NEW ORLEANS – The Oklahoma coaching staff realized it needed to make changes with its defense. The way things were going in college football, the natural progression of offenses, the Sooners had to adapt or get left behind.
What better program to look to for help than Alabama, the undisputed best program in the nation of the last five years? That's exactly what OU did in moving from a 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4 and 3-3-5 defensive set.
It has paid off for the Sooners on the field, but it might make things a little more difficult on the field in the 2014 AllState Sugar Bowl on Thursday night.
Everything OU is going to throw at the Crimson Tide, at least a lot of the designs, Alabama is certainly going to be ready for it.
"We're going to have to try to change some things a little bit to try to create some different illusions," OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "But again, it's stuff they'll be familiar with."
The change didn't happen overnight as Mike Stoops explained it was already in the process of happening before he came back following the 2011 season.
It's also not all that unusual to seek advice and guidance on things like schematic changes. As much as OU has looked for help with its defense and the move to a zone read offense, the Sooners have been pivotal in helping other programs expand as well.
Looking back now, the Stoops brothers have no regrets asking Alabama coaches Nick Saban and Kirby Smart for advice.
"You always look at people that are successful," Mike Stoops said. "We all kind of steal and try to emulate other people. And certainly Alabama and Coach Saban and Kirby have at the forefront of defense and have shown a lot of defense in what they do."
It hasn't been a completely smooth road as the Sooners have had some problems and defensive breakdowns. But the numbers are an indicator of things going in the right direction.
OU averaged 235 rushing yards per game and allowed 138. The Sooners limited opponents to 198 passing yards per game and had a plus-five turnover ratio this season. The Sooners also had 26 sacks compared to giving up just 14 and allowed 21.3 points per game.
"It's information we tried to curtail to our system and how we wanted to make it unique with our own system," Mike Stoops said.