Cautious, calm Stoops ready for season

Sooners head coach made no mention of Sugar Bowl at OU media day

For probably the first time, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops stood up in front of gathered media and didn’t reference the 2014 Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama.

No mention of how good of a team that was or of what knocking off an SEC team meant to the program – and finishing No. 6 in the country.

Not even a hint.

An 8-5 season left much of that in the past. Standing at the podium high above Owen Field, Stoops showed a hyper-cautious form of optimism – pointing out how close Oklahoma was to an 11-win season and how this season feels like all the others right now, even if last year tore Stoops down a bit.

“I’m always optimistic,” he said. “I believe in our players and coaches and what we’re able to do. At this point in the year, I’m tired of talking about it and anxious to do the work. We have to get on in the field every day and iron things out and prove it; that’s what I’m anxious to do.”

The only year Stoops might have been a little more than cautiously optimistic was in 2003, when quarterback Jason White returned with a plethora of talent around him in to what would be a Heisman Trophy winning season and an undefeated regular season for Oklahoma.

Stoops was loose though, even joking about calling Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and rescheduling Bedlam so his team might get a chance to play on championship week, something he emphasized the importance of doing.

He laughed off a question about Oklahoma’s difficult schedule, took at barrage of quarterback inquiries and even kept cool when the Joe Mixon-based interrogation began.

Ultimately though, Stoops acknowledged the importance of not allowing last season to repeat itself.

“Our standards weren’t met, (which) we’ve had a hand in setting,” Stoops said of a year that tied for the most single-season losses in his tenure at Oklahoma. “They haven’t been thrown on us. They’ve been what we’ve built. And we need to be better in all those areas to be able to be one of those teams. That’s every area there is.”

This was the best summer that strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt could remember as far as consistency and punctuality is concerned, Stoops said. Leadership that didn’t exist last season cropped up very quickly in the offseason, as well.

Stoops is after another 11-win season, one he said that was just a few plays away last year. That and ending the longest title drought of his head coaching career.

“Winning a Big 12 championship is where everything starts; it always has in our program,” Stoops said. “That’s what we’ll try to do.”

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