Most of the focus this spring has centered around Mike Stoops returning as defensive coordinator.
Sooner fans are hopeful a Mike Stoops-led defense will be vastly improved compared to the group that surrendered 616 yards in a loss at Baylor (the most in school history) and 572 yards in a home loss to Texas Tech.
The defense, rightfully so, received heavy criticism for three losses that included a blowout Bedlam loss.
In the three losses, the Sooners allowed 1,683 yards and 130 points.
But when coach Bob Stoops points out that football is a team game, it's more than coach-speak.
“The three games we lost, we didn't play nearly as well (defensively) as we maybe have overall,” Stoops said. “But what you also discount is how did the offense play in those games? How many three-and-outs? How many turnovers? All of that.
“As a team, I think we really helped each other lose those games. And give the other teams credit.”
Stoops has a point.
Yes, the defense was the primary reason the Sooners finished 10-3, a respectable season for many programs but far short of expectations for a team that was ranked No. 1 in preseason.
A closer look reveals the offense contributed to three losses, masked by OU scoring 38 points against both Texas Tech and Baylor.
Against Tech, the second quarter might have been the worst quarter of the Bob Stoops era. The Red Raiders outscored the Sooners 17-0 and outgained OU 194-40.
The defense was bad, but the offense stagnated. Hampered by seven three-and-outs, the Sooners went five consecutive possessions without a first down, which helped Tech built a 24-point lead on a stormy night that delayed kickoff.
A 45-38 loss to Baylor on the surface appears to be a shootout in which Robert Griffin III and the Bears simply outscored OU's offense, a game that probably won Griffin the Heisman Trophy.
But OU's offense also contributed to the first ever loss to Baylor. The Bears won the turnover battle 3-0. And too many OU possessions ended in Baylor territory without the Sooners scoring points.
A lopsided Bedlam loss was lopsided because OU's offense struggled the entire game.
On their first 12 possessions, the Sooners only once moved inside the Oklahoma State 30-yard line. And that possession ended with a Landry Jones fumble the Cowboys nearly returned for a touchdown.
Through three quarters, the offense produced four three-and-outs and four turnovers. One turnover was an OSU defensive touchdown. Another essentially was a defensive touchdown.
OU's offense, not the defense, was the primary reason the Cowboys romped to a 44-10 win.
Considered one of the top defensive coaches in the country, Mike Stoops should impact OU's defense. But to place all the blame for three losses last season on the defense and former defensive coordinator Brent Venables isn't justified.
The defense must avoid games in which wide receivers run wide open. Bob Stoops' point is how the 2012 season plays out has many other variables other than how the defense fares under his brother.
“Hopefully, we can play better in three games, and hopefully in those games, defensively, not have the breakdowns we had,” Stoops said. “But players ultimately have a hand in that as well.
“You can coach all you want. If a guy is not capable of doing it, he's not capable of doing it. A lot of it all has to work together.”
One of the biggest frustrations for OU's staff was the inconsistency on both sides of the ball. The defense played well in marquee wins over Florida State, Texas and Kansas State but allowed 931 passing yards in losses to Texas Tech and Baylor.
The offense ranked among the nation's top-scoring teams but was inconsistent, especially after All-America wide receiver Ryan Broyles suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“In the end, the players still make plays, players still win the game,” Bob Stoops said. “Hopefully our players, whether we're coaching them better or they're paying closer attention, through teaching and work on the field can develop better skills in what we're trying to do.
“Together, it takes all of that. It doesn't take one guy (Mike Stoops) walking in here and changing it. It's going to take everybody.”