By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
DALLAS — The rapid offensive pace Oklahoma’s played at since 2009 might be reduced this season. That was the major nugget Sooner coach Bob Stoops threw out Tuesday at Big 12 Football Media Days.
“Well, it’s something to consider, definitely, how fast you are going, how effective it is, how it is affecting the defense? So it’s something to look at,” Stoops said. “There is a lot of experience back. The one thing I think, no matter who the quarterback is, there’s a lot of experience around the quarterback — three senior running backs, an experienced receiver corps, experienced line.
“So hopefully we can stay on the field, eat some clock. Even if we are going no-huddle sometimes, there’s opportunity to still use up some of the clock.”
The up-tempo offense has its positives, but the unquestioned negative it means your defense is going to be on the field for a lot more plays. Running three plays and punting in 30 seconds is the nightmare scenario.
OU saw that one play out repeatedly in the second half of its Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M to end last season.
“It is a tough balance. If you’re going to be doing it, you need to stay on the field and score. So, anyway, it’s a big issue,” Stoops said. “I know we come out of, I think, the second half — we played poorly on defense, but the second half of the Cotton Bowl we had four straight possessions, three-and-out and a turnover. We did nothing and handed them right back the football back in good field position and that kind of thing. So we go hand in hand that way.
“So it is something that always needs to be considered and watched, how we’re doing it and how effective it is.”
There are two issues that point toward OU slowing the pace this season. One centers on having an experienced offensive line and a quartet of senior running backs — Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch — a very talented fullback (Trey Millard) and fleet-footed quarterbacks for the first time in years.
Nonetheless, the up-tempo offense has been OU’s calling card for the last five seasons.
“The way we’ve utilized tempo has been successful for us. It’s not frantic, because we’re calculating in everything we do,” OU center Gabe Ikard said. “As long as we keep using the tempo to our advantage and using the mobility we have now and all the players we have at skill positions, it will help us score more points on offense. We can catch defenses on their heels when they don’t have plays called and they’re looking at their sidelines. That’s when we utilize our tempo, and it’s been effective for us.”
Year 2: This will be OU’s second season since Mike Stoops returned for his second stint as defensive coordinator.
“I feel like we’re more comfortable. I feel like guys are out there and we’re flying around because we know what coach Mike expects,” OU cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “He just expects you to go out there and play hard and make plays. As a defensive back, that’s what you’re taught to do. You’re taught to go out there and lock up your dude and make plays. Coach Mike, he allows you just to go out there and play and I love that about him.”
Defensive priority: The top priority for OU’s defense this season will be stopping the run. It allowed 5.2 yards per carry last season, the highest average of the Stoops era.
The OU coach said Tuesday some of the were personnel, but others were schematic.
“Some of our schemes were stronger in pass coverage and pass defense overall. That part worked and was positive. But we hurt ourselves too much in the run game,” Stoops said. “We’ve got to adjust some of that and be better at what we’re asking our guys to do, overall on defense and up front. Then there’s times there where guys needed to physically be in a better position to make the play. It’s always a combination of all of it.”
No comparison: Bell has drawn comparison’s to former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow since he started running the ball out of the Belldozer package in 2011.
But Ikard said the comparisons should stop there.
“He throws the ball better than Tebow. Just watch the motion. He’s strong and he’s accurate. He’s very good when it comes to throwing the deep ball,” Ikard said.
Feeling the heat? Stoops is about to begin his 15th season and he’s eight wins away from matching Barry Switzer’s school record win total of 157.
Nonetheless, there are fans grumbling because OU has won’t a national title since 2000 or played for one since the 2008 season.
Stoops admitted he’s understood for years that he can’t keep everyone happy.
“I do feel appreciated by our fans, administration, and everybody. I’ve never been appreciated by everybody, even in 2000,” Stoops said. “So not everyone’s going to — that’s always going to be the case, and any time you’ve been somewhere 15 years, that’s something to consider.”
Hanging on every word: Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has a fan in Ikard. The Sooner center watched the commissioner’s press conference Monday. Ikard is behind Bowlsby in calling for changes with the NCAA.
“He brought the noise, man,” Ikard said. “He was frank and straight forward about the direction he wanted to take the conference and the direction he felt the NCAA move. It was impressive to hear him speak his mind about that. I thought it was pretty entertaining.”
No slight: The Sooners were picked to finish second in the Big 12 in the preseason poll. It marks the first time since 2007, that OU won’t enter the season as the preseason favorite.
Colvin didn’t have an issue with OU’s spot.
“To be honest with you, I don’t really care about preseason,” he said. “There’s always those sleeper teams that come out of nowhere, so the Big 12, no matter who’s at the top, who’s at the bottom, anybody can beat anybody, so with us being No. 2, I just found that out today. So I’m not really worried about it.
With us losing so many people and a new quarterback position change, it’s still respectful. But at the end of the day, it’s not where we want to be, we want to be No. 1 and that’s what we’re working toward.”
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