A heavy emphasis

NORMAN, Okla. — Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops came back to OU from his eight-year head coaching stint at Arizona with a mission: to reestablish this Sooner defense as one of the most talented and productive ones in the nation.

No doubt, a Brent Venables-led defense ranked just 55th overall in the NCAA, surrendering 376.2 yards per game.

It allowed 4,890 total yards and 5.15 yards per play.

But more specifically, the Sooner pass defense got raked for 3,139 yards on its way to a 79th place ranking in that category.

OU allowed 12.2 yards per completion and 6.6 yards per attempt through the air.

A large portion of that obviously could be shouldered on a secondary that got beat time after time, most openly exposed in a 45-38 last-second loss to Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

Griffin torched the Sooners for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the contest that eliminated them from national championship contention.

All of that has contributed to a major focus Stoops has taken in the offseason with his defense.

He's out on the trails hard for defensive backs, a nickel of them, to be exact.

"We have to sign five quality players in the back end," Stoops said during spring ball. "We have to sign a class of quality players that can come in and play at this level."

Now, that doesn't mean he doesn't trust his current crop of players in the secondary.

And it doesn't mean the fact that three seniors in safety Javon Harris and corners Lamar Harris and Demontre Hurst leaving doesn't at least weigh into that focus.

It simply means the emphasis is heavier this offseason as composed to others.

The Sooners are poised to add five DB's for 2013, and he'll see to that.

They've already took a step in that direction by landing Tulsa East Central HS cornerback Stanvon Taylor's commitment a couple weeks ago.

Taylor, a 6-foot, 173-pound, four-star corner ranked 20th in the country, became the first commit back on May 4.

But there are a number of other guys the Sooner coaching staff is really intently keying in on.

They've been out at practice recently to watch Cibolo Steele (Texas) HS four-star safety Erik Huhn and took a trip to California to offer four Central High East Campus players, including Hatari Byrd, Johnny Johnson, L.J. Moore and even 2012 Notre Dame commit and transfer Tee Shepard.

Three of those are four-star players, and Shepard was a five-star and the fourth-ranked corner in last year's class.

In all, 24 offers have been extended for players Stoops hopes to land on the back end.

Only three of those are currently committed, including Taylor.

So, that's 21 others OU can go after.

Both five-star safeties, Su'a Cravens and Priest Willis, are still on the board.

Both five-star corners, Vernon Hargreaves III and Kendall Fuller, are also still available.

Not to mention a plethora of other four-star safeties, including Max Redfield, Tahaan Goodman and Leon McQuay, along with a pair of three-stars, Tyler Foreman and George Baltimore, are uncommitted.

So, too, are four-stars Maurice Smith, Cole Luke (he said OU is standing out) and Derek Babiash, and three-stars Chevoski Collins, Adrian Baker and Anthony Covington, all in addition to those already named and all of which also own OU offers.

Needless to say, there's plenty of talent on the board and talent Stoops is seriously interested in landing in a Crimson and Cream uniform.

Four more are on the way out of this group, so stay tuned for the next one.

It's likely right around the corner.

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