Stoops family reunion means Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator is on the market

Graham Watson
January 12, 2012
buffett.jpg
View photos
buffett.jpg

Oklahoma is getting the Stoops brothers back together.

Former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops is on his way to Norman to reunite with his brother, Bob, and resume the defensive coordinator position he held before leaving for Tucson in 2004.

However, current defensive coordinator Brent Venables might not be around to share that title. According to Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World, Venables has been offered the defensive coordinator position at West Virginia and is also on the short list at Clemson.

buffett.jpg
View photos
buffett.jpg

Venables could share defensive coordinating duties with Joe DeForrest, who was just hired from Oklahoma State but his official title has not yet been announced. The decision for Venebles would come down to his best opportunity. If he shares the defensive coordinator position with Stoops, his play-calling duties are likely done. Bringing Stoops back into the fold would be an effort to rekindle the heyday of Oklahoma football. However, Venables would be the play caller at West Virginia based on experience and Clemson, should they get into the race for Venables services, wouldn't ask him to share the defensive coordinator role at all.

Sittler notes that Oklahoma is trying to keep Venables a part of their plan moving forward. Venables and Stoops co-coordinated Oklahoma's defense — with Stoops calling the signals — from 1999 until Stoops left for Arizona in 2003. Venables has called plays ever since.

"There are certainly rumors and I'm sure there are possibilities for everybody," Mike Stoops told the Oklahoman. "Each individual circumstance is different. Good coaches are going to be approached by a lot of different people at different times. That's just kind of what you go through at the end of a season. I'm sure Brent is going to do what's best for him."

Even if Venables leaves, OU has to feel like it's in good hands with Stoops, who was fired in October after seven-and-a-half years as head coach at Arizona. During Stoops' four seasons with the Sooners, Oklahoma never finished lower than 25th in any of the four major defensive statistical categories (rushing, passing, total defense and scoring defense), and finished in the top 10 nationally in defense 11 times. Since Stoops has been gone, the Sooners have had just one season (2009) where it ranked in the top 10 in three of the four major defensive categories.

Also, the Sooner defenses from 2000-03 produced 10 All-Americans and have produced just six since.

Stoops didn't have the same defensive touch at Arizona. The Wildcats finished in the top 25 nationally in total defense just twice in eight years. But similar to Oklahoma in the past few years, the defensive struggles could be attributed to the fast-paced offense. Both teams played an up-tempo offensive style, which provided little respite to their defenses.

And certainly Stoops, who will also coach defensive backs, is going to have a little bit of a learning curve with the advance of Big 12 offenses since he was last in the conference. The Big 12 had five teams ranked in the top 25 in total offense and four teams ranked in the top 25 in scoring offense. Oklahoma was among the nation's leaders in both.

Defensively, Oklahoma ranked 53rd in total defense and 33rd in scoring defense with nearly 22 points per game allowed.

While facing some of the nation's best offenses will be a challenge for Mike Stoops, it's not going to be foreign. He did face Stanford, Oregon and USC on a regular basis for the past eight years.

"Those offenses are very difficult (to defend)," Mike Stoops told the Oklahoman. "They use the entire space on the field. That's what offenses are doing now. Making you defend the entire field is difficult. You have a lot of one-on-one matchups. Obviously, you have to be very strong in the secondary."

- - -
Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham