The Norman Transcript

November 11, 2013

Stoops walking diplomatic tightrope

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Monday was reckoning day and Bob Stoops, truth be told, reckoned better than many might have expected.

No, he’s not going to play Kendal Thompson at quarterback, though it’s not entirely clear why.

“I can see where, at times, an NFL team that’s got two wins and they’re on to next year, might want to evaluate someone that way,” he said, “but not in our case.”

No, he’s not upset that Roy Finch didn’t get a chance to put his imprint on the Baylor game until well into the second half, because he takes no issue with the evaluation process that had Finch, OU’s most productive per-carry ball-carrier, on the back burner.

“I am pleased with the evaluation process,” Stoops said. “Very much so.”

Yes, he’s approved so many offensive game plans that have gone nowhere against Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia, TCU, Texas and Baylor. All have carried his stamp of approval.

“I’m watching what we’re doing through the week and I’m on board,” Stoops said. “It didn’t play out so well, but I’m still on board.”

Still, there’s something going on.

Stoops isn’t happy.

There may not be a lot he can do about it right now, and certainly not for public view without embarrassing coaches or players. 

Instead, what he does is hide the fact that he’s upset poorly, his body language seemingly saying there’s so much he’d like to say if only he felt the liberty to speak freely.

If the Sooner Nation wanted Stoops to tell them that what he saw last Thursday night (and again and again since in Switzer Center offices) was a crime in the name of the history of Sooner football, then Monday may have been a disappointment.

But he offered indicators.

His head stayed out of the sand.

He didn’t want to flog Blake Bell in the town square, yet said quarterback play has “been inconsistent, that’s the fairest thing to say.”

Nor did he want to throw Josh Heupel and his play calling under the bus, but it wasn’t like he defended it either.

“It’s not something I’m going to acknowledge publicly,” he said. “That’s something we do in the office with the other coaches.”

It’s like the guy’s walking a tightrope, because, just maybe, it’s all becoming clear.

Maybe it’s becoming clear it’s the young side of the ball, the defense, that has excelled, and the veteran side of the ball that’s disappointed.

Maybe it’s becoming clear, maybe, that, yeah, Finch is leading the Sooners in yards-per-carry this season, just as he led OU in yards-per-carry last season, and this year both Brennan Clay and Damien Williams have received more carries, and last year Clay, Williams, Dom Whaley and Trey Millard received more carries.

It’s becoming clear that this is an offensive coaching staff that had horrible red-zone and short-yardage efficiency two seasons ago until it was told to come up with the Belldozer, and this season is experiencing the same inefficiency and has no back-up plan to the Belldozer, which is no longer working, not even a quarterback sneak.

“It’s something that we probably need to have,” Stoops said, offering a most major admission.

What he seems to be getting is it just doesn’t add up, from the way OU began as an offense built around the talents of Trevor Knight, yet has evolved into an offense built around the talents of Sam Bradford, who lives in St. Louis rather than Norman; or the way the Sooners seem to be getting worse, not better, on one side of the ball; or the way Trey Millard never did become a real part of any game plan, at least not until it was time to offer a “wrinkle.”

Stoops offered one other quite telling thing on Monday, when he said he’s “always spent more time in the defensive room,” and that, offensively, “I’m aware of what we’re doing.”

It makes you wonder if he was listening to himself, because the one guy on staff who may need no supervision is Mike Stoops, yet it’s the other side of the ball, the side that’s been so suspect, being left to its own devices.

It doesn’t fit.

The head coach may not have offensive expertise, but he’s pretty good at running a ship and it’s real clear which side of the ball has been lost at sea.

Bob Stoops seems to get it, he’s just not in a position to express it.

Maybe he’ll address it this week. Maybe he’ll address it in time for spring ball. 

Whatever, another round of change could be very good for the program he guides.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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