The Norman Transcript

OU Football

January 19, 2014

Sugar Bowl win has everything turning positive for Sooners

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Against the Crimson Tide he was. That allowed the Sooners to spread the ball around in ways it hadn’t earlier in the year.

“Moving forward from that, you know, going into next year and everything, that’s what we’re going to ride on,” Knight said.

The defense went through bigger alterations with its shift to a 3-4 alignment after spending all of Stoops’ previous tenure in a 4-3.

The Sooners held well enough despite losing nose guard Jordan Phillips early in the season. With him coming back next year, OU’s defensive line will be as deep as it has ever been.

“I don’t care if he does anything in the spring. He’s gonna be back,” Stoops said. “Let’s face it: starting the year he was our best guy and he’ll be back and better than ever. It’s gonna help.”

Defense is where the biggest move was made in 2013. One of the reasons the Sooners’ slowed down the tempo of their offense this season was so the defense could get its feet under itself. It hadn’t finished in the top 40 in total defense since 2009, but it will bring 10 starters back from a unit that finished inside the top 20 this season.

A lot of those starters, like linebackers Eric Striker, Dominique Alexander and cornerback Zack Sanchez, defensive end Charles Tapper and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and Jordan Wade were either freshmen or sophomores.

The Sooners are going to be physically and mentally better next season.

The Sugar Bowl payoffs have extended to the recruiting trail. Since topping Alabama, OU has seen a recruiting uptick. Landing five-star California running back Joe Mixon was a huge boost. But it had a lot of recruits in over the weekend for official visits and will do the same next weekend.

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