Mike Stoops talks defensive improvement

Sooners have to develop chemistry on the back end and with new coaches

One of the few remaining coaches from last season’s staff is defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, but that’s no guarantee Oklahoma’s defense will be anything similar to what it showed in 2014.

For some who watched the Sooners secondary decimated on the biggest stages, that would be a welcomed changed.

Oklahoma’s defense was one of the worst in the country at stopping the pass, and Stoops – as well as new assistant coaches Kerry Cooks and Diron Reynolds – have set out to help fix the problems.

Stoops spoke the with media Wednesday afternoon, and here are a few points he made:

On developing chemistry within the unit but coaching just one position

“It’s hard. You coach all 11 of them. My role isn’t one position. My responsibility is to get all 11 playing together and understanding what they do. When the ball is snapped, getting them to understand what one person does seems to be a challenge for some of us.

“We just have to get them all together. … You start to get more multiple and things start to expand. Those are things. We’re learning a lot where we need to improve as we go through spring.”

Now in the fourth year under Stoops, who continues to try and implement an attacking multiple look, Oklahoma’s defense should become far more diverse this season.

It has been a process ever since Stoops came to Norman, and it will still be a process.

On the defense growing during spring practices

“There’s a learning curve to any system. The pace of the game is fast. Getting guys in the right spots is the key and trying to show different looks. Getting guys in the right position is always what you work on.

“. . . We’re a long way from being where we want to be. Each day we get a little better in some elements of our team. We’re trying to help the coverage more. Any time you help the coverage, then you take people out of the run game.”

The biggest hole for Oklahoma last season was at safety and cornerback opposite Zack Sanchez. That’s the focus this spring: Finding a way to get more consistency.

Right now, it seems like Oklahoma will go with either Dakota Austin or Jordan Thomas as the No. 2 cornerback at this point. Austin said he has a renewed intensity with new secondary coach Kerry Cooks, and Thomas will be far more consistent, knowing where his problems were after playing as a freshman.

Stoops emphasized the need for the Sooners’ three freshman safeties – Kahlil Haughton, Will Sunderland and Prentice McKinney – on campus and just how thin Oklahoma is right now in the secondary.

On the secondary being more together and working as one unit

“We’re all together, but we try to team up and see as much as we can to help our players. It’s always been that way. I certainly like having the whole group together. They see things. They can talk through issues. . . . There has to be better communication, understanding what we’re doing.”

There might not be a more important player to Oklahoma’s defense than linebacker Eric Striker.

On Striker

“When you have to build your defense around one guy, that becomes hard. That’s what we do something because he’s a unique player off the edge. He’s not a 6-5, 260-pound defensive end, but we’re playing him as a defensive end. There’s thing in trying to find things he does well and putting him in position to do those is really what we’re trying to do. You can’t do it all the time, but you have to continue to try to find ways to free him up.

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