NORMAN — Strange spring at the Switzer Center. New faces. New expectations.
Of Bob Stoops' nine coaches for the Insight Bowl barely 14 months ago, five are gone. Four firings and one demotion, which led to Brent Venables' departure.
Which in truth is tied to the lack of outside optimism surrounding the 2013 Sooners. OU is on a 10-3 treadmill, and with much talent departed, another 10-3 seems awfully ambitious. The Sooners figure to be picked no higher than third in the Big 12, behind TCU and OSU, and with the annual infatuation with the Longhorns, perhaps OU will be slotted behind Texas, too.
“Doesn't change anything at all,” Stoops said Thursday at a press conference to kick off spring practice. “We've never put much stock or cared” about prognostications. “We'll see if the players do or not. They're the ones who ultimately have to do it.”
Not terribly insightful but absolutely illuminating compared to Stoops discussing his staff changes.
A review: Stoops fired Jackie Shipp, Bruce Kittle and, essentially, James Patton, who at least found gainful employment at Indiana before the official announcement. Stoops has hired Bill Bedenbaugh to coach offensive linemen, Jerry Montgomery to coach defensive line and Jay Boulware to coach tight ends and special teams.
That's a year after Stoops fired Willie Martinez, demoted Venables (who jumped to Clemson) and hired Mike Stoops and Tim Kish.
A guy who had never fired a coach suddenly has fired four in 14 months. But Robespierre is in no mood to talk about the changes or what led to them.
“I'm not much about talking about my personal feelings about much of anything,” Stoops said. “Let alone what I do with my work.”
No holes in that theory. Not even Tony Soprano's shrink could get Stoops talking.
“Those are private conversations,” Stoops said. “There's always different reasons. We've had coaching changes over 15 years (virtually all because guys got promotions elsewhere). Different times, different ways. We'll adjust with this one best we can.”
Stoops did offer a couple of allowances. Recruiting is always a consideration when hiring a coach. And he didn't even know Montgomery was a fellow Iowa grad until they were in contact about the job.
But clearly, Bedenbaugh, Montgomery and Boulware are not joining the halcyon staff of previous Stoops days. Stoops always has been a no-nonsense coach. But now he's a no-nonsense-whatsoever coach. Stoops always has coached with a chip on his shoulder. Now he's coaching with a chip on his shoulder for good reason.
Stoops is not under administration pressure. He's not reacting to fan pressure; fans are upset when the Sooners settle for a field goal against Texas. Stoops knows that.
Stoops is reacting to self pressure. He doesn't like 10-3 and doesn't like one outright Big 12 title in four years.
Whether the coaching changes will affect change, who knows? Mike Stoops himself admitted he and Kish did not have a stellar season in 2012. Admitted they weren't really ready, coming from Arizona, for Big 12 offenses.
But sometimes you make changes for change sake. And of course, new blood can be invigorating.
“It's been a lot of fun,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said of mixing with the new staff members. “Get some new energy, new ideas. Seeing your program from a different perspective. We're excited from the things they bring to the table. The discipline, the accountability.”
For better or worse, the new faces certainly will change the dynamics around the Switzer Center. Too soon to know if they'll change the expectations.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.