DALLAS — Bob Stoops did not ask Landry Jones to improve during the offseason.
In the Oklahoma coach's mind, it's the other 10 offensive players who surround the Sooner signal-caller who need to get better.
Jones is already under the microscope going into his senior season. He's quarterbacking the team overwhelmingly picked to win the Big 12 in 2012. He's poised to statistically become the best quarterback in school history.
But fresh in the mind of many is how Jones finished 2011, tossing zero touchdown passes and six interceptions in the Sooners' final four games after he lost No. 1 receiving target Ryan Broyles.
Stoops stressed during Monday's press conference at Big 12 Media Days that Jones does not deserve the majority of the blame for the performance of the Sooner offense down the stretch.
“Everybody (said), ‘Oh, Landry struggled,'” Stoops said. “No, he didn't — the offense struggled. You had more dropped passes in the last three games, I couldn't even keep track of them. Didn't run the football as effectively as we needed to at all.
“All of that goes together. To me, it's more of an issue of the offense and the offense around him than it is him.”
Then there's the question of how many reliable weapons Jones will have to throw to.
Broyles is gone to the NFL. Three other receivers — Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson — were suspended indefinitely during the offseason for violating team rules.
Stoops called junior Kenny Stills a “mainstay” in the OU offense. He also said he has high expectations for spring standout Trey Metoyer.
After that, Stoops admits there's a lot of uncertainty.
“From there, we're going to have to see, because we're not able to work with players in the summer,” Stoops said. “And a lot of these guys are new, some of the young high school receivers we have in, and then with the addition of some junior college guys.
“We've got a lot of work to do there, but I believe there's talent there to work with.”
Here's what else Stoops had to say during Monday's press conference:
On the additions of West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12:
“Hopefully we can be back having a chance to once again have a chance to compete for a Big 12 championship. I think it's fair to say our league — when you add West Virginia and TCU, two teams coming off bowl wins, two ranked football teams — you put them with the rest of what we've been doing here in the Big 12, that our league is every bit as strong as it's ever been, if not stronger.”
On the return of brother Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator:
“I'm excited to have Mike back, for a number of reasons. Not only personally, but professionally, when we've worked together, it's been pretty positive. You look at our years either competing at Iowa together as players, but also the years at Kansas State coaching defense together, (to) his, whatever, 5-6 years with us at Oklahoma up to 2003, we did pretty well overall. Mike can only do so much, though, just like any coach can. Players are ultimately what win and lose for you. But I do believe in the last couple years, for whatever reason, and we've really looked at it, our defense hasn't been quite as strong as what we've been used to in our first 10-12 years. So hopefully we can make fewer mental mistakes in some areas and be a little sharper in what we're doing to play more consistently better defense. That's what Mike will be working hard on, and I've obviously got a lot of faith in him.
On how Blake Bell and his “Belldozer” package will be used in 2012:
“Very much the same as what it has been. Blake's an excellent athlete, continues to do well, he throws the ball well. But we're not going to alternate quarterbacks, and so it will stay pretty much the same — red zone and short-yardage, those situations. You get the extra hat and you get the extra blocker on somebody, and you got a guy 260 pounds that's 6-foot-6 falling forward, and it's usually positive.”
On the progress of running back Dominique Whaley, who missed the final five games with a broken ankle:
“He's been cleared to do everything. He's out there running and training. I'm not able to work with them, so it's a little bit tough (to assess his progress). And I don't think even Dom knows until you put the pads on and have got to make that sudden cut. Is he going to feel comfortable doing it? He says he feels really good and he's working well, but again, until you get out there, it's kind of hard to say.”