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April 24, 2013

Stoops positive about defensive developments

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It's been over a week since the Sooners wrapped up spring football practices and in that time Bob Stoops still feels good about some of the strides made defensively over the last two months.

Oklahoma is replacing three starters in the secondary as Tony Jefferson, Javon Harris and Demontre Hurst will be gone to start the 2013 season. But Stoops seemed to be pretty pleased with a few new faces this spring.

"Cortez Johnson at cornerback showed signs," Stoops said. "He's a big, 6-1, 6-2 corner that really played well. Same thing with Gabe Lynn being in the deep (safety) position was good.

"Julian Wilson moved up to the nickel position and he's a big, 6-2 guy at the nickel position that played a lot for us last year that has really come on too. I just thought through the spring, the group really continued to make improvement and I think we've got a chance to be improved there."

That doesn't mean the Sooners can't still use a helping hand with incoming freshmen like Stanvon Taylor, Hatari Byrd or L.J. Moore.

Even Ahmad Thomas made enough strides this spring to make a case for a starting job next fall.

But the biggest question surrounding the defense is up front. Stoops still doesn't have a long list of names that jump out to him at the defensive tackle position, but he remains optimistic.

"I was really pleased in the spring game with the improvement and the way our defensive line played.," he said. "Guys up front like Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Phillips came on and did a nice job. Some young defensive ends did well."

Stoops also singled out Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon at the linebacker position.

Don't be surprised to see some names emerge next fall. New defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery is going to have to get some production from others.

BIG 12 CHAMPIONS

It was a very different championship for Oklahoma in 2012. They were technically co-champions with Kansas State, who beat the Sooners head-to-head on their own field.

That hasn't soured Oklahoma on claiming a Big 12 Championship with banners in the Everest Indoor Training Facility or from championship rings, which are being handed out today.

Several players have been tweeting out pictures of their rings this afternoon.

With no change expected in Big 12 Conference membership, it appears the Sooners will have to get used to playing a round-robin schedule in the years to come.

That's just fine with Stoops, even though the format didn't seem to recognize a true champion through a Big 12 Championship game.

"The fact that you played everybody, you've got an opportunity to decide your champion through the regular season," said Stops. "We played on that day and we played TCU so you still have that presence and it's not labeled a championship game."

There's no need to get into twisting words. It's not a good position to be in for Stoops.

Claiming a Big 12 Championship is mostly for recruiting purposes. Lord knows most kids signing in 2014 won't care or even remember the Sooners lost head-to-head to Kansas State in the regular season.

Stoops gets beat up for not being more creative in recruiting. Well, this is part of the dog and pony show that is recruiting.

It's also naïve to not mention it has something to do with coaching bonuses.

But again, twisting words.

HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE FOR A TITLE

It's not as though Oklahoma is setup to make a run at the national championship next season. But rebuilding and reloading for a 2014 run is certainly a major goal.

What changes is the new College Football Playoff during the 2014 season.

If the Sooners find themselves in position to make the playoff, the site of the national championship game will be Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Everyone remembers what it was like playing in New Orleans against LSU for the 2003 BCS Championship. They also remember the flood of Gator fans in Miami during the 2008 BCS Championship.

Just forget about the fact OU had a 70/30 advantage over USC fans in that 2004 BCS Championship…

If the Sooners can put this thing back together in the next two years, they could enjoy a massive homefield advantage.

"I think it's really exciting for this region and all the schools in this region to have Dallas as one of those sites," said Stoops. "It's great for everybody in this region and exciting for everybody. Obviously everyone knows what a great, quality, awesome stadium it is.

"Then the location for us is an advantage, or should be. We've been in a couple of national championship sites where the crowd is maybe 80/20 or 70/30 and you feel like you're playing an away game and the other team is playing a home game.

"Hopefully if anyone in this region can be in that situation it will be the same thing where you have a chance to get the crowd on your side. Plus the travel for fans and everybody to be able to get to it, I think it's a great thing for everybody with the proximity to Dallas."



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