NORMAN — Jon Gruden sat with Robert Griffin III during one of Gruden's ESPN quarterback shows last spring, watching Baylor film.
The OU-Baylor game was on the screen. Gruden jumped from his chair, pointed to an uncovered Baylor receiver and talked with incredulity.
“Eight or nine times in this game, they're not lined up” right, Gruden said to Griffin. “Here, they're not even covering this man.”
Gruden said it as a testament to the tempo of the Baylor offense. But anyone who sat through Baylor's 45-38 victory over the Sooners last November knows it also was an indictment of the OU defense.
Now Mike Stoops has returned as the Sooner defensive coordinator, and there's a mounting belief that Stoops will simplify the Sooner scheme.
“We're simplifying things, but you can only simplify things to a point,” Mike Stoops said. “There's a fine line in all that.”
Frankly, the whole thing's confusing. Some Sooners say the scheme hasn't changed a bit. Others say it has.
If complication was the problem, isn't that an indictment of Bob Stoops, too, since he should have recognized it and ordered Brent Venables to change?
“As much as anything, it's trying to make it simpler for our guys to have fewer mental mistakes,” Bob Stoops said. “If we do that, it'll help us.”
Mike Stoops said the other day that the biggest problem with the OU defense last season was asking players to do things they were physically unable to do. Asking Javon Harris to cover a Baylor slot receiver across 40 yards was inviting trouble.
So who knows? The answer almost surely is somewhere in between. The 2011 Sooners had some mental meltdowns but also at times just got beat.
“Well, in the end, it was a little bit of both,” Bob Stoops said. “It always is.”
But there's no doubt that in the past, OU played a complicated defense. Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, in his 31st season coaching in the NFL, raved to Michigan media the other day about rookie linebacker Travis Lewis and the coaching he got at OU.
“Travis Lewis, I can't get over him," Cunningham said, saying Lewis already was one of the best middle linebackers he's ever had at calling defenses. “He handles things like I've never seen a kid handle.”
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz echoed Cunningham, saying, “He's never once had any kind of problems. He's adjusted very, very quickly to a complex scheme. That says a lot about him and it says a lot about his coaches and experience at Oklahoma.”
Lewis credited Venables: “What he put on me allows me to pick this up so much faster.”
And maybe that's the point. Lewis was not the most talented defender, but he was sharp. And maybe he was in the minority. Maybe the Sooners have been playing with fast, tough guys who can't always pick up changes on the fly.
This much we know. The 2012 Sooners need to do less thinking.
“As you could see at times a year ago, there was a lot of thinking going on,” Mike Stoops said. “We got the short end of that stick.”
Mike Stoops wants to see the Sooners adjust quickly and play fast. Not just run fast. Play fast.
It's that simple.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.