Oklahoma’s defense should start tackling now that Mike Stoops has been fired, right? In the famous words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!” The problems that have plagued the Sooners on the defensive side of the ball are rooted deep and can’t truly be dug out on a bye week. Bad habits are hard to break and, let’s be honest, Oklahoma’s defense is full of bad habits.
Blown assignments, failing to shed blocks, and missed tackles have become the staple of a defense that once featured Superman, pitched a shutout in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas, and held Florida State’s offense scoreless in the BCS National Championship game. They may have hit rock bottom against Texas at the Cotton Bowl a couple of weeks ago, but they’ve been falling for a long time.
This isn’t a pro-Mike Stoops post by any stretch. He was at the helm of the defensive demise and that brings consequences with it, especially at a program like Oklahoma. This is, however, a post stating that dismissing Stoops won’t cure what ails the Sooners. OU will travel to Ft. Worth this weekend ranked 76th in scoring defense, 97th in total defense, and 125th in total defense.
There’s an old saying in football, “Coaches coach and players play.” The problem with Oklahoma’s defense was twofold. It was coaching and playing. If you were to eliminate the insanely high number of missed tackles then this team is most likely still undefeated and the defending national champions. Mike Stoops didn’t miss those tackles, the players did. Don’t take my word for it though. You can hear it directly from them.
“We just do our thing, you know, we gotta do our jobs,” Tre Brown said after the loss to Texas. “We didn’t really do a good job at tackling. That’s on us, and that’s what really hurt us. There were some things, some situations where we knew what was happening, but we didn’t get to it quick enough and that hurt us. And we’re going to try to fix that from now on.”
Perhaps Parnell Motley had the most telling statement of all. “It is not something that the coaches are doing,” he said after the Texas game. “It is a personal thing. We need that attitude, we have to want to tackle, it is hard to think about when you are out there trying to make plays and it is moving fast. There are no excuses, at the end of the day players have to make plays and make tackles.”
Motley is absolutely correct about there not being any excuses. Stoops took one for the team, in his final act as a coach, and now the pressure sits squarely on the shoulders of the eleven guys on the field.
Ruffin McNeill is going to simply some things so that guys can attack quicker and play downhill, but no one is going to blame him if things continue to go wrong. That’s the value of having the word “interim” in front of your title. It implies that the job is temporary.
From this point forward there’s no other excuse for the defensive failures at Oklahoma other than the players. They know that as well and that alone may be enough to spark an improvement.