Sooners D-line looked like a bunch of high schoolers for much of the game, applying zero pressure to Johnny Manziel and letting him get loose for a record-breaking game in a blowout loss. The Sooners lose four seniors along the line, leaving behind just Chuka Ndulue, Jordan Phillips and Mike Onuoha as contributors from last year's D-line that helped Oklahoma rank just 108th nationally in tackles for loss and 94th nationally in run defense. Oklahoma needs a big upgrade at this position to return to prominence, and I'm not sure the answer to the Sooners being as good along the front line of the defense is coming anywhere but on the recruiting trail.

More Weak and Strong.
Every Friday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • Two prospects from a north Texas high school will be on campus this weekend. One is the son of a former Sooner.
  • ESPN Watch List OT is building a relationship with OU's new assistant.
  • A Dallas safety target talks about being a lifelong Sooners fan.
  • OU is hosting a defensive tackle this weekend who's looking to see what the Sooners are all about.
  • An ESPN Watch List safety is visiting, too, but maybe not for junior day.
  • How the Sooners lost out on their top defensive tackle target.
  • More on ESPN Watch List DE Deondre Clark's decision to drop OU ... for now.
  • More on OU basketball target Frank Booker and what the coaches are telling him.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Position breakdown: Offensive line 

February, 20, 2013
NORMAN. Okla. -- The players on the offensive line will be largely the same in 2013. The coach directing them will not.

One of the first moves Bob Stoops made after signing day was firing Bruce Kittle and James Patton and replacing them with Bill Bedenbaugh, who was formerly at West Virginia.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- After back-to-back three-loss seasons, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is shaking things up again.

Jackie Shipp, Stoops’ longtime defensive tackles coach, will not be returning to Sooners’ staff in 2013, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com.

The Shipp news comes on the brink of Monday’s announced departure of offensive line coach James Patton, who exited the OU staff to take an assistant job with Indiana.

Shipp is OU’s fourth coaching change in the last two years. Last year, Mike Stoops replaced Willie Martinez as defensive backs coach, and then after defensive coordinator Brent Venables bolted for Clemson, Mike Stoops’ former Arizona assistant Tim Kish was brought in to coach linebackers.

Unlike Patton, Shipp had been with the Sooners since Stoops’ first season in 1999. He recruited and developed two of the best defensive tackles in Big 12 history in Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, who both went on to be first-round draft picks.

But in the last few years, the level of performance at defensive tackle has dipped. The Sooners have had not had a first-team All-Big 12 defensive tackle since McCoy in 2009. And underscoring the defensive tackles’ lack of disruption this last season, the Sooners ranked 94th in run defense and 104th in tackles for loss.

OU signee unfazed by coaching move 

February, 11, 2013
Oklahoma didn’t sign any interior offensive linemen for its 2013 recruiting class, so the departure of former line coach to James Patton to Indiana on Monday didn’t resonate in a huge way among incoming recruits.

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OL coach James Patton headed to Indiana

February, 11, 2013
Interior offensive line coach James Patton, who joined Oklahoma in 2006, is leaving the Sooners to become an assistant at Indiana, both schools announced Monday.

Patton, who is reuniting with former OU assistant Kevin Wilson, will be the recruiting coordinator, special teams coordinator and assistant defensive line coach for the Hoosiers.

"We appreciate the contributions that James made to our program over the past seven seasons," Bob Stoops said in a release. "He was a valued member of a staff that helped us win five Big 12 championships. We wish James and his family the best in this opportunity with Kevin Wilson at Indiana."

Talk about the Sooners' job opening on our forum. Insider

Three-star commit comfortable with OU 

January, 13, 2013
There was a different feeling for three-star offensive tackle Christian Daimler (Houston/Stratford) walking around the Oklahoma campus this weekend.

It wasn’t his first time, but it was a much better time. Daimler made an unofficial visit with his father during the summer where Daimler admitted he fell in love with the Sooners.

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Oklahoma assistant coach James Patton told three-star offensive tackle Christian Daimler (Houston/Stratford) to be patient.

Daimler made an unofficial visit to OU during the summer, and Patton told Daimler and his father that it might be a while until the Sooners got around to making their evaluation.

It did take a while, but it all worked out. OU offered Daimler on Tuesday night, and he flipped his commitment from Arizona State to OU on Wednesday night.

“I trusted Coach Patton and took him at his word,” Daimler said. “I couldn’t be happier that I did that.”

Daimler committed to the Sun Devils in the summer but said he fell in love with Norman, Okla., during his unofficial visit. He said the area exceeded his expectations.

(Read full post)

Oklahoma could be facing a stern test when the Sooners face Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday. Red Raiders defensive tackles Delvon Simmons and Kerry Hyder present a quality duo of interior defensive linemen.

“Their interior linemen are the best we’ve seen thus far,” offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. “They like to rush up the field pretty hard, they’re pretty good athletes. IT’s the best front we’ve seen thus far form an athletic standpoint.”

[+] EnlargeAustin Woods
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesAustin Woods, Oklahoma's deep snapper on field goals and a backup center, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in the spring.
Hyder leads Texas Tech with five tackles for loss and three sacks as he has been one of the most productive defensive tackles in the Big 12. Simmons, a sophomore, has been very solid alongside Hyder.

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John Michael McGee talks OU departure 

August, 20, 2012
For years, offensive guard John Michael McGee was told the same thing over and over. McGee, who grew up a huge basketball fan, never really liked football. But coaches told him repeatedly, “you’ll like it eventually.”

McGee hoped it might happen at the high school level, but it never materialized. And after his first summer camp and couple of days of fall camp at Oklahoma, McGee realized it simply wasn’t going to come.

Instead of wasting any more of his time or the school’s time, McGee, a 2012 Sooners signee who graduated from Texarkana Texas High, elected to leave the Sooners on Aug. 6 and has enrolled at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. With a torn ACL to Tyler Evans and freshman offensive guard John Michael McGee apparently quitting OU on Monday, the Sooners can most definitely be in the market for an interior offensive lineman. James Patton had been giving the same spiel to a few recruits about how OU was really high on them but had no room. Now? There should be some room. Two names to single out are three-star linemen Rob Boyd (Vian, Okla./Vian) and Zach Hannon (Kansas City, Mo./Rockhurst). Both have visited OU and had a lot of positive things to say about the Sooners despite the lack of an offer.

2. Bob Stoops shrugged off the question Monday, but it has to feel a little bit like OU is snake-bitten right about now. The Sooners looked like they were adding a huge piece to the puzzle in Penn State wide receiver transfer Justin Brown but that has been tempered by what could be a season-ending injury to Evans. And offensive line, which looked like it had some depth, can now ill afford another injury following the losses of Dylan Dismuke and Ben Habern in the last week, too.

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The loss of Tyler Evans is a tough blow for Oklahoma. The senior guard, who started 25 games the past two seasons, would have brought stability and consistency to the Sooners' offensive interior.

Now, with Evans lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, OU will turn to junior Bronson Irwin to help fill the void. And the Sooners' depth in the offensive interior, which appeared to be a strength on Aug. 1, has become a potential concern in Norman.

Irwin appears prepared to handle the challenge of replacing Evans even though he hasn’t started a game in crimson and cream. He saw spot duty in 2011 after playing himself out of a redshirt season in 2010. He arrived in Norman as a highly regarded recruit from Mustang, Okla., after choosing the Sooners over offers from Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and others.

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Updated at 8:10 p.m.: Oklahoma announced Monday night that Tyler Evans suffered a torn ACL in his right knee.

NORMAN, Okla. -- Another day, another Oklahoma offensive lineman goes down. Bob Stoops confirmed Monday after practice that guard Tyler Evans suffered a significant knee injury. Evans is getting an MRI today, and Stoops said could have torn a ligament.

Evans has been a solid performer since winning a starting job his freshman year, with 29 career starts. According to Stoops, Evans injured the knee on the first day of practice.

[+] EnlargeTyler Evans
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireSenior guard Tyler Evans is having an MRI on on his knee today.
One week after losing Ben Habern to a career-ending neck injury, the Sooners are without another significant cog on the line. Bronson Irwin, whom the Sooners coaches have praised the last two weeks, steps into a starting job at right guard. Irwin has filled a reserve role the last two seasons, but really impressed the staff with his work in the offseason. With Gabe Ikard sliding to center to replace Habern, sophomore Adam Shead is in the starting lineup at left guard.

  • The Sooners also might lose another offensive lineman in guard John Michael McGee. McGee was given the day off Monday to reflect on whether he wants to stay part of the team. McGee tweeted several times Monday morning, suggesting he was going back home to Texarkana.

  • Cale Gundy said he has had a chance to watch the newcomers catch punts. Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal could help there. Gundy, who runs OU's punt return units, expects them to make an impact at some point during their careers, but does that mean we should expect to see them back there in El Paso?

    The wildcard is Justin Brown. He's a veteran returner and it's a skill he can step right in and help immediately (i.e. no learning curve within the system). I'd expect Brown to handle most of the return duties with Shepard and Neal providing depth at the position. Regardless, the Sooners return game could take a step up.

  • Guard Adam Shead said the Sooners don't feel snakebitten with the injuries up front. It's a next-man-up mentality and OU will move forward with the same expectations. In a matter of days, Shead has gone from possible starter to the anchor of the Sooners guard position.

  • Running back Brennan Clay is really excited about adding Damien Williams to OU's RB corps. Williams played at a rival high school in San Diego, so Clay knows his talent better than most.

    Gundy, the Sooners running backs coach, also had high praise for Williams and said the junior college transfer has a good chance to earn some touches this season.

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  • While the chances he plays this season are slim, the Sooners are high on the potential of 6-foot-9, 325-pound redshirt freshman offensive tackle Derek Farniok.

    “What really impresses me about him is how hard he works,” said Daryl Williams, who is the favorite to start at right tackle. “When I first saw him I'll be honest I thought he was gonna be lazy or not be able to move, but he's really a hard worker. One of the hardest workers on the team.”

    Farniok’s brother, Tom, started 13 games for Iowa State as a redshirt freshman last season. It will be tough for Farniok to do the same and crack OU’s lineup in 2012. Lane Johnson is an automatic to open the season as the starting left tackle, and Williams is likely to start right tackle, where he started the Sooners’ first game last season. OU also is bringing in junior-college transfer Will Latu, and Tyrus Thompson is entering his third year in the program. But it might not be long before Farniok, who hails from Sioux Falls, S.D., becomes a factor, too.

    "He's worked his butt off this offseason," said offensive line coach James Patton. "Derek has want-to. He's just got to keep practicing. He's a young guy, a redshirt freshman, and is very green from a fundamental standpoint. He's just got to learn our stuff, and he will.”


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