The final piece to the puzzle…

Realizing that Bob Stoops was never going to fire both his offensive and defensive coordinators in the same year, it was hoped that we would get one done this year along with Jay Norvell, Bobby Jack Wright and Tim Kish. 

So far OU fans have gotten their wish with Josh Heupel’s departure and two of the three remaining amigos gone.  By this time two weeks from now, I suspect that OU will have hit the trifecta as Tim Kish will be shown the door as well.

Tim Kish is hanging onto his job by the skin of his teeth in order to avoid any disruption in the recruitment of the most critical positon in this year’s class, that of linebacker.    Unfortunately, it appears that keeping Kish on through the February signing period will not bear fruit.  Tough call for Stoops,  but in any case, with Kish striking out on the recruiting trail, time and time again cutting  Kish loose just got easier for Bob.

Fortunately for OU fans, all will not be lost for the 2015 linebacker class as OU has secured the commitment of one of the top high school prospects in the nation at this position.   Ricky DeBerry, out of Virginia was a huge get for the Sooners, but his signing will not save Kish’s job.   When DeBerry began to waver on his commitment under Kish, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was sent in to save the day.

For a history lesson on Kish, short-timer Mike Stoops brought Tim Kish with him when he moved to OU from Arizona.   No one thought much of the Kish move at the time as the Sooner Nation was all a flutter about the return of King Mike.   Bringing Kish with him seemed at the time to be of little consequence.   Of course we should have seen this coming.  Kish was Mike’s defensive coordinator on an Arizona team that was one of the worst in the nation.

Brother Bob believing as he does in loyalty, allowed Mike to bring his Tucson drinking buddy with him to the OU party.  That was then and this is now…The underachieving Mike Stoops is barely hanging onto his own job and should have no say about his defensive staff.  While Bob Stoops is smart not to rock the boat until after signing day I don’t see anything special happening in this area and I see Kish hitting the bricks as soon as the ink dries on this class.

At this point OU’s best bet is to hit the juco bushes hard for the last two weeks in a move to provide ample bodies for scrimmage purposes.   Then Bob must cut his losses quickly to get the next guy into position to start working the high school ranks for better line-backing haul in 2016.    While this move is not ideal, OU can survive with DeBerry, a solid juco player or two and the talent already on campus.  With a new guy in place to go along with the Bobby Jack’s replacement, recruiting linebackers in 2016 should go much better.

I suspect that Bob will do whatever it takes to provide brother Mike with quality coaches to shore up a leaky defense and replacing Kish with a quality coach and recruiter will help make this happen.  Thankfully, with Mike Stoops likely to depart after next year, a strong class of takers for these positons should occur.  The new hires will assume that they will be able to move up the pecking order very quickly next year once Mike moves on.

With Kish gone, Bob will have extracted four of the five coaches that needed to get pink slips.  If he does this I will give Bob a “B” average in this area.  Not bad for a guy with an “F” average a month ago.

Okay, Bob get ‘er done… Finish the puzzle.

Boomer Sooner…

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Making an OU omelet… 

Bob Stoops should have borrowed a line from the Batman movie when he announced the firings of Jay Norvell and Josh Huepel recently.   The Joker said “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet” In this case, the eggs being cracked were OU’s offensive staff.   The omelet to be created will the OU football program moving forward.

As the 2014 season came to a conclusion I was not sure that Bob had any gas left in his tank.   I was wrong…With these moves Bob Stoops has given himself a chance to take his place alongside college football’s legendary coaches.   Like most leaders Bob is only as good as those around him.  A look back at Bob’s first few years is a perfect indicator of this fact.   He surrounded himself with a great staff and the results were predictably positive.  Stoops will be the first to admit that over the past several years he took his eyes off the prize as he insisted on hiring from within the OU family.

While I have been more than happy in the past to second guess Stoops, I will be the first to admit that his firing of his adopted son Josh Heupel took real courage and for this move I will be eternally grateful.  The same can be said for his moves two years ago when he ran off two worn out staff member and replaced them with stellar coaches, Jerry Montgomery and Bill Bedenbaugh.   Regardless of how this turns out Bob deserves a great deal of credit for doing what had to be done.

Ending a career on a high note is hard to do.  Most coaches refuse to make adjustments believing that the things that had worked earlier in their career will work again.  This happened to the great Bud Wilkinson as he went 31-18-1 over his last five years of his career after going 107-8-2 over his first eleven years.    Making adjustments to a career in mid-stream can happen, but again it takes real courage.  Our very own Barry Switzer went 83-9-1 early in his OU career only to slump to 23-12-1 in the middle before ending on a high note at 42-5-1.

While the jury will be out on the Lincoln Riley move for a while, my optimism for the Sooners next year has grown exponentially because of this hiring.   I believe those same players that floundered in the Huepel system will flourish with the Riley game plan.   Regardless of how many staff changes are eventually made on defense, the defense will be better next year simply because the offense will be better.

Don’t expect OU to turn into an Ohio State overnight.  At the same time it should be remembered that OU does not have to be an Ohio State next year because OU will still play in the Big 12 Conference.  I am not drinking the Big 12 Kool-Aide just yet.  The Big 12 is a nice conference, but at this point the Big 12 is not a legitimate power conference.  Reaching the final four will be much easier maneuvering through the Big 12 schedule than it would be in any other conferences.  This Big 12 Conference will be just what the doctor ordered for OU and Bob Stoops as they make their way back to the top.

Having made some really tough decisions Bob Stoops has done his part to get the ball rolling again.  If these coaching moves work out and I believe they will, Bob Stoops may be on the threshold of joining the ranks of those legendary coaches who finished their careers on a high note.

Boomer Sooner…

 

History repeats itself = Sooners return to glory on the backs of OSU…

As we know history does repeat itself and football history is no different.  As stated earlier, in this column bad seasons at OU accented by embarrassing losses to OSU tend to produce amazing results.

Back in the day when Garrick McGee, yes the same Garrick McGee that was allegedly considered for the offensive coordinator’s position, turned his back on the Sooners.   This left the Sooners with a junior-varsity quarterback to run the offense and the results were predictably bad.    The Aggies shut out of the Sooners 12-0 in a game that led to the firing of Howard Schnellenberger.

People were so upset they did not care who took over as coach and as a result we got the infamous John Blake.   Three years later after two more OSU losses, Blake was out.    You see the pattern here, nothing can do-in an OU coach like a loss to OSU.

While Bob Stoops will apparently survive the most recent embarrassing loss to OSU, he was forced to fire his favorite son Josh Huepel in order to stay in Norman.  Chalk up another one for the Orange Hoard.   The great thing about being number two in the state is that number two can take pleasure in being the spoiler.  The bad thing about being number, other than just being the perpetual number two, is that being the spoiler pisses off the OU brass and when that happens heads roll.

Realizing this fact, Bob is making his last stand in a big way by making the biggest hires of his career.  Whoever he hires to run his offense will bring a 2nd lieutenant along with him to make it work.  Same goes on defense.  If Mike stays, he will be allowed to hire new staffers to implement his program.

I suspect that Bob has gotten the message and now understands the gravity of the situation and will not stop on offense.  I suspect that Mike’s job may be safe for one more year, but Bob will make sure he has the where-with-all to improve OU’s defense.   I am still expecting a major shake-up on defense.

With these coaching hires, OU will be much improved in 2015. I follow recruiting and I believe OU has the talent on this team that given the right coaches will be much improved.   In spite of the doomsayers, OU can still have a big turnaround next year.

Actually, the schedule while given the appearance of being brutal sets up pretty well for OU in 2015.  Beating a talented and hungry Tennessee team on the road is not likely, but I believe the Sooners under the new coaches will perform well in Knoxville.

With Texas still a year away, I feel good about stealing one more game from the Horns in Dallas.  The Texas win will provide the Sooners needed momentum going into the middle of the season.   By the time the Sooners hit the murderer’s row at the end of the year, the new coaches will have found their legs allowing the Sooners to make a run at Baylor, TCU, and OSU.  Win these three games and the Sooners will be in the playoffs.

Adding to our pleasure will be the fact that the win that sends us over the top and into the final four will be a win the last game of the year over OSU.   Expect ESPN Game Day to be in Stillwater that weekend which will make the win even more special.

At that point Sooner fans will be thanking OSU once again for forcing OU’s hand.    Bob Stoops will finally have the staff he needs to create another powerhouse in Norman.

Thanks OSU…

Boomer Sooner…

Recruiting 101…

  College football is a simple game…Final four teams that play for National Championships will be those teams with the best players and the best coaches…In order for OU to get back into that mix, OU will have to have both.

In recent years OU has simply lacked the talent to compete at the national level.  What we saw this year reinforced this fact.  Yes, I know we have coaching issues, but for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on talent.  Bob’s recruiting classes over the years have mirrored his successful seasons.   At the beginning of Bob’s career at OU, Bob’s recruiting classes were very good averaging a top six ranking over the first five years and as we know Bob won a National Championship and had teams compete for a couple others with these players.  Conversely, over the past four seasons the Sooners have been ranked 14, 11, 15, and 15.  Therein lays the problem and the remedy for OU’s future.

While the downward recruiting cycle began several years ago, the slide was reinforced by the muffing of the conference realignment phase by OU officials.   Missouri and Texas A&M left the conference for the SEC and in doing so recruited their best classes ever.   Nebraska and Bo Pelini were not as dynamic on the recruiting trail, but now that the Cornhuskers have rid themselves of Mr. Personality, look for Nebraska’s recruiting to take off in a hurry.  In the recruiting wars, the conference name means as much or more than the university name.  The Big 12 has taken a beating over the past few years and the timing of the conference implosion for OU could not have been worse.

For these and other reasons, OU under Bob Stoops has lost its swagger.   The science of recruiting four and five star football players is simple.  Some schools can entice recruits with the promise that they will put that school on the map.  Established programs like OU cannot impress recruits with colorful helmets or locker room dances.  The OU’s of the football world must sell its tradition and convince prospects that the established coach has another run at the National title in them.

In OU’s defense, there was a time when Bob could depend on his coordinators to sell recruits on the football program.  Mike and particularly Josh don’t exactly have the personalities to pull this off, so Bob has had to take on these duties himself.  The word on the street is that Bob was on the road doing in-home visits the week of the OSU game.  It can only be hoped that Bob will realize the inappropriate nature of this fact and make changes to avoid this from happening in the future.  As for now, Bob is in a recruiting bind of his own making and he will have to pull himself out of it.

Therein lays our hope for the future.  Two years ago Bob made coaching changes and in doing so brought in line coaches Jerry Montgomery and Bill Bedenbaugh.  Both have turned into crackerjack recruiters.  When five star prospect Ricky Deberry began to waiver in committing to the Sooners, Stoops sent Monty in to clean up for Tim Kish and finish the deal.    Montgomery was also the lead-recruiter for five star defensive tackle Neville Gallimore.  He made both these critical commitment’s happen.

Additional good news may come in the fact that the fledgling Big 12 may be finding its recruiting legs with recent results against the SEC.   Of course the upswing in Big 12 recruiting may be a double-edged sword for Sooner fans as Texas appears to be back on the national recruiting scene and unlike the Mack Brown’s classes this Texas class will mean something.

So there we have it…This year’s OU recruiting class will be most important group in years and unfortunately will come at a troubled time.  OU’s campus visits this year coincided with the embarrassing losses to Baylor and OSU.  At the same time Bob realizes the only way to avoid similar melt-downs in the future is to do whatever it takes to come up with a top ten class.  It appears that Bob is working double-shifts at the office these days to make this happen.

All things considered the current class is not too shabby ranking #16, #17, and #20 by Scout, Rivals, and ESPN respectively.  With the signing date still a month away, the Sooners still have a chance at a top ten finish.

I will give you an update in February.

Scout.com rankings as 1/4/15…

Big 12 team rankings with national rankings in parenthesis.

  1. Texas (4)
  2. Oklahoma (16)
  3. West Virginia (19)
  4. TCU (23)
  5. Texas Tech (31)
  6. Baylor (37)
  7. Oklahoma State (46)
  8. Kansas (69)
  9. Kansas State (70)
  10. Iowa State (75)

Nationally team rankings…

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • USC
  • Florida
  • Ohio State
  • Texas A&M
  • UCLA
  • Auburn
  • Notre Dame
  • Penn State
  • South Carolina
  • Clemson
  • Mississippi State
  • LSU
  • Oklahoma
  • Mississippi
  • West Virginia
  • Arizona State
  • Wisconsin
  • Arkansas
  • TCU
  • Washington
  • North Carolina