NORMAN — Mike Stoops is still trying to make sense of what happened to Oklahoma's defense down the stretch last season.
“It was like no other season that I've ever seen,” the Sooners' defensive coordinator said Thursday.
The Sooners begin spring practices Saturday with lots changing — coaching- and personnel-wise — on the defensive side of the ball.
Stoops and his staff are also experimenting with new ideas to make their unit more flexible and aggressive in a league full of high-powered spread offenses.
Lots of evidence surfaced over the past few months suggesting Oklahoma coaches are planning a shift to a 3-4 defense.
Thursday, Bob and Mike Stoops confirmed such a system is being considered, but also said they want an adaptable defense, capable of shifting schemes as needed.
“We'll still be in our four-man front as well, and we'll work some different guys in the rotation there inside,” Bob Stoops said. “We'll also experiment because I think it's a positive to be able to jump into a 50 (three-man defensive front) and do some of that stuff like we had in the past.”
Last season, as Oklahoma came up against high-octane offenses like Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, the Sooners pulled their linebackers from the game in favor of more defensive backs.
Offenses responded with record-setting performances, including West Virginia's 778 total yards of offense — the most Oklahoma's defense has ever allowed — in the Sooners' 50-49 shootout victory.
Then in the Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M embarrassed Oklahoma, with Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel racking up 516 total yards and four touchdowns by himself.
“I think our scheme did a little bit of an injustice to our linebackers a year ago,” Mike Stoops said. “We're gonna try to keep two linebackers on the field as much as we can in each situation.
“We have to find a better way to combat some of the things. Our players need to understand how they are going to attack us. ... Having more flexibility and diversification leads into that.
The spring also brings changes to the defensive coaching staff.
Jerry Montgomery was hired to replace tackles coach Jackie Shipp, though Montgomery will coach the entire line.
Bobby Jack Wright, who previously coached defensive ends, will now take over cornerbacks.
In addition to his coordinator duties, Mike Stoops coached Oklahoma's secondary last season. Now, he'll focus on safeties.
“A year ago, it was hard coaching six guys,” Mike Stoops said of the secondary. “One guy is coaching six players; that's crazy in a very important element to the game.
“I think Jerry will do a great job, and I think being able to coordinate a defense and having a guy like Bobby Jack will enable me to do my job better and coach our secondary better.”