It’s Football Time in Oklahoma!
Head coach Bob Stoops officially kicked off his 15th season at the helm of the University of Oklahoma football program dark and early on Thursday morning. The Sooners officially began their day with taping and a continental breakfast in the Switzer Center at 4:45 a.m. this morning. The team hit the OU Rugby fields for a walk-through at 5:40 a.m. and officially began practice at 6 a.m. With many members of the squad finishing summer classes, the squad is scheduled to resume meetings this afternoon.
“They've had a great attitude, a great work ethic, and I really feel excited about the way they've worked here through the summer,” said Stoops. “We're anxious to have a chance to get with them, start coaching them, start trying to make improvements as we go into the year.”
Last week, University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren indicated that he would recommend a contract extension for Stoops to the OU Board of Regents. Subject to the Board’s approval, Stoops will be on the Sooner sidelines through the 2020 campaign. Stoops enters the 2013 season with 149 career victories, needing only nine more wins to overtake Barry Switzer (157) for the top career victory total in OU history.
Quarterback Competition Takes Unexpected Turn
No doubt the topic of who will be the starting quarterback for the Sooners on Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe will be hotly debated in the media over the next month.
The quarterback conversation took an unfortunate turn in this morning’s opening practice when redshirt sophomore Kendal Thompson suffered a right foot fracture. Coach Stoops confirmed the injury after a medical evaluation.
“We’re optimistic that Kendal will return early in the season,” Stoops said. “Kendal will undergo a surgical procedure today. He has a very positive outlook and is eager to rejoin his teammates on the field as soon as possible.”
While many may believe this may hasten Stoops’ decision to make a public pronouncement on his starting signal caller, don’t hold your breath for Stoops to issue such a proclamation any time soon just because of this latest development.
In fact, at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Stoops was quick to shoot down the notion that a QB decision has already been made.
“We've never been real excited about naming a guy too early,” he said, reiterating what he has said throughout the spring and summer.
While the injury to Thompson is a setback, one of the possible by-products of Thompson being sidelined could be increased practice repetitions for talented true freshman, Cody Thomas. The Colleyville, Texas, native threw for 4,154 yards and 51 touchdowns as a senior at Heritage High School.
Today’s events will likely reinforce the notion for many pundits that junior Blake Bell is the odds-on favorite to eventually win the competition. But Stoops is quick to point out that just because Bell has been utilized primarily as a runner, his skills as a passer correlate with the types of signal callers that have previously worked under his direction at OU.
“We have a history in my going on 15 years of having guys in quarterbacks that are really excellent throwers, and Blake fits that mold,” the head coach continued. “ We would never recruit a guy that we didn't feel would be a great passer … He throws a great deep ball. So to go along with his big physical presence and ability to run it, we're excited about the way he throws it too, yes.”
And for those of you scoring at home, the Sooners would be in the majority this year in terms of Big 12 schools that haven’t named a starting quarterback yet.
Mike Stoops returns for year two of his second tour of duty as defensive coordinator for the Sooners. With Big 12 offenses putting up prolific numbers at a record-setting clip the past few seasons, it’s easy to forget that last season OU fielded a defensive unit that held seven opponents to 21 points or less and ranked second in the conference by allowing only 206.1 passing yards per game.
And don’t forget that the head coach is an old defensive coordinator himself. So you can throw out the notion that the brothers Stoops are putting any less of a penchant on defense than they did upon their arrival in Norman.
“We've gone about our business of coaching and trying to be great on defense, and the way we work it, the same way a year ago as we did back in '99 and 2000, in years where we've had great defenses,” said the OU head coach.
“I think some of it is gets down to offensive schemes and being able to adjust defensively,” he continued. “There's always a coaching element to it, and there's also a personnel element to it, where sometimes you're more dominant in the personnel that you have on defense as opposed to offense.”
The 15-year head coach also was quick to point out the high caliber of offensive skill players in the Big 12, especially quarterbacks.
“I think you do have to give a little bit of credit to every year, it seems, in our league there's some incredible quarterbacks,” Stoops said. “You see a good number of them littered throughout the NFL once they leave here. So that always ‑‑ to me, the better the quarterback, whether it's in the NFL or in college football, the harder they are to stop. So in our league, we've had a lot of really good ones.”
Stoops also acknowledged that the Sooners’ fast offensive pace also plays a role in how many snaps the defense is required to defend.
“Our decision to go more up tempo has led our defense to be on the field more, and that's a fact, too,” he elaborated. While calling the defense a “work in progress” overall, Stoops is upbeat about the odds for fielding an even better defense in 2013.
“Personnel‑wise, we do lose quite a few guys, but we are very excited about the talent and ability of some of the young players coming up that we're still developing, still polishing, still trying to improve skills,” he concluded. “They're working hard at it. So I believe we have a chance to make improvement there.”
Practice in 30 Second: Time Lapse