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Oklahoma Seeks To Restore Its Defensive Reputation
August 04, 2012
Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

NORMAN, Okla. - Bob Stoops played defensive back at Iowa. As a defensive coordinator, he helped Florida win a national championship. That success led him to become Oklahoma's coach and in his second year the Sooners won the 2000 national title by shutting out Florida State's high-powered offense in the Orange Bowl.

So when OU went 10-3 last season, allowed 40-plus points in the three losses and allowed a school-record 376 yards per game, the hurt was deep.

"Sure, the defensive struggles hurt my pride, but so did the offensive struggles," Stoops said Saturday during the Sooners' on-campus media day. "I'm the head coach. I'm responsible for both sides of the ball."

Stoops' brother Mike was the defensive coordinator on the 2000 national championship team. In 2004 he left to become Arizona's coach. He returns to the Sooners to take over the defense this season.

"It's personal for me, too," he said. "I didn't suddenly become a bad coach. (The defensive players) want redemption. They're tired of hearing about what happened. I'll be surprised if they don't come back with a vengeance. It's personal for them.  A lot will ride on how we play defense."

OU fans are excited to have Mike Stoops back on the staff. Both Mike and his brother temper the enthusiasm with the reminder that players play and coaches coach.

"All I have said about Mike is that he hasn't made a play in a long time, he's way too old to do that," Bob Stoops said. "I'm encouraged in the way that Mike continues to work with our staff. I believe he'll make a difference. I want us to get back to having a defensive reputation like we're used to having. But the players have to to do it."

Who Replaces Ryan Broyles?
When senior Ryan Broyles was lost for the last four games with a knee injury, Oklahoma got a look at what it's offense will look like this season without the NCAA's career leader in receptions.

It wasn't pretty. Without Broyles, the offense sputtered. Senior quarterback Landry Jones had just one touchdown pass and threw six interceptions over the last four games. The other receivers dropped so many passes the coaching staff lost track. The running game failed to produce.

Junior Kenny Stills has been a two-year starter but always with Broyles on the field. Freshman Trey Metoyer has been impressive in practice but has yet to play a game. One of the major questions for the Sooners is the reliability and production of its receivers.

"You don't necessarily need to have a No. 1 receiver but you need three receivers out there who play and produce like No. 1 receivers," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.

Who Replaces Ben Habern?
That question is unexpected because Ben Habern, a senior who had 30 starts, was Oklahoma's starting center and was named to the preseason All-Big12 team.

However this week he announced he was ending his career after undergoing neck surgery in the offseason. The surgery corrected a problem that had bothered him since high school and his recovery wasn't sufficient to allow him to play without risk of serious injury.

Senior Gabe Ikard will move from guard to center to replace Habern. Ikard has experience at center; last season when Habern missed five games with a broken arm, Ikard took over in the middle of the Sooners' offensive line.

"Gabe is the best," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Ikard's versatility. "He's a former tight end, he's played guard, he's played center, if we needed a tackle he could do that. He's football smart. He's knows what everyone is doing on the line."

Quick Slants
* ESPN is reporting that wide receiver Justin Brown has told his coaches at Penn State that he is transferring to Oklahoma. He is expected to join the Sooners Monday. Because of NCAA sanctions, Penn State players have the option of transferring and being eligible immediately. Brown, a senior, was Penn State's leading receiver last season with 35 receptions for 517 yards and two touchdowns.  He also averaged 8.1 yards as a punt returner.

* Bob Stoops says that because of the high-powered offenses in the Big 12, rating the strength of a defense is difficult. "Points matter to me more than anything," he said. "But in this league, you probably need to look at yards per play as the key statistic. Some of the other stats, like total yards allowed, get skewed. When your defense is facing 300 more plays than teams in other leagues, that's three to four more games for us than for teams in those leagues."

* Stoops announced Saturday that Kameel Jackson is no longer on the team. In May, Jackson announced via Twitter that he was transferring to Texas A&M. Then it was announced he had been suspended but was still on scholarship. As a freshman last year, Jackson caught 12 passes for 165 yards and started the Insight Bowl.

* Offensive linemen Nila Kasitati and Austin Woods have been cleared to play. Kasitati, a redshirt freshman, had surgery last week for a heart condition. It's not life threatening and corrected a problem he had dealt with for years. Woods has Hodgkins lymphoma and has continued to play and practice while undergoing chemotherapy. Stoops called his attitude and fight through the battle "remarkable." Woods is Oklahoma's snapper on field goals.

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