Oklahoma football: What to make of alums’ criticism
Former players’ criticism of the current state of Sooner football is interesting. And not necessarily off base. It’s also not necessarily on base.
About some things, ex-players know more than the rest of us. They also can know less, if they aren’t committed to analyzing a subject with some degree of reason.
OU’s 41-13 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M has evoked response ranging from outrage to concern. Our man Jason Kersey wrote about it for the Monday Oklahoman, which you can read here.
A quick synopsis:
* All-American offensive tackle Jamaal Brown, from the 2000-04 era, is “mad as hell” and says the current Sooners are “soft” and don’t play physical.
* CBS analyst Spencer Tillman, a halfback in the 1980s, says the program might have slipped because of lack of concentration on the things that brought success in the first place.
“When you’re 14 years deep in it, it requires a unique coach, a unique administrator, to look at the program and judge it on its face alone,” Tillman said.
* Steve Davis, who was a college football television analyst for much of his post-OU days and quarterbacked the Sooners in the 1970s, says OU suffers from a “talent recession.”
Let’s take a look at the criticism and see how justified it is.
* First, Brown. Do the Sooners play less physical than they once did? I’d say so. Does that make them soft? I’d say no.
“Yeah, I used to walk uphill five miles to school, too,” Bob Stoops said in response to Brown’s claim. “Tell him that.”
In fact, the whole softness thing is silly. An alternative criticism of Stoops’ program is that strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt is too hard on players and runs them off.
“I thought we were too soft, so how can we be too hard on them?” Stoops said. “Ask them how that could be. We’re too hard on them but too soft. I never know how to be.
“We do things as close to as we have for a long, long time. Again, when you’re dealing with injuries or whatever, you can only do so much.”
Now, if someone wants to argue that Stoops has gone soft, or at least softer, I might buy it. The Stoops of 10 years ago wouldn’t bring up injuries or any other excuse.
But his players soft? If it’s true, I don’t see the evidence.
Less physical? Sure. Style of play changes everything. Spread offenses, quarterbacks who throw the ball all over the field, defenses that have to chase those kinds of offenses. Football is changing. It changed in the Big 12, but it’s also changing even in the SEC and the NFL.
That doesn’t make a team soft. Soft, to me, is as much a mental status as a physical status.
Are recent Stoops’ teams more mentally fragile than his earlier teams? I suppose you could make that argument. But you might lose.
One recent knock against Stoops’ teams is losing to teams they had no business losing to. But that’s happened only rarely, and it’s not a new trend.
Starting with 2001, here’s a list of games the Sooners lost which are largely inexcusable, considering the caliber of the opponent.
2001 OSU. 2007 Colorado. 2011 Texas Tech. Seems pretty well distributed among all generations of Stoops teams.
OK, now let’s make a list of blowouts. Truth is, OU never should lose by four touchdowns. The Sooners aren’t always the better team, but rarely are they totally overmatched. So here’s a list of games in which OU lost by at least 20 points:
Kansas State 2003, Southern Cal 2004, Texas 2005, West Virginia 2007, Texas Tech 2009, OSU 2011, Texas A&M 2012. Again, pretty even distribution. The Sooners have been lit up two straight years (Bedlam ’11, Cotton Bowl), but Stoops’ talent-rich 2003 and 2004 teams got waxed, too.
Here’s the unpleasant truth for Jamaal Brown. His 2004 team had a big-time offensive line, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, a tailback-for-the-ages in Adrian Peterson and NFL players all over the defense. The 2012 Sooners had none of those jewels. Yet OU’s Cotton Bowl performance was no more a browbeating than the OU-USC Orange Bowl.
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