Not so simplified

NORMAN, Okla. — There has been a common theme since defensive coordinator Mike Stoops returned from Arizona in the offseason: simplicity.

Simplifying the defense and eliminating some of the schematic complexities that former defensive coordinator Brent Venables so heavily used while running his defense at OU.

But Stoops wants to make one thing clear about this whole simplification theme.

"You know, how simple, a lot of people say, ‘Well, you're gonna be simple,'" Stoops said. "Well, we're simplifying things, but you can only simplify things to a point where your players have to be able to execute those things, too."

That is to say, he and new linebackers coach Tim Kish, who also coached at Arizona last year, as well as the rest of the defensive staff will, indeed, shake things up in some certain ways to make them easier.

Still, though, only so much can be done to simplify the defense and after that it's just up to the players to produce on the field.

And that's a realization members of the defense have come to in recent days.

"Whether you want to say it's simplified, he puts us in those [situations], you make it a lot better," said strong safety Javon Harris. "You have to make those plays. You know, we stress that upon each other."

Linebacker Tom Wort, who has been battling some minor nicks so far throughout fall camp, echoed those sentiments, adding the calls will always have some complexity to them.

"This simplicity thing, I mean, it's still a Division I defense playbook," Wort said. "As far as simple as you want to call that, I mean, it's still hard to learn and you're gonna have to learn it and study it. So, you know, it may be simpler than what we had before, but it's still a Division I playbook."

Perhaps, then, the whole simplicity theme has been overblown.

The fact of the matter, though, is what it comes down to is better fundamentals and fewer mental breakdowns.

"[Mike] said the other day, you can only simplify it so much, as much as offenses allow you to," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "So, it's again, I think, as much as anything it's trying to make it simpler for our guys to have fewer mental mistakes. And that'll help us."

All the while guys must emerge as playmakers on the field as well.

"I think we have possibilities of players that can be, that we need to turn into difference makers," Stoops said. "We need some guys that will step up and be leaders and become difference makers. And that's really what we need to be an effective group. We need some guys to step up."

Wort and free safety Tony Jefferson are among those.

Cornerback Aaron Colvin, who moved over from safety in the offseason, is another.

The guys up front, including defensive ends David King and R.J. Washington and defensive tackles Casey Walker, Jamarkus McFarland and Stacy McGee, additionally come to mind.

"It's going to be interesting to see which of the guys are going to step up and have breakout years," Mike said. "And we need several of them to do that."

They must in order to improve from a unit a year ago that got blasted for more than 500 yards five times, including more than 600 on one occasion.

Don't, and it could be a reoccurrence of the same issues a year ago that contributed to three losses and this so-called simplification will be irrelevant.

And that's exactly what Sooner Nation hopes to avoid.

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