Mike Stoops is officially out at Oklahoma. A frustrating era of Oklahoma football has ended abruptly and on the heels of one of the most disappointing performances in recent Cotton Bowl history. News began to leak yesterday evening and was first confirmed by James Hale of The Football Brainiacs:
Please be respectful.https://t.co/slsOb8kPki
— TFB Sooners (@TFB_Sooners) October 8, 2018
This morning, Oklahoma named Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Tackles Coach, Ruffin McNeill as the interim defensive coordinator. Furthermore, defensive specialist, Bob Diaco will be promoted to outside linebackers coach. That is all the movement along the coaching staff — for now at least. Now, onto some thoughts.
On Mike —
First and foremost, the most simple reason as to why Mike was fired isn’t the X’s & O’s, it’s player development. If you look at the current roster, outside of Kenneth Mann, there hasn’t been much progression by any of the starters during the time in Norman. If you can’t develop talent — no matter what their rating was in high school — you don’t have a place at Oklahoma. It’s that simple.
Expanding a bit, Mike’s defense wasn’t feared. In fact, it’s safe to assume it was a running joke to opposing offenses. Week after week, Oklahoma allowed career-high stats to opposing QB’s, RB’s and WR’s. When that happens, your reputation takes a hit, the perception of the program takes a hit, and your credibility as a recruiter takes a hit. Lincoln Riley is a big picture guy. He understands that perception is as important as your record and recruiting is the lifeblood of the program. Being 5-1 on paper isn’t bad, it doesn’t mean your season is over by any means. That said, at 5-0, Oklahoma was falling in the rankings due to the perception of their defense. When that happens, it makes winning a championship and recruiting at a high level that much more difficult — it was time to make a change. Which leads to the next subject…
The Timing —
I’m going to be transparent here. After the game, I tweeted out that this may be the nail in the coffin for Mike Stoops’ time in Norman — I didn’t think it would happen the next day. When rumors began swirling early in the afternoon, I checked in with some sources and others that cover the program. The most common response — it would be a very uncharacteristic move by Oklahoma. As the evening approached, things started moving and moving quickly.
Now, why did Oklahoma do this mid-season? Because it was long overdue. The defense has been a liability for the Sooners and Lincoln Riley for awhile — and potentially cost them title during the Rose Bowl last season. That should have been the time to move on, but the market wasn’t there for OU and an infusion was reason enough to see what Stoops could do this season. After getting throttled for by a very mediocre Texas offense, we now know that talent wasn’t the core problem. To save face with not just the voters, but with donors and recruits, Oklahoma had to part ways immediately.
Ruffin McNeill —
Don’t mistaken, this is nothing more than a placeholder for Oklahoma. Naming Ruffin McNeill as the interim DC over both Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks gives the Sooners some flexibility at the end of the season. McNeill is near the end of his respectable career in college football and from reports, likely doesn’t want the responsibilities of being a DC for a whole season. That means no drama on his part should he be replaced after the season is over.
For the most part, recruits have responded positively to the news of Mike Stoops’ dismissal. At the same time, it wouldn’t be surprising if those responses were a bit tailored. After all, you’re not going to pile on to the drama in Norman and even more, open yourself up to the storm that was OU Twitter last night. Now, that doesn’t mean a flip is imminent but maybe a recruit or two quietly looks around at their options — which is completely reasonable given the circumstances. How does Oklahoma ensure this class stays together? Lincoln Riley. It’s up to the Lincoln to maintain those relationships as well as keep those communication lines open and transparent, which if anyone understands this, it’s Riley.
It’s Put Up Or Shut Up Time For Players —
If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, you saw the outpouring support for Mike Stoops by current players. At the same time, the lack of performance by these players are part of the reason Stoops is no longer there. If they’re serious about their gratitude for Mike, it stands to reason this will be a rally call everyone on that side of the ball.
Take it personally. Show some heart. Stop talking about how you need to be better because that time is over. Time to prove you’re serious about it.
Who’s Next? —
A little too early for this discussion but since it’s not going away anytime soon, it looks as though Oklahoma will at least explore their options outside the program. In my opinion, the new DC isn’t already on campus. A popular name is Ohio State’s, Alex Grinch who produced a respectable defense under Mike Leach at Washington State.
Another potential name is Alabama’s co-defensive coordinator, Pete Golding. Golding is a fast riser. During his only season as UTSA’s DC, he produced a defense that set many school records including single-season tackles, QB hurries, tackles for loss, and sacks. Alabama was quick to scoop him up and name him co-DC for the Tide, but could Oklahoma perhaps pull him away with the promise of full-DC responsibilities. Time will tell, but those seem like the two hot names at the moment.