Stoops, Sooners Are Big 12 Favorites

DALLAS, Texas – Oklahoma is the media favorite to win the Big 12 this season. The Sooners weren't an overwhelming favorite, but they would certainly qualify as solid after receiving 32 of 41 first-place votes. Yet heavy is the head expected to wear the crown, and Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops got to answer plenty of questions Monday from those wanting to know just how good his team can be.

One aspect of those questions had to do with four-year starter Landry Jones, who really struggled last season after the injury to "go to" wide receiver Ryan Broyles. Did Stoops ask Jones to improve on any area in particular this summer?

"I didn't ask him to have to improve on anything," answered Stoops. "I asked about 10 guys around him ... to improve. Kind of like I said, everybody (needs to improve). (Did) Landry struggle? No, he didn't. The offense struggled.

"He had more dropped passes in the last three games, maybe -- we couldn't even keep track of how many. Didn't run the football as effectively as we needed to at all. All of that goes together. And so to me, it's more of an issue of the offense and the offense around him than it is him."

The key position for that improvement is wide receiver where Stoops suspended a pair of returning experienced players leaving Kenny Stills, newcomer Trey Metoyer, and even younger new faces to step up.

"That's going to be a big part of what we're doing here in two-a-days," said Stoops of finding the answers at receiver. "Two guys I know that were awfully (good), Kenny Stills has been a mainstay for us for a number of years, and we were expecting Kenny to have a great year. And Tre Walker is a guy we didn't have a year ago that had a great spring consistently in every practice, in every scrimmage we had, really showed up, made competitive plays. So he's another guy that we're going to really count on.

"And then from there it's going to be we're going to have to see because we're not able to work with the players in the summer. And a lot of these guys are new, some of the young high school receivers we have in, and then with the addition of some junior college guys. So we've got a lot of work to do there. But I believe there's talent there to work with."

Another question is running back where Dominique Whaley attempts to return from a serious leg injury that occurred last season at Kansas State. Whaley is back working out and has even been mentioned as dominating on the pick-up basketball courts on the OU campus.

"Dominique is a guy that's trained well," added the OU head coach. "He's been cleared to do everything. So he's out there running and training and I'm not able to work with him, so it's a little bit tough.

"And I don't think Dom even knows until you get the pads on make that sudden cut, is he going to feel comfortable doing it and all. He says he feels really good and he's working well. But, again, until you get out there it's going to be -- it's kind of hard to say.

"The other guys, Brennan Clay, Roy Finch, have been mainstays, have been good football players for us. Hopefully they can continue to do that or have better years and contribute. And we've got a bunch of young guys that are all in Damien Williams, a junior college guy, and a couple of young freshmen that are really talented players. So it will be fun to get out there in those first (practices), that first week to start bringing those guys along."

The most important newcomer on the defensive side of the ball is actually a retread as Mike Stoops returns as coordinator. The former Arizona head coach has brought his fire and brimstone back to the OU defensive side, and the head coach, who sees things the same way 99 percent of the time, is comfortable with Mike back leading his defense.

"I'm excited to have Mike back for a number of reasons, not only personally, but professionally. When we've worked together, it's been pretty positive, when you look at our years either competing at Iowa together as players but also the years at Kansas State coaching defense together, his first, whatever, five, six years with us at Oklahoma up to 2003," explained Stoops.

"We did pretty well overall. And so Mike can only do so much, though, just like any coach can. Players ultimately are the ones that win and lose for you. But I do believe in the last couple of years, for whatever reason -- and we've really looked at it -- that our defense hasn't been quite as strong as what we've been used to in our first 10, 12 years. So hopefully we can make fewer mental mistakes in some areas and be a little sharper in what we're doing to play more consistently and better defense. So that's what Mike will be working hard on. And I've got obviously a lot of faith in him."

Stoops has a lot of faith in his team and he was very comfortable in his interviews on Monday. When Stoops is comfortable that usually is reason for concern for the rest of the Big 12.

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