Your use of linebackers this year without any stars, kinda was it a feeling out process?
Stoops: Well, I mean, the same guys played the whole year. I mean, it felt its way out. We didn't change guys.
It didn't seemed to be as involved. And I know you went with different defensive things. It didn't seem like those guys got better as the season went along. Corey Nelson, we used to talk about him as one of your best players. It didn't see like he really fit into [it].
Stoops: Well, again, a lot of it depends on the styles. You know what I mean? When people are deploring four wide receivers, you know, it's a big part of it. It's hard to go man if you have a linebacker out there. Guarding a wide receiver out there doesn't always correlate. So, they do in your zone coverages. They don't in your man and then you're telling them what you're playing whoever's deployed out there. So, it's not as easy as that. But those guys are good kids and they've worked hard, and I think they all have good futures. You know, so a lot of it, again, depends on the way people are playing you offensively.
Do you think that Tom's frustrated with this season and it kinda led him to deciding to go ahead and try the NFL?
Stoops: Well, I don't know. You know? I don't know what that means. I mean, he's no more frustrated than anybody else. In the end, some of those other guys are pretty good players, too.
You know what a competitive spirit he is when he's standing over there on the sideline, he's not getting to play. Surely that's frustrating?
Stoops: As it isn't for who? I think they all want to play. Don't they?
Yeah, but I'm saying he played 13 games the year before or whatever…
Stoops: Well, again, I can't speak to that. In the end, this is a competitive world we live in and any guy that isn't playing wants to be playing. He's not the only one.
Were you surprised he decided to leave the program?
Stoops: I was, yeah.
Did you get a chance to talk to him about it or was the decision made?
Stoops: I did. But the decision pretty much was made.
Is it tougher or is it maybe different for guys, temporary players these days to be yelled at, to get criticized on the sideline during a game, screamed at or whatever? Is it tougher than it used to be because you hear from guys like Jammal Brown? You hear from guys like Dusty [Dvoracek], guys who played for you previously who didn't mind it and they grew from it? Guys nowadays seem to shy away from it.
Stoops: Well, again, not all of them. You know, just like your kids, some of them. All children are different. You know?
Speaking of Jammal Brown, he and a couple other former players were pretty critical of the program after the game. Do you have any response?
Stoops: No. Have an opinion on their opinion? Why would I care about that? So…
Is it disappointing?
Stoops: Probably yeah, sure it is that guys like that [say that]. I don't know what it is, so I don't know how to speak to it but in the end—but I should say not surprising in today's world. You know, everybody got something to say and a venue to do it.
If it is, if there are more guys now—maybe this is just my opinion, I don't know—If there are more guys that are more sensitive to negative intensity, do you have to as a coach pull back a little bit if you got guys running and hiding? This is me again going to the NFL, whatever it is, when their options may not be that great. You got guys that are leaving or…
Stoops: Don't. That's to insinuate that's why a guy is leaving, so that shouldn't be phrased that way to me in asking me a question. Then, I would be agreeing with you and that isn't true.
Maybe I'm trying to encompass a lot of things into this question. Do you as a coach have to back off, or do you see Mike go after somebody and say, ‘He's maybe softer than Teddy Lehman was,' or something like that?
Stoops: I think everybody you have to try and relate with players as best you can in the best way they'll take it. But also, you know, you don't need to accept things that you have covered and are plain as day and allow it to be and all of the sudden that's OK. It's not OK. So, it's like in kids today in a lot of cases it's OK for them to misbehave and their parents say, ‘That's OK.' Or they get mad at the teacher who corrects them when it should be OK. Or it isn't OK, you know, and here's why it isn't OK. So, that's in everyday life, right, with all kids?
One of the calling cards of your defense over the years has been an All-Conference caliber of defensive tackle or even an All-American caliber defensive tackle. Do you see potentially going forward one of those guys in the program or coming in that could develop into that kind of player?
Stoops: Hopefully. I mean, you always want them. You're always trying to find them for sure.
Are they hard to find?
Stoops: Well, obviously.
I thought one of the most interesting stats I saw was your defense last year, I think, was 19th in tackles for loss. This year you're like 112th. What does that say about your defense. Doesn't it say something about how they affect the game?
Stoops: A lot of it—were you here earlier? It was asked earlier about tackles for loss. I said because a year ago we blitzed a lot more we got a lot more tackles for loss and we gave up a lot more big plays. So, that's sometimes when you blitz a lot-and we've seen other teams blitz us and us have some big plays, too. Now, can we find a better balance? Hopefully, you know, where we can still blitz more or do some things stunt wise and get some more tackles for loss and still not give up big plays.
How big of a difference is it to have a dominating defensive tackle versus a dominating cornerback, free safety? Is it? Do you have to cover up some things when you don't have, or do you have to cover up less things when you have that kind of defensive tackle like a Gerald McCoy or a Tommie Harris?
Stoops: I don't think it—I mean, those guys just matter in that they can create some things on their own, you know, pressures and tackles for loss and things like that without having to stunt. But it doesn't cover anybody up. In the end, you still have to, those other guys still have to make plays. And a great safety a lot of times makes a lot of huge plays. The same thing when you have a great linebacker, they cover up a lot of things, too. You know, so I don't know. It's just they all have their place.
It seemed to me, Bob, that one big difference between this year's [and last] is you didn't get near the pass rush from your ends that you got in recent years?
Stoops: Well, that's fair to say, sure.
Is that something that needs to be taken care of in the future, you got a lot of young guys that can do that?
Stoops: Hopefully. We feel we have good guys coming up, so hopefully we'll get more of that but definitely we lost two guys that are playing in the NFL and whether those guys do or not, we'll see. But in the end, it wasn't as productive. That was obvious.
Trey Metoyer was a guy we saw last spring who really caught everybody's eye in the spring game and for whatever reason as a true freshman didn't get as much playing time or perform at the level that he expected. Is he still a guy—you see some freshmen it takes another year or two—that can still develop into that kind of player for you?
Stoops: We're very excited about Trey and he works hard. He's got a good attitude and, yeah, things didn't quite click as fast as we thought overall. And then you had some guys with experience that we come about with Justin Brown and then Jalen Saunders. You know, so those guys had played a lot of football. So, I think Trey's got a really bright future and believe it'll happen for him. You know, it just needs sometimes it just needs a little more time.
Can you see Jalen playing on the outside some, too?
Stoops: Oh yeah.
I think he did that at Fresno his first two years?
Stoops: Yeah, he can go either place, sure.
In a sense, Brown sort of took Trey's spot outside from what Jay [Norvell] has been telling us all year, Justin was instrumental in sort of keeping, mentoring Trey, I guess. He showed us some things. But you've talked repeatedly about the value you got from Justin Brown in his one year.
Stoops: Yeah, he's a great leader in his own way. It's hard to be in front of the team when you're new, but, I mean, as far as in his group, I thought he did a great job just with maturity and businesslike approach and working hard and he did have a lot of, at different times, things to say to Trey.
Those two guys, Jalen and Justin, get here like they did from other schools. I don't recall ever, certainly not here, Division I guys coming in and making such a big impact basically saving an offense like those guys did for you this year. It was amazing. Is that your take on it as well that we can never kinda get those guys again, or are you now more on the lookout for guys who [do that]? And I know that Penn State was a different deal.
Stoops: Yeah, that was very unusual circumstances, but in the end you're always aware of what other opportunities are out there. You try to be and if they fit you or not.
Is Jaz Reynolds a guy that can still help this team?
Stoops: Possibly. But, you know, he'll determine that by how his work ethic, his actions off the field, all of those kinds of things. So he'll have a chance to, but it's fair to say it won't be real easy.
What are your plans for him this spring? Is it just kinda rolling into…
Stoops: See what he's able to do, yeah. He'll have to earn it.
That goes for Trey and Quentin as well, Trey Franks and Quentin Hayes?
They're still part of the program, but they've got a lot of work ahead of them it sounds like. Is that fair to say?
Stoops: Don't have much room for error.
Joe Powell fit in that category also?
Stoops: He's not here.
He's not here at all?
It seems like offensively you're in a lot better shape breaking in a new quarterback than, say, you were in 2009 as far as the pieces around him. Does it feel that way for you?
Stoops: Yeah, probably. More experience around him. I think that's always a bigger factor than anything. If the guys around you operate well to help you, it's important. So, definitely and I think even though Blake's passes overall have been limited, just the action he's had the last two years of getting hit and being in critical situations and all of that I think matters, you know, in his development, too.
After the first couple weeks you almost abandoned the tight end position and kinda went to that four wide set and Millard at tight end at times. Is that the way it's going to be next year, or do you see tight end maybe being a bigger part of the offense?
Stoops: I see it being a bigger part. I think it was more the inexperience. We tried it and there were too many [issues]. Just overall didn't feel they were ready to do, to play at the level we needed, I think, more than anything. And then the other [thing] the experience that the receivers all had and as odd as it sounds to say because of where we started, you know, with them, they were so productive and doing so well we felt that was taking advantage of our personnel and experience the best.
Your 11 best players were four receivers…
Stoops: Well, part of it, yeah. So, in the end and the 20 set's awfully good with Trey Millard in there. And Trey evolved into playing tight end, too, and does it well. So, that part of it to me was equally as good. But I do envision it. I like our young guys and the guys coming up, so I do want our tight end packages to be back, more involved definitely.
Before the season, you said you wanted to get Trey Millard more touches. He ended up averaging about the same as last year just over around four. Is there anything you can do to get him more involved or because he's such a vital part of the blocking scheme?
Stoops: Yeah, and it's fair to say the year before we weren't as productive offensively. This year we were. So, it worked this year meaning we didn't have to get him more touches. So, we get him involved and it's always part of their thinking, you know, so it's just hard to do a whole lot more with the spot he's in. But we always look for it and we'll keep doing that because we feel he's one of our best players.
There's a guy on the radio who thinks you should move him to the linebacker position.
Stoops: He'd be a good one. I don't listen to the radio, but…
I think it's the guy sitting to your left right here…
Stoops: Oh, Berry? He's got a good idea.
If you can't spare him on offense, just play him both ways…
Stoops: Yeah. That would go real well in the no huddle world, wouldn't it? He'd get about 200 snaps a game.