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Oklahoma football: Inside the Mike Stoops Factor

COMMENTARY — Mike Stoops' return as defensive coordinator has produced a better prepared, less hesitant Oklahoma defense. Exhibit A was the Sooners' performance versus Texas.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 19, 2012

NORMAN — Corey Nelson didn't hesitate.

The first play that the Oklahoma defense was on the field against Texas a week ago, he lined up on the right side of the Sooner line, and when David Ash snapped the ball, Nelson made a beeline for the Texas quarterback. Nelson leapt. Ash passed. And the deflected ball fell harmlessly to the Cotton Bowl turf.

That same type of aggression was on display time and again. When Tony Jefferson corralled a scrambling Ash. When R.J. Washington blew by a blocker and smashed into Ash as he released the ball.

And that was just on the Longhorns' first possession.

Want to know how Mike Stoops has most changed this Sooner defense?

It's way more aggressive.

Want to know why?

“Preparation is a key,” Sooner safety Javon Harris said. “It just gives you a chance to be more aggressive.”

Stoops is a stickler for being prepared. Always has been. Back when he and Brent Venables had those doberman defenses of the early 2000s, their greatness stemmed from their aggression.

We haven't seen this style of play from the Sooners consistently since then. It's not just that the first-team defense held Texas Tech and Texas, a pair of high-powered offenses, to one touchdown combined these past two weeks. It's that the Sooners completely stonewalled them.

Expect more of the same Saturday vs. Kansas.

Coaches and players alike are careful not to criticize Venables. It's a sign of great respect and class, but it's also a nod the fact that the Sooners did win five Big 12 titles and play in two national championship games with him leading the defense solo.

Still, this Sooner defense is different than those Sooner defenses.

In his return to OU, Stoops didn't come in and blow up the defense, didn't come in and start over from scratch. What he did was simplify. Reduce the formations. Limit the options.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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