The 2011 preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll voted the Sooners #1, gifting them 42 of 59 first-place votes. Eventual national champion Alabama checked in second, Rose Bowl winner Oregon, third and SEC champion LSU, fourth. Oklahoma concluded the season 15th, a winner over Iowa in the Insight Bowl and definitely not in the same time zone as their preseason counterparts. Such is the life of Bob Stoops in his second decade in Norman, where ten wins and a bowl victory qualify as disappointment.
The loss at Baylor, where Robert Griffin III torched a leaky secondary was understandable but an inexplicable meltdown at home against Texas Tech and the thrashing Oklahoma State served in December surprised. Not since Les Miles stalked the sidelines in Stillwater had the Sooners faced consistent heat from their in-state rivals. Their death grip on Big 12 championships ended not by failure on the field but with the loss of Ryan Broyles, Landry Jones wasn’t the same after losing his favorite target. After the preseason plaudits had became false prophesy rather than wise projection, the Sooners look to regain their foothold as the dominant program in conference in 2012.
As defensive coordinator Brent Venables left to fix a Clemson unit that gave up 70 points in their bowl, another limb on the Stoops coaching tree returned home. Bob’s brother Mike, he who made Brian Kelly‘s angry face before Brian Kelly, faltered at Arizona and was welcomed back with a noogie in Norman. He’ll oversee a defense that’s likely to be one of the Big 12‘s best, even without the contributions (he’ll be back by Red River), at least initially, of suspended tackle Stacy McGee. Injuries and discipline have been the focal points of the Oklahoma offseason. Offensive linemen Ben Habern (forced to give up football) and Tyler Evans (ACL) are done protecting Jones while receivers Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks practice, but aren’t allowed (again, back by Texas) to play.
As for the schedule, expect the Sooners to dole out a healthy helping of revenge in Lubbock. A week later, the Red River Shootout occurs, fried beer, Barry Switzer, meth-infused grandmas and all. In late October, Notre Dame travels to Norman for a solid non-conference tilt that’s likely to push some Irish supporters toward Protestantism. And on November 17th, a track meet on grass happens in Morgantown as a de facto Big 12 title game could take place between West Virginia and Oklahoma. Those playing in that matchup, please BYOI. Bring Your Own Inhalers. Then on the 24th, Bedlam presents Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt with a shot at immortality though surviving the first half is probably a better call.
Stoops recently signed an extension that elevated his pay and keeps him in Norman through the 2018 season. Those contracts hold the same weight as Monopoly money were he to want to exit Oklahoma but I think we’ve pushed past that phase. Plenty of NFL teams have inquired and Stoops never left. At this point, he’s chasing another national title to solidify his place in Sooner lore and what’s the allure of rebuilding a program at his age?
In recruiting, Oklahoma currently sits 29th in the 2013 rankings by 247 Sports, boasting 12 commitments. Among them, 4-star Cypress Ranch running back Keith Ford and 4-star Colleyville Heritage quarterback Cody Thomas. The Sooners have poached prospects a little more nationally lately but their mantra and haul reflects the necessity of recruiting the Lone Star State. As long as Stoops has them competing for conference titles and Charles Robinson avoids the campus, there’s no reason Oklahoma won’t continue hiring family of the head coach and winning.