Spring Football: Mike Stoops Tries At Oklahoma To Prove You Can Go Home Again

Sept 24, 2011; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops glares at the Oregon sideline after wide receiver Austin Hill (not pictured) was hit in the head by two Oregon defenders in the third quarter of a game against the Oregon Ducks at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE


The Oklahoma of recent seasons staked its identity to an uptempo, passing oriented offense. But at the peak of Bob Stoops’ tenure, OU won with the nastiest, toughest defense in college football.

Behind that defense was coordinator Mike Stoops. In his five seasons at the helm of the Sooner defense, OU allowed 19.1 (1999), 14.9 (2000), 13 (2001), 15.4 (2002), and 14.1 (2003) points per game and played in three BCS bowls and two championship games.

His efforts landed him the head coaching position at Arizona, a program that wanted a defensive minded head coach to return it to its Desert Swarm glory days. And initially, UA showed some of the aggressiveness on that side of the ball that characterized it in the 1990s, and Stoops at Oklahoma.

However, Stoops was fired from UA last October at a juncture when the Wildcats ranked dead last in the FBS in defense. UA’s defensive struggles extended back to the 2010 campaign, when it finished on a five-game losing streak surrendering 36 points per game.

Coinciding with the Wildcats’ skid in defensive efficiency was the departure of Mark Stoops from its staff. Mark left for the same gig at Florida State prior to the 2010 campaign.

In Mark Stoops’ final four seasons as UA’s defensive coordinator (2006-2009), the Wildcats never ranked lower than No. 59 in points allowed per game. Twice, 2006 and 2008, UA was in the 30s holding opponents to roughly 21 points per game. Each of his two defensive units at Florida State have excelled

The talent gap between Arizona and Florida State can certainly explain a degree of Mark’s immense success in Tallahassee. However, the severe drop UA experienced immediately after his departure suggests something far beyond sheer ability levels.

UA employed the same schemes through 2010 and the first half of 2011 under Tim Kish. There was turnover, albeit mostly from 2010 to 2011. Was UA’s drop-off the result of a change in preparation? Were that the case, blame would certainly lie with Kish, and ultimately Mike Stoops as head coach.

Kish tried to introduce some changes more akin to the aforementioned Desert Swarm after Mike Stoops’ firing, but with no success. Meanwhile Kish, another product of the Bob Stoops Coaching Tree, returns to the Oklahoma branch as linebackers coach.

When Kish was hired this past January, I pointed out to BlatantHomerism.com’s Allen Kenney that UA’s linebackers succeeded with Kish has positions coach. The rigors of defensive coordinator and later interim head coach may have overwhelmed Kish at UA, but back in Norman his load is lightened.

The same goes for Mike Stoops. His outbursts on the sidelines became a tangible manifestation of the pressure building on him. He is no longer the public face of every success and failure of the program, but that doesn’t mean Mike Stoops is under less pressure.

A preseason BCS favorite in 2011, the Sooners lost three games. OU allowed 41, 44 and 45 points in those decisions. The return of Landry Jones at quarterback from NFL flirtations, Dom Whaley at running back off a broken ankle, Blake Bell back to serve as OU’s version of ’06 Tim Tebow and an experienced line has Bob Stoops’ troops back in the BCS conversation.

Whether spring expectations become autumn disappointments hinges on the defense’s success. The Big 12 loses Missouri and Texas A&M, but actually upgrades offensively with the additions of West Virginia and TCU. Mike Stoops must suppress his explosive demeanor to contain the explosive offenses of the most uptempo conference in college football.

Soon enough, we’ll discover if Mike is the right Stoops for the job.

Topics: Arizona Wildcats, Florida State Seminoles, Mark Stoops, Mike Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners

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