Whispers have circulated ever since he was axed as head coach at Arizona, but the rumors really picked up steam today that Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2003, is returning to the Sooners sidelines.
A vocal segment of Sooner fans like to act as though the program has been wandering the desert in the eight years since Mike left. Given how opposing offenses torched the Sooners’ national championship hopes this year, the talk of the prodigal son’s potential return undoubtedly came upon the Brent Venables Anti-fan Club like an oasis.
Put me in the somewhat skeptical camp. It’s a nice thought, so long as Sooner Nation keeps its expectations in order.
Mike serves as a reminder of days gone by in Soonerland when OU won a national championship and had dominant Ds led by the likes of Roy Williams and Tommie Harris. Although his defenses at Arizona didn’t really set the world on fire, his reputation as a stalwart defensive coordinator has clearly carried over from his time in the Crimson and Cream. He has had the likes of Bo Pelini and Urban Meyer inquiring about his services this offseason already.
No one doubts Mike’s coaching acumen. However, we should acknowledge that the world of college football has changed dramatically in the last eight years. Spread, no-huddle offenses have become an almost default scheme in college football now, and you’ll find no better practitioners of these wide-open attacks than teams in the Big 12. Mike may be an outstanding coach, but there’s nothing to say that he holds the key to shutting down such prolific attacks.
And while no one wants to admit it with the sting of this season’s disappointment still fresh, OU actually does a pretty good job on the whole defending against the spread. It very well could be that the best thing Mike has to offer is a fresh perspective on how the Sooners are doing things on defense, as opposed to having all the answers mapped out.
Ultimately, however, I think that kind of new(-ish) blood really does make for a compelling argument. It has been hard to shake the feeling this season that OU’s schemes are growing somewhat stale, along with some of the energy around the program.
Can Mike remedy that? I’d be excited to find out. If you’re looking for a guarantee that he would have a major impact right away, however, you definitely won’t get one from me.