Archive for the ‘Bob Stoops’ Category

OU in Review: No Sam! So What?

September 7, 2009

Sam Bradford’s shoulder injury is dominating the fallout surrounding BYU’s shocking upset of Oklahoma, which is to be expected when the reigning Heisman winner goes down in such catastrophic fashion. That’s a big story, but as far as the game itself goes, it’s the wrong one.

Bradford plays in the second half of the game, and OU probably wins. So what.

Bradford’s absence wasn’t the difference on Saturday night. The Sooners came up short thanks to their own sloppy play. Penalties, dropped passes, poor ball protection–name a way to hand a game to a decent opponent, and OU managed to do it.

(And let’s make no mistake: BYU is a decent team, but it’s way too early to proclaim the Cougars to be an upper-echelon squad.)

For a group of young receivers, most of whom were seeing their first significant action, a collective case of the dropsies is understandable. The fumbles and prolific penalties are a different story.

No one could reasonably expect the Sooners to replicate the outstanding ball protection of the 2008 team, which only lost two fumbles all season. However, the carelessness with which veterans Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray gave the ball away to kill promising drives was disappointing. Even though the fumble was recovered, backup quarterback Landry Jones muffing a snap on third and short in the fourth quarter was tough to stomach, too.

The most disconcerting aspect of OU’s performance against BYU had to be the never-ending string of penalties called against the offensive line. While the game statistics show a relatively even split between the two teams for the game (BYU: 10-87; OU: 12-93), the OU o-line seemed to pick the most inopportune times to draw a flag. The three false starts on the opening series really stood out, as did the false start on OU’s final drive that turned third-and-nine from the BYU 32 into third-and-14 from the Cougars’ 37. A somewhat manageable field goal opportunity was transformed into a hope and a prayer.

The Sooner defense didn’t escape this game blameless, either. Missed tackles and what appeared to be busted assignments sparked BYU’s biggest plays in the game.

In the end, all those miscues boil down to discipline and composure. They’re the kind of mental aspects of the game that OU coach Bob Stoops harps on frequently in public. It may be a cliché, but the line between winning and losing in football is razor-thin, and a major reason why great teams always seem to stay on the right side of it is disciplined execution.

It’s still early, and in the court of public opinion, Bradford’s injury certainly took a little heat off the team’s overall poor performance. But even with a healthy Bradford, the Sooners looked nothing like a “great” team last weekend. Just “good” even sounds like a stretch.

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Missing Sooner Magic

August 29, 2009

OK, so we’ve covered the 2009 edition of the Sooners from head to toe, and Homerism has given them a clean bill of health. Honestly, I can’t find a thing wrong with this team. So sign the papers, punch the ticket to Pasadena, right?

As much as Homerism wants to, for some reason I just can’t bring myself to certify the Sooners as a legitimate national championship contender. Why? I’m not entirely sure.

Maybe it has something to do with depth issues. Maybe it’s the lack of an offensive playmaker. Maybe it’s all the new faces on the o-line.

I suspect, though, that it’s Sooner Magic—or a lack thereof—that’s holding me back.

In the ‘90s, even OU fans like me who grew up watching Barry Switzer’s squads hang half-a-hundred on overmatched Big 8 opponents had forgotten what success felt like. After such a sustained run of excellence, watching the Sooners stumble their way through an entire decade of something somewhere in between futility and calamity was downright tragic.

When head coach Bob Stoops arrived on the scene in Norman in 1999, the fact he was able to get OU bowl eligible seemed miraculous; bringing home a national championship the next year actually was.

Stoops quickly earned a reputation as a brash riverboat gambler whose teams played loose and were just as willing as their coach to dare to be great. The Sooners took chances that always paid off.
Sooner Magic was back. OU football was fun again.
Of course, with all the excitement surrounding OU’s resurgence under Stoops, Oklahoma fans forgot the decidedly less fun part of success: expectations. Suddenly, after an era in which falling to teams like San Diego State and Northwestern had become all too commonplace, losses to some of the best teams in the country turned into disasters once again. Undefeated seasons and national championships were the new standards.
Gradually, that old Sooner Magic started to fade. OU kept on winning, but at some point it started to seem more like not losing. Were the Sooners playing tight? A 7-6 record in games decided by 10 points or less since 2006 is one way to answer that question.
As fans, we don’t really get to see all the behind-the-scenes moments—practices, sideline skull sessions, team meetings—that really tell us about the mood of a team. Occasionally players may pop off to the press, but for the most part, they’re as well-trained in coachspeak as coaches themselves. All we have to go on is what we see on game day. Watching the Sooners lately, it’s easy to wonder if they’re actually enjoying themselves.
And that starts at the top. From his demeanor on the sidelines to the exercise in antipathy known as a Bob Stoops press conference, OU’s head coach doesn’t look like he’s having any fun.

Stoops doesn’t get paid to make people laugh, and football teams need lofty goals if they want to succeed. But maintaining high standards while preventing expectations from weighing a team down is a key part of the job description for an elite college football coach. Pro athletes may be able to handle the psychology of the spotlight on their own, but 18-year-old kids take their cues from their coach.

Even though Florida beat OU in last season’s national championship game, those looked like two pretty evenly matched teams. The Gators pulled it out through sheer will and being that much more aggressive when it mattered. This season, Florida brings back plenty of firepower. Man for man, though, OU is equally strong. Yet, if the Sooners want to get back to the top of the college football mountain, they need to get the Magic back.
Here’s hoping Stoops brings back some of his old tricks.
Prediction: 13-1, Big 12 champs, Fiesta Bowl win

Bad News out of Norman

August 21, 2009
What was once a position of major strength for the Sooners is growing increasingly thin.

Freshman sensation Tom Wort suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage tonight. Although details are scarce at the moment, coach Bob Stoops didn’t sound optimistic following practice.

In the short term, this is yet another blow to the middle linebacker spot for the Sooners. With Mike Balogun’s status with the NCAA looking dire, Wort was expected to provide depth behind likely starter Ryan Reynolds, who’s coming off his second major knee injury. Sophomore Austin Box filled in admirably at middle linebacker late in 2008, but he has had plenty of injury problems of his own throughout his time as a Sooner.
In the longer term, let’s hope this doesn’t hinder Wort’s development. The freshman early enrollee wasn’t being pushed into action out of necessity; the coaching staff had raved about Wort’s ability ever since he set foot on campus in the spring. He continued to wreak havoc all over the field in fall camp, looking like he would turn out to be just too good to keep on the sidelines this year.

Bummed for Balogun

August 15, 2009

Given that the NCAA cleared Oklahoma LB Mike “The Bricklayer” Balogun to play last season, today’s news that he has been declared ineligible is pretty stunning.

For those unfamiliar with Balogun’s background, the 25-year-old former construction worker came to Norman last season out of Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College. After graduating high school, where he was forced to quit football so that he could get a part-time job, Balogun played two seasons of “semi-pro” ball in Maryland. (Homerism was as surprised as you probably are right now to learn such a thing still exists.) Anyway, apparently NCAA rules mandate that college players lose a year of eligibility for every year they play semi-pro ball after their 21st birthday. The purpose of the rule? I have no idea.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Balogun can continue to practice with the team until next Wednesday, at which point his status should be cleared up. However, coach Bob Stoops didn’t sound too confident: “We’re still hopeful that Mike will be eligible for this season, but we’ll have to see what happens over the coming days.”

Homerism has a soft spot for guys like Balogun. It’s tough not to admire someone who scraped and clawed his way out of a tough situation to achieve something great. Balogun brought that same blue-collar attitude with him to Norman, working his way up the depth chart as injuries felled the Sooners’ middle linebackers. By the end of the year, The Bricklayer found himself starting in the Big 12 and national title games.

This season, Balogun had been competing for the middle linebacker spot with senior Ryan Reynolds, last year’s first-stringer who’s coming off his second major knee injury, as well as sophomore Austin Box and true freshman Tom Wort. Although OU coach Bob Stoops’ decision to close the vast majority fall practices has choked off the flow of information coming out of fall camp, signs indicated Balogun would see meaningful playing time for the Sooners this season.

OU is fortunate that linebacker may be the deepest position on the 2009 team this season. The coaching staff seems to view Reynolds–one of defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ all-time favorites–as the odds-on choice to get the nod at middle linebacker. Box is expected to shift back to the middle after working some on the outside. He played extremely well in the middle last year when called into action. Plus, early enrollee Wort had a stellar spring and has carried that over into fall practice. He may turn out to be too good to keep off the field this year.

Still, Reynolds’ injury history makes the need for a solid backup or capable rotation pretty clear. At the short open session on Thursday, Balogun ran with the first-team defense, as Reynolds watched from the sidelines. Thinking back on the revolving door of players who saw action at middle linebacker for OU last year, the loss of The Bricklayer looms larger than you’d think for the Sooners.

Linking Up: August 13

August 14, 2009

Some quick-hitters while lamenting the fact that I’m watching an NFL preseason game being called by Joe Theismann and Mike Patrick:

*Caught the season premiere of Hard Knocks on HBO last night. I’m sure no one likes being the one to tell guys they’ve been cut or broken a leg, but those two chumps the Bengals have put in charge of those jobs couldn’t be any less sympathetic. The way ex-Sooner J.D. Runnels was let go was particularly cold. Also, it looks pretty clear that Roy Williams’ days as a productive NFL safety are over
*Per usual, injuries are the big story early in two-a-days this season.
Darren Evans‘ torn ACL won’t hurt Virginia Tech as badly as people seem to think. The sophomore running back had a solid year in 2008, but the 1,200 yards rushing he gained were inflated by a huge game against Maryland in which he gained 253 yards on 32 carries. For the season, he averaged a good-but-not-great 4.4 yards per carry. Evans is a strong runner and all, but his contributions to the Hokie offense are easily replaceable.
Zac Robinson’s health could turn into a major storyline in Stillwater this season. Robinson sat out his fifth-straight practice today with a hamstring injury. If the quarterback’s mobility is limited this year, it could significantly reduce the size of the Pokes’ playbook.
-Despite all the hype surrounding Matt Barkley at USC, I still think Aaron Corp ends up starting this season. Either way, I’m really starting to feel the Buckeyes in that early-season blockbuster.
-Seeing as Texas is down to its third-string tight end, you have to wonder how it’s going to affect the Longhorns’ already mediocre run game.
*Meanwhile, Bob Stoops has been about as open about how things are going in Norman as Sal from Mad Men is about his sexuality. Stoops graciously threw Sooner Nation a bone this evening, opening up a no-pads practice to the general public for about an entire hour. Some initial thoughts based on what Homerism has gleaned from the media reports:
-The news that C Ben Habern has been slowed by a back injury obviously is troubling. When it comes to nagging, back problems are up there with the dreaded “high-ankle sprain.” As I’ve written before, play from the center position is critical for OU this year. The idea of a backup tight end snapping the ball isn’t too comforting.
-With Habern sitting out, one offensive line combination being used is Trent Williams at left tackle, Brian Simmons at left guard, Stephen Good at center, Jarvis Jones at right guard and Cory Brandon at right tackle. I guess that doesn’t sound so bad.
-Stoops rarely calls out individuals the way he did with Jameel Owens recently. Homerism wonders if the Muskogee native may not be long for the Crimson and Cream.
-As stacked as OU’s defense is, it sounds like some youngsters will see meaningful snaps this season, particularly in the secondary.
-Is it just me, or have the coaching staff’s comments been disarmingly positive so far?
*Is Bill Engvall a comedian or something? How did this guy get a show with his name in the title?
*If you haven’t been reading Jason Whitlock’s columns on the recent sexual indiscretions of sports figures–and fans, in the case of Erin Andrews–get caught up. Props to the good people at FoxSports.com for allowing “Big Sexy” to throw in a host of clever vagina euphemisms in his latest missive. Even when I disagree with Whitlock, I really appreciate his unique point of view and ability to express his opinions provocatively without crossing the line into “I’m-obviously-doing-this-to-fire-people-up-and-get-more-hits” territory.
*Things in Homerism’s non-blogging life have calmed down a bit recently, and I’m hoping to really kick up the amount of writing that I’m doing. If you have any thoughts or ideas for articles, please feel free to send me an e-mail or post some comments here. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Setting the Record Straight (Part I)

July 2, 2009


If Homerism decided to devote his time to rebutting all of the worthless crap spouted by college football pundits and personalities, I might make it through a day’s worth of material before I die. So, normally, I try to find the important stuff in circulation and stick to that. After all, what’s that saying about arguing with fools?

Occasionally, though, I come across some piece of bloviation that irks me to the point that I just can’t let it go. Somehow I managed to find two in one day. I’ll address one now and another at some point in the next couple days.
Colin Cowherd’s Top Seven College Football Programs
While his blog post doesn’t rank the schools, he outlined his version of the pecking order on his show Tuesday:
1. USC
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Ohio St.
7. Virginia Tech
OK, as I’ve written before, I actually enjoy Herd’s show. I don’t always agree with his viewpoints, but I do appreciate his willingness to play the contrarian. He typically offers compelling, thoughtful takes, even when Homerism suspects Herd is pandering for ratings.

When it comes to his show’s wheelhouse, college football, Herd loves to take jabs at Oklahoma and Sooner head coach “SpongeBob Bowl Flop.” Given the passion of OU fans, it’s not a bad ploy if he wants to rattle some cages. On the other hand, if he really detests the OU program and Sooner fans as much as he claims, that’s fine with Homerism. It’s not Cowherd’s job to be objective. He also claims to love Texas and USC, two fan bases that don’t exactly have hospitable relationships with Sooner Nation, so it’s understandable that he’d be predisposed in such a way.
But, using his own criteria during his specified timeframe of the last 10 years–wins, “big wins,” conference titles and players sent to the NFL–the only way the ‘Horns should be ranked ahead of OU is if it’s a misprint. How do the two programs stack up? 
Conference Titles
Texas: 1.33
Oklahoma: 5.33
*Although OU is recognized as the 2008 Big 12 champion, I’ll count the title for that year as being split three ways between OU, Texas and Texas Tech. Hence, the “*” in this case.
NFL Draft Picks
Texas: 42
Oklahoma: 44
Wins
Texas: 106-23 (.821)
Oklahoma: 109-24 (.820)
“Big Wins”
Head-to-Head: OU, 6-4
Big 12 Championship Games: OU 6-1; Texas 1-2
Bowl Games: Texas 7-3 (3-0 in BCS); OU 4-6 (2-5 in BCS)
National Championships: OU 1; Texas 1
So… Let’s call overall wins and draft picks a draw, even though OU has a slight lead in both. When it comes to conference titles, it’s not even remotely close.
And that leaves big wins. Seeing as the two programs are sworn enemies and one of them has won the Big 12 South every year during this period, Homerism thinks a two-game advantage in head-to-head matchups is pretty important. If you count the conference championship as a big game, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t, that’s an enormous advantage in favor of the Sooners.
Then there’s the matter of bowl games. There’s no doubt that Texas has made the most of its bowl appearances in the last 10 years, especially in its three BCS games. Vince Young led the Longhorns to a national title in a game for the ages against a stellar USC team.
Meanwhile, to say OU has hit a cold streak lately would be an understatement. But, if BCS games are such a big deal, doesn’t the fact that OU is actually playing in them mean anything? Put the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl against Mississippi State, and I like their chances, too. While the Sooners were losing to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl, Texas was beating Iowa in the Alamo Bowl. If you think it’s better to bang the prostitute than strike out at the bar with an “8,” then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, Herd.

One Justin In, One Justin Out

June 12, 2009

Carey Murdock of Sooner Scoop is reporting that Bob Stoops has confirmed that heralded freshman defensive end Justin Chaisson has enrolled at OU and is on campus. Also, Stoops said sophomore running back Justin Johnson has left the team.

UPDATE
Stoops has issued a statement regarding Chaisson’s status: 

“We have thoroughly reviewed the facts and disposition of any and all allegations against Justin as determined by the independent assessment of the district attorney’s office and the court system. Based on their investigation of the facts, all allegations of the use of any weapon have been dismissed and are not the basis of any charge against or plea by him. Our decision is appropriately based on the independent determination and action of the district attorney’s office and the court system.

“We take these matters of conduct very seriously. Justin fully understands our expectations and his responsibilities of exemplary behavior and professional counseling. He knows the consequences if he does not meet those requirements.”

Sound the Alarm?

May 28, 2009

By now, most seasoned Sooner fans can sniff out when Bob Stoops is using his motivational Jedi mind tricks.

He may call out a player in the media. He’ll reward an overachieving walk-on with a move up the depth chart as a way to challenge a slow starter. Hell, last year, he publicly dogged OU’s fans in an effort to hype up the crowd for a primetime game with Texas Tech.
Is it just me, though, or do his recent critiques of the OU offensive line seem different?
Prior to spring practice, Stoops lit into the unit, which must replace four starters this season. No big deal, Homerism thought. Sounded like a good way to let the newbies know what time it is.
The OU head coach’s comments in today’s column from Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World are more troubling, however. Echoing his earlier concerns, Stoops harped on the new group’s work ethic and attitude. This coming a week after he unceremoniously kicked guard Alex Williams off the team for “not doing what he needs to do.”
If Stoops was talking about any unit other than the offensive line, it wouldn’t have me particularly spooked. That even includes quarterback. But strong offensive line play is key to a national championship season, and OU’s new crop is pretty green.
Stoops himself noted that the blockers have time to put it all together. There’s no denying the individual talent among the group. Hopefully, Stoops’ barking is just another ploy to keep the linemen on their toes.
But it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Stoops Opens Up About BCS Blowups

May 25, 2009

Today’s column from Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World includes head coach Bob Stoops’ first real comments on OU’s loss in this year’s BCS championship since his postgame press conference. Sittler talks up an angle on the game that didn’t seem to get much play in the aftermath–running back DeMarco Murray’s absence.

Throughout OU’s BCS losing streak, injuries, bad behavior and bad luck have plagued the Sooners. Murray and starting defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger missed the BCS championship game, just like both were absent from the OU’s loss to West Virginia in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. Receiver Malcolm Kelly and defensive backs Lendy Holmes and Reggie Smith also missed the surprising loss to the Mountaineers. Kelly sat out the prior season’s thriller versus Boise State. And don’t forget Heisman winner Jason White gutting out the 2004 Sugar Bowl with a broken foot, an injury that occurred early in the Sooners’ shellacking at the hands of Kansas State in that season Big 12 championship.
Of course, few of Stoops’ critics bring that up when hating on “Medium Game” Bob. And when was the last time you heard Stoops mention it?
Having watched Murray power into the end zone in short-yardage situations time and again throughout last season, it’s tough not to wonder what could have been when OU had the ball inside Florida’s five-yard line twice and came away with zero points. Similarly, would Jason White have missed a wide-open Kejuan Jones in the end zone in the Sugar Bowl if he had been throwing off of a good foot? It’s tough to say.
Thankfully, Stoops appears loathe to make such excuses for his teams’ postseason travails. After all, you go to war with the army you have. Great teams develop depth and don’t let the loss of one player completely throw them off track. Last year, for instance, Florida went out and beat an undefeated Alabama team while missing All-American Percy Harvin. Stoops himself has more than made due in such cases before.
Yet, it’s convenient to omit important details if they don’t support your point. It should surprise no one that the people who have latched on to the notion that Stoops and the Sooners are chokers aren’t interested in discussing the personnel issues facing OU in its big game defeats. In a sport with such little margin for error is that really fair?

An Ugly Take on Athletes’ Ugly Behavior

May 13, 2009

Up to now, Homerism has tried to steer clear of the Justin Chaisson issue until the situation had reached some kind of resolution. Until I read Daily Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel’s twisted take on the predicament, that is.

(I’m not going to waste time rehashing the particulars of Chaisson’s plight, but, obviously, it presents a thorny problem for OU coach Bob Stoops and the University of Oklahoma administration.)

If you’re looking for a good indicator of the column’s overall lameness, Tramel uses a dated allusion to Father Flanagan throughout the article, likening Stoops–or at least Stoops’ aspirations–to the saintly priest known for his work with wayward youths.
Anyway, as best I can tell, Tramel reckons big-time football coaches like Stoops believe they can put troubled recruits back on a righteous path by offering them structure and discipline. In other words, it’s just a matter of changing their environment. He points to ex-Sooner recruit Josh Jarboe and Oklahoma State standout Adarius Bowman as examples of kids from troubled homes sent to D-I Boys Town with a chance to turn it around.
To Tramel, however, Chaisson is a different case from Jarboe and Bowman, because his problem is clearly a deep-seated issue of “anger management.” It’s a flawed part of his DNA that likely requires years of therapy to address. Therefore, Tramel concludes, Chaisson presents a bigger risk.
Where to begin?

Maybe it just happens to be a matter of coincidence, but I read Tramel’s column as a tacit endorsement of a shallow stereotype that seems to have been pulled out of Crash or some other hackneyed junk masquerading as pseudo-social commentary playing on Starz over the weekend. Namely, white guys like Chaisson know better than to have screwed up so badly; they have some distinct character deficiency and are an aberration to their species. Black kids, on the other hand, are just too dumb or unrefined to be expected to live up to the expectations of civilized society. Either that, or the parents–strongly implying “welfare princess single moms”–raising these children just aren’t capable of teaching them right from wrong.
Granted, Chaisson is alleged to have assaulted and kidnapped his girlfriend before driving her to the desert and threatening to kill her. The violent nature of the charges certainly is disturbing. Is it really so different from Jarboe carrying a pistol onto high school grounds, though? What, pray tell, did Jarboe need that firearm for? Had he decided to take a detour through the school en route to the firing range? (Note, by the way, that Tramel neglects to mention Jarboe’s latest troubles since leaving OU.)
Conversely, couldn’t it be that Chaisson is the product of his environment, a juiced-up meathead whose background taught him to settle his problems in the manner that he did? Steroids kinda being a hot button these days and all.
White or black, nature or nurture; people screw up. It happens for any number of reasons. It shouldn’t make a difference in how Stoops addresses off-the-field transgressions. Yet, in Tramel’s world, somehow it does.
Jarboe’s dismissal set the precedent for just how “zero” Stoops’ zero-tolerance policy is supposed to be in such cases. Whatever his reasoning, let’s hope he applies an equal standard to Chaisson. And let’s hope that standard doesn’t rest on the same kind of offensive nature-nurture presumptions that appear to underpin Tramel’s analysis.