Oklahoma football: Tony Jefferson, Kenny Stills' departures creates openings for different kind of OU leaders

COMMENTARY — Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills were poised to move into prominent leadership roles on the Oklahoma football team. Their departures create an opportunity for leaders for whom wearing a Sooner uniform is something special.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 7, 2013

Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills heading to the NFL leaves a void.

No way around that.

Oklahoma can't lose its leading tackler and leading receiver without feeling some adverse effects. We learned for certain with a statement from Sooner coach Bob Stoops on Monday that Jefferson and Stills are skipping their senior seasons, so the Sooners will be looking for even more playmakers at a time when it already seems short on them.

But the holes that Jefferson and Stills leave aren't all bad.

In those voids are opportunities, especially where leadership is concerned.

By all accounts, Jefferson and Stills were solid leaders for the Sooners. They played hard. They even played hurt. Those are always good traits to have in two of your best.

But there was always a California cool vibe with these guys. The swagger. The hair. The tattoos. They come by it naturally, of course. Jefferson and Stills are from the Left Coast, California bred and proud of it.

There's nothing wrong with Cali cool.

I'm just not sure it's the kind of leadership this team needs heading into next season.

The Sooners are coming off a season that fell well below lofty expectations. They were out of the national championship hunt before November. They were forced to share a Big 12 title. They were bypassed for a BCS bowl, then torched in the Cotton Bowl.

Now, they face the most uncertain offseason in the Bob Stoops era. New quarterback. Offensive funk. Defensive faults. Leadership questions.

That last one was bound to happen with the departure of a sizable senior class. Guys like Landry Jones, David King and Justin Brown are gone. Add Jefferson and Stills to the list, and the void of proven leaders is even bigger.

But here's the silver lining — there's a chance to go in a different direction.

For as solid as the character of as Jones, King and Brown were, they weren't fiery. They were more steady-as-she-goes influences. And, of course, Jefferson and Stills have that Cali cool.

What the Sooners seemed to be missing were player who cared passionately about being Sooners. They have plenty of guys who love to play football. They have lots of guys who want to be great. They don't have a bunch of leaders, though, who see wearing the crimson and cream as their life's ambition.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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