Returning defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is a secondary specialist. A question entering spring football was whether Stoops could have an immediate impact on an Oklahoma secondary that had meltdowns last season.
Based on interviews the past month, followed by a fairly solid showing in Saturday's spring game, the answer is yes.
The defense gave up only one long pass play in a 22-21 “loss” that most would consider a “win.”
The offense scored only two touchdowns all day, and the final one was with down-the-roster players on the field.
On the other 17 possessions, the offense produced a 60-yard touchdown pass, three field goals, a missed field goal ... and 12 punts.
“I've been encouraged with our guys for all of camp,” Stoops said. “Pass coverage is all 11 guys. It's not just the four guys or the five guys in the back. It's underneath, pressuring the quarterback. It all works together.”
The defense reportedly has held its own much of the spring matched against an offense that should rank among the nation's highest-scoring units.
Stoops started camp by telling his defensive troops they were getting a fresh start. Then, he stripped down the scheme, adding a little at a time.
Next, he moved players around — Tony Jefferson to free safety, Javon Harris to strong safety, Gabe Lynn to reserve safety.
By the end of spring, Stoops estimates he installed 50 percent to 60 percent of the defense. The rest will be sprinkled in during two-a-days in August.
Stoops felt it was essential players were confident they knew assignments.
“We're not a team that can't be in the right place, (can't) understand your responsibility,” Stoops said. “We're not that type of team.”
Keep in mind the defense has played all spring with a hand tied behind its back. Veteran defensive linemen missed much of the spring, which made the defense vulnerable against the run and sometimes lacked a consistent pass rush.
Still, the defense, by all reports, held its own.
But will they pass the real test this fall?
“When we play together, we're solid across the board,” Stoops said. “I think we're going to be a very complete defense.”