Secondary flying under Kerry Cooks banner

No more separate meetings. The CBs and safeties are together in one room at OU under Kerry Cooks.

The No. 1 ingredient for success in the secondary is communication. The cornerbacks and safeties have to be on the same page.

That was clearly not the case for Oklahoma during the 2014 season. Sometimes they weren’t on the same chapter or even reading the same book.

There were a lot of shaking heads, utter confusion as the Sooners secondary was burned repeatedly. Changes were necessary.

Enter Kerry Cooks, who is taking over after multiple years at Notre Dame. There is no longer a cornerbacks coach and a safeties coach. There is just a Coach Cooks.

“Coming out of high school that’s kind of what we did as far as meeting as corners and safeties together,” defensive back Steven Parker said. “Whenever I came here, it was a little different that we didn’t.

“For us to get back in there as one is definitely going to create that nature that we can all learn the defense together and we can all communicate better in the film room and outside the film room.”

It’s the same mentality with the offensive line. When Bill Bedenbaugh arrived two years ago, gone were the days of interior linemen coaches and tackle coaches. One banner, under Bedenbaugh, and the Sooners have thrived in that environment.

That’s the hope for the secondary. Parker said the secondary has taken what happened in 2014 very personal. They understand they played a significant role in the disappointing 8-5 campaign. Today’s a new day, it’s time to eat. And Cooks is going to help them get there.

“He’s a laidback guy,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “He doesn’t yell too much. He’s professional about everything he does, and he expects us to be the same way whether it’s on the field or off the field. He’s a really good coach, and I’m excited to be able to work with him.”

You can’t have a coach who is too calm all the time just like you can’t have a coach who is screaming all the time. The Sooners have to find the balance, a balance that was sorely lacking last season.

It might be too strong to say the OU secondary had tuned out with Mike Stoops and Bobby Jack Wright, but the connection needed wasn’t there. The communication needed wasn’t there.

Wright has retired, while Stoops has moved to coaching outside linebackers. Letting Stoops be with the outside backers should give him more freedom to focus on running the overall defense and let Cooks work his magic.

“Me and Kerry obviously speak the same language,” Mike Stoops said. “Kerry is an excellent football coach, but there’s so many – the secondary is a lot of moving parts.

“We’re playing five and six DBs probably more than we have before. Depending on how much a team wants to spread us out, how we expand with the team. The new guys have been awesome. They are great guys and great coaches, and it’s been an easy transition. I’m really happy to have Kerry.”

OU hopes to feel the same way, too, once the finished product takes the field. This spring won’t see that finished product. There are too many parts of this equation not at OU yet. The strength of OU’s 2015 recruiting class was clearly in the secondary.

And going even deeper, it was all about the safeties. OU hit a home run with Will Sunderland, Kahlil Haughton and Prentice McKinney. Best class, on paper, in Stoops’ tenure.

They’ll arrive in the summer with a chance to make a name for themselves. There’s a lot of talent in the backfield, and they’re ready to showcase what they can do.

“We’ve just got to be technicians out there on the field,” Parker said. “Basically, it’s just about our skillset. We have the skill. We have the athletes to do so, and we will do so.”


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