Berry Tramel: Oklahoma's Mike Stoops will have to scheme to contain Johnny Football and Texas A&M

Oklahoman Modified: December 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm •  Published: December 6, 2012

The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel took questions from readers in his Power Lunch Chat today. The topics covered included OU, OSU, Mike Gundy and Mike Holder, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and more. Take a look at the recap of today's Q&A and join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports.

ON THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS:

Is OU going to be able to contain Johnny Manziel? LB's are going to be key and that is probably the weakest part of the defense.

Great question. Mike Stoops will have to devise a good defense to corral Johnny Football. But he has a month to do it. Here's an idea. How about Tony Jefferson at middle linebacker as a spy for Manziel?

Will Jaz Reynolds play in the Cotton Bowl?

Jaz Reynolds? I hadn't thought of Jaz Reynolds in months. No, Jaz won't play in the Cotton Bowl. Not even with three more arrests of receivers for marijuana.

Will Jalen Saunders play for OU against A&M?

I would bet he doesn't, but I could be wrong.

After 12 games, I still don't have a good feel for OU. Was Barry Switzer right; that the team lacks talent? The results seem to indicate otherwise — co-Big 12 champs whose only two losses were 4th quarter losses to Notre Dame and Kansas St., two pretty salty teams.

Lacks talent for what? To be as good as the '73 Sooners? Sure. To be championship quality? No. OU is a very good team and could have had a sensational year. But the Sooners lost two tight games, so that's that. The talent always needs upgraded. Alabama would say the same thing.

OU now has Texas' number. Your guess as to how long it will take for UT to become competitive again.

Competitive with OU? One win. Competitive in the Big 12? Texas is largely there. The 'Horns have just become a solid program. Not a great program. Three straight years in which the 'Horns have at least four conference losses. But Texas has the resources to get back to the top and probably will.

Why do you think OU is having a hard time lately landing high caliber D line prospects?

I don't think OU has had a hard time landing top-notch D-line prospects. They are hard to find, and the Sooners have had more than their share. Including this year. OU's D-tackles are really solid this year. The OU d-ends are where the Sooners have fallen off. OU needs to get its passrushers back up top speed.

About OU's talent level: can you name one real difference maker on defense? Someone who reliably makes plays and the offense has to account for that player on most plays?

Aaron Colvin. I think he's a big-time corner. West Virginia rolled the dice and went at Colvin, and Geno Smith made some great throws. But most people stay away from Colvin. I think Jefferson is a difference-maker, too, although the last couple of games, he's had some tackling issues.

Let me rephrase the question. Most impact plays on defense are made by the "front seven" because that's where disruption of the offense starts. I think there is indeed a talent drop off in the front seven, and OU will not challenge for a NC until they upgrade the talent there ... do you agree?

Probably so. But like I said, OU is pretty good at d-tackle. The Sooners have fallen off at linebacker and D-end, where they've been pretty good over the years. That's what's strange.

In your many years in the business, who have been the most interesting sports figures for you to cover?

Howard Schnellenberger is No. 1, and everybody else is No. 2. Eddie Sutton was interesting. Barry Switzer — who I only got a small dose of, while he was at OU, in terms of my daily involvement, that was 24 years ago — was fascinating. I loved George Shinn. And Willis Reed, who was around the Hornets a lot. But Howard reigns supreme.  

Quote of the day: "Howard reigns supreme." Not a phrase often heard around these parts. Any good stories to share?

Oh, I just love the Colonel. He not only wanted us at practice, he wanted to know where we were when we missed practice. He had a press briefing after every practice. Howard had nothing to hide. I miss that.

 

ON MIKE GUNDY, MIKE HOLDER AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHING SEARCHES:

Doesn't Mike Gundy know who he is up against? He is a good coach and has done a very good job, but football coaches are easier to find than donors willing to give half a billion dollars to the university.

You just gave the best summation I've heard to the whole situation. The person who writes the checks calls the shots. That's the way the world works. Gundy should realize that.

If Gundy wants an easy schedule why doesn't he tell Holder he wants OSU in Conference USA? What do you really get out of playing cupcakes other than a false sense of how good you are with an inflated record?

Excellent point. I've said that before. Get the heck out of the Big 12 if you don't want to play anybody. Of course, what Gundy is saying is this. The conference is great, and tough enough. Let's take it easy in September. There's something to be said for that. Like I wrote, there are decent reasons to do that. But don't tell me it's the easy road to a championship.

You were tough on Gundy, does he need to put his big boy pants on?

I didn't think I was all that tough on Gundy. I don't understand all this big boy pants stuff. Gundy just needs to get along with his bosses and quit interviewing for jobs he doesn't want.

Let's play "What if...?" What if Gundy had taken another job after this season -- who would have been candidates to replace him?

I think Todd Monken would have been elevated and I think OSU would have tried to keep the staff together.

Even if Gundy repairs his relationship with Holder, is he now more likely to NOT finish his coaching career at OSU?

Probably so. The cards are on the table. We now know the schism. It's going to be difficult to repair the relationship.

In your opinion, was Mike Gundy's flirtation with Arkansas and Tennessee legitimate interest on his part, or simply a means of gaining leverage over his administration?

Leverage. If Gundy is interested in Tennessee, he can have the job right now. I think Gundy was pulling a power play. Poorly, but that's what he was doing.

We keep hearing about the fractured relationship between Gundy, Holder and Pickens, but where does Hargis fit into this equation? Do you believe he'll have to serve as mediator in this dispute or is he on the side of Holder and Pickens?

Well, I think Hargis is clearly a supporter of Holder and Boone, but I think you've hit on something very solid. I think Burns most definitely could serve as a mediator, because he's such a solid individual. He can bring people together. I think that's an excellent idea.

I find it interesting that no one has said anything about the Gundy situation. As in, no one in their official capacity has issued a statement saying that 1. Tennessee asked for permission to interview Gundy; or 2. That Gundy interviewed with UT; or 3. That an offer was made; or 4. That the offer was rejected by Gundy. Nothing. Everything is from the 4th Estate.

Schools usually don't issue statements on job searches. So that's not surprising. But everyone is mum, and here's why. They're embarrassed. They're embarrassed that dirty laundry hit the public marketplace. They're embarrassed that their coach is shopping himself, even though most everyone believes he wants to stay.

Has Gundy turned OSU into a destination job or is it a steppingstone job?

Well, I'd say it's both. OU has lost coaches to other jobs. Chuck Fairbanks went to the New England Patriots when his next-season defensive line would have been Selmon, Selmon, Selmon. So you never know. But I think OSU is a destination job for most. All kinds of coaches would love to come Stillwater. Here's one to think of. If Arkansas had hired Gundy, would have Bret Bielema have left Wisconsin for OSU? I say yes. On the other hand, OSU always is susceptible to losing a successful coach to a Texas or USC or somewhere.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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