Known for his D, Stoops has turned OU into an offensive dynamo
Bob Stoops is a defensive-minded coach, but OU has succeeded with offense
Entering Saturday's Red River Shootout, OU is averaging 540 yards per game
Sophomore QB Sam Bradford is accurate, efficient and a Heisman contender
Bob Stoops is a defensive-minded coach. Or so we're told.
Oklahoma's 48-year-old head coach was an All-Big Ten defensive back at Iowa, a defensive backs coach at Kansas State and a defensive coordinator first for the Wildcats and then Florida. When the Sooners practice, Stoops usually starts off at a vantage point where he can watch his entire team before inevitably drifting like a magnet to hover over the secondary. It's in his blood.
When Oklahoma reasserted itself on the national stage at the start of this decade, winning the 2000 BCS championship and playing for two more titles over the next four years, Stoops' program took on the identity of its architect: A gritty, swarming defensive team that produced an assembly line of All-America defenders -- linebackers Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman, defensive backs Roy Williams and Derrick Strait and defensive tackle Tommie Harris.
Yet as Stoops' top-ranked Sooners enter Saturday's Red River Shootout with No. 5 Texas, they do so boasting one of the nation's most powerful offenses. Oklahoma ranks fourth nationally in scoring (49.6 points per game) and passing offense (361 yards per game) and fifth in total offense (540 yards per game).
This is not a new development. Seven times in Stoops' first nine seasons, the Sooners have finished among the top 20 nationally in points per game, including five times in the top 10. They've done so under the direction of four different offensive coordinators (Mike Leach, Mark Mangino, Chuck Long and Kevin Wilson), the first three of whom have gone on to head-coaching jobs.
"Regardless of who the coordinators are, Bob's running that program," says Texas coach Mack Brown. "[OU's offense] is going to have his stamp on it.
The Sooners have sustained their offensive success even as the names on the jerseys have changed. As Stoops likes to point out: "We've won five Big 12 championships with five different quarterbacks."
Oklahoma's current star signal-caller, Sam Bradford, was the nation's most efficient quarterback last season and set an NCAA freshman record for touchdown passes (36). The redshirt sophomore -- who has completed 72.6 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions -- is well on his way to becoming the third Stoops' quarterback to be invited to the Heisman Trophy festivities since the turn of the millennium. (Josh Heupel finished second in 2000; Jason White won in '03 and finished third in '04.) None of this would be possible if Stoops coached like ... a defensive coach.
"Some guys are just worried about time of possession and eating the clock and playing close to the vest," said Heupel, now OU's quarterbacks coach. "That is not coach Stoops at all."
Stoops is not the one calling the plays on Saturdays. He rarely sits in on offensive meetings during the week. But his coaches and players know well his vision for an aggressive, balanced offense -- a philosophy molded by someone he once coached for and someone he coached against.
Ask Wilson, Oklahoma's current offensive coordinator, what kind of offense the Sooners run and he can't provide a simple answer. It's impossible to tag OU's attack with one label. They run the spread, but not exclusively. They line up Bradford in the shotgun, but, unlike most shotgun QBs, he doesn't run. They line up in the I-formation, sometimes to run, sometimes for play-action. Some years (like when Adrian Peterson was in the backfield), they've been more of a running team. Some years, like this one, they're more of a passing team. "I don't know what we are," says Wilson. "We do a lot, and we try to be physical."
Stoops' offense didn't start out that way. As he says, "It's been an evolution."
Stoops arrived at Oklahoma in December 1998 following a three-year stint as defensive coordinator for renowned Florida coach Steve Spurrier. At one point a coaching friend asked Stoops whether it daunted him to work for a guy whose quick-strike offense often kept the Gators defense on the field too long.
"I said no -- they can't score fast enough for me," said Stoops. "That's always been my mentality as well -- to score as often and as quickly as you can. You go up 21-0, that presses the other team, too."
Stoops inherited an Oklahoma squad that had gone 12-22 the previous three seasons. "We didn't have a quarterback on campus," said Stoops. "Along with that, I didn't feel we were physically imposing with personnel."
Having faced Hal Mumme's pass-happy Kentucky teams the prior two seasons -- games in which the Wildcats averaged 31.5 points and QB Tim Couch attempted a combined 120 passes for 754 yards -- Stoops hired Mumme's long-time assistant, Mike Leach, to be his first offensive coordinator. The hope was that Leach's passer-friendly offense would attract quarterback recruits and "allow us to move the ball without beating people up," Stoops said.
Stoops' first class of signees in February 1999 included Heupel, a juco transfer from Snow, Utah, and White, a high-schooler from Tuttle, Okla. They, along with Georgia transfer Nate Hybl, would become the starting quarterbacks for Stoops' first six teams. Meanwhile, Stoops' first team reached the Independence Bowl while ranking eighth nationally in scoring offense and ninth in passing offense. It was a dramatic transformation for a program once synonymous with the wishbone.