NORMAN — The Stoops brothers each praised Oklahoma's newly signed defensive backs Wednesday afternoon, while hinting their 2013 secondary group remained incomplete.
“When this group finalizes today, this will be as complete a group of secondary guys that I've ever been associated with,” said Mike Stoops, Oklahoma's defensive coordinator.
Head coach Bob Stoops added, “I feel great about the skill and the ability of those guys, and we'll see if there's anything more to add to it by the end of the day.”
Two hours after the signing day news conference, L.J. Moore completed the group.
The four-star cornerback from Fresno, Calif. — and high-school teammate of safety signee Hatari Byrd — announced he'd also chosen Oklahoma, becoming the 24th member of the Sooners' 2013 signing class.
“It's going to be really nasty in that secondary,” Byrd said.
With its new signing class, Oklahoma took steps to improve in areas where it struggled during the 2012 season; added prospects to thin, inexperienced units; and, in some cases, signaled possible schematic or philosophical changes.
Asked what he told recruits regarding any offensive or defensive system changes, Bob Stoops said: “I say that is something that we are always looking to tinker and see what would work best and what would fit best. There hasn't been any decisions made, but those are the things we will look at in the next month.”
Mike Stoops addressed reports of an impending shift to a 3-4 defense, saying such speculation was premature, while admitting the necessity of greater schematic flexibility in correcting the various problems that resulted in opponents' eye-popping statistics and point totals late last season.
“Toward the end of the year, we gave up way too many points, way too many yards,” Mike Stoops said. “As good as those teams were, we need to be better equipped to handle those styles of offenses. This group of players will help us move forward.”
Significant in such improvement will be enhanced linebacker play. When the spread offenses of teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas A&M trotted out four wide receivers, Mike Stoops tinkered with defenses that featured six or seven defensive backs.
The two linebackers Oklahoma signed Wednesday, though — Norman North's Jordan Evans and Tulsa Washington's Dominique Alexander — are converted defensive backs who boast the size and toughness of traditional linebackers, plus the speed and pass-coverage skills necessary to defend spread offenses.
“We know we've got to come in and wreck shop because there's not many linebackers this year,” Evans said.
Mike Stoops said: “In this league, you have to be very athletic and very mobile. ... Having 'backers that can do all that is tough. The more athletic they are, the better opportunities they're going to have.”
Oklahoma also signed seven defensive linemen to bolster a unit ravaged by graduation. The vast majority of defensive ends and tackles OU relied upon last season were seniors.
The Sooners added three freshman defensive ends Wednesday, along with three freshman tackles, plus junior-college transfer Quincy Russell, a 6-foot-3, 311-pound tackle expected to arrive in the summer.
“We shrunk down a couple of our defensive linemen to be better equipped to play more of the speed game that we see,” Mike Stoops said.
Then there's the defensive backfield, which must replace departed starting safeties Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson, plus three-year starter Demontre Hurst at cornerback.
Senior cornerback Aaron Colvin, who considered entering this year's NFL Draft, returns as the secondary's leader and best player. Beyond Colvin, though, playing time appears ripe for the newcomers' taking.
Bob Stoops compared Tulsa East Central cornerback signee Stanvon Taylor to Colvin.
Three-star safety Ahmad Thomas is already enrolled at Oklahoma and will go through spring practices.
Then there's the duo from Central East High School in Fresno.
“Hatari is one of those guys and we expect him to play right away,” Bob Stoops said. “Really, we expect all these guys to be able to play.”
Byrd said to count on it.
“It'll be a true freshman group out there with all the guys we're bringing in,” Byrd said.