While there wasn’t a player that didn’t miss having his always boisterous Oklahoma defensive coordinator on the sideline, it seems like there are a lot more positives with Mike Stoops up in the box than in the faces of his players.
The first-team defense allowed just two first downs in the first four drives of the spring came and forced three turnovers and one punt. It might have come against Oklahoma’s own offense, which is still learning its scheme, and a vanilla attack but results are results nonetheless.
Stoops first said there are no advantages to being up in the box for him. He has no problem seeing substitution patterns from the sideline and can get the proper personnel groupings in with ease. After thinking about it, he settled on a few positives.
“It probably gives you more time to think,” Stoops said.
He doesn’t do much coaching of his position group, which Stoops said includes either one player who never plays a bad game – Eric Striker – or two that are always really good – Striker and Devante Bond. Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator doesn’t have to worry about minor tweaks to playing strategy.
Occasionally, Stoops coaches the nickel back as well, but sophomore-to-be Steven Parker has been on of the most impressive players during spring practice.
In the box, it’s about the grand scheme of things for Stoops.
“Helping (secondary coach Kerry Cooks) is what I spent the majority of my time, just because we’re playing a lot of five and six DB packages.”
The secondary was the biggest problem last season. So with Stoops up in the box, there’s another set of eyes from another angle to help.
Stoops sends down the occasional correction to specific assignments, but trust Cooks and new defensive line coach Diron Reynolds to do most of the in-game coaching. That leaves Stoops to game plan.
“It’s easier to sit and probably to look at what you’ve called, why you called it, down and distance,” Stoops said. “. . . It lets you probably think more in between series, is what I would say. Setting the game plan up as you move forward. Showing more diversification.”
More diversification would be some Sooners fans, who had to sit through a static defensive game plan and a few too many heavy cushions, would be happy to see. The request from many who follow Oklahoma is for Stoops to get more aggressive.
Being up in the box, with an eagle-eye view of the entire field, could help that.
Most of the big plays against Oklahoma’s secondary in the spring game came against the second unit. The first-unit didn’t allow any of the three touchdowns scored.
Stoops’ older brother and boss thinks there are some positives, too.
“It allows him to already be processing what he wants to put on the field,” Bob Stoops said. “I think it’s been positive for sure that way in him knowing the substitutions as fast as anybody up there does, as opposed to having to have it relayed to him and then deciding whether he wants to run, a personnel or coverage or call he wants to go with.”
The biggest complaint of Mike Stoops’ sideline presence last season wasn’t his heated exchanges with players – the most serious coming with Julian Wilson, who never started after the screaming match.
Oklahoma never made the adjustments it need to on the defensive end, usually hindered by a lack of production from the Sooners’ offense as well.
Being up in the box will take Mike Stoops’ mind off the immediate drive and on to the larger scheme of the game.
“You can set up your plan for the next few series,” he said.