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TONY JEFFERSON WAS STILL IN MIDDLE SCHOOL THE LAST TIME Mike Stoops ran Oklahoma's defense, but the Sooners' junior safety has heard plenty of stories about his new coordinator. "I've talked to some of the former players that come around, like [defensive backs] Derrick Strait and Roy Williams," says Jefferson. "They said he likes to scream and get into it." Stoops's animated sideline rants were a source of criticism over his eight years as Arizona's head coach, but OU fans welcome that familiar intensity. He rejoins his brother, head coach Bob, and has reclaimed the coordinator job he held in Norman from 1999 through 2003, when he helped the Sooners produce four straight top 10 defenses.
Though Oklahoma won five Big 12 titles during Mike's time away, its defense never returned to the consistently elite level it enjoyed under him in the early 2000s. Last year was particularly rough. The Sooners entered the season ranked No. 1 but lost to three teams who torched their defense through the air, winding up in the Insight Bowl. Texas Tech racked up 572 total yards in a 41--38 upset. Baylor Heisman winner Robert Griffin III threw for 479 yards and four TDs. And OSU gave the Sooners a 44--10 drubbing for its first win in the Bedlam series since '02. "You're at the University of Oklahoma," says Jefferson. "That's not acceptable."
Fans are hoping that Mike Stoops's return will help the Sooners cut down on big plays allowed, but the coordinator warns, "There are no magical calls in football. There's good calls, but the players make them magical by the way they play. We can play better."
A former Iowa defensive back, Stoops spent the spring shuffling personnel in hopes of shoring up the secondary. Jefferson, who has played linebacker and nickelback, moves to free safety, while athletic Aaron Colvin shifts from safety to cornerback, opposite Demontre Hurst. Expect OU, with four starting linemen and linebackers returning, to take more risks and pressure opposing passers.
Oklahoma's strong suit will likely remain its familiar up-tempo offense, led by four-year starting quarterback Landry Jones. "One thing about Oklahoma, we're going to be able to score points," says Mike Stoops. "That should take some pressure off the defense." Even as its coordinator provides plenty of heat.
COACH Bob Stoops (14th year) 139--34 (91--22 in Big 12)
CO--OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS Josh Heupel, Jay Norvell
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Mike Stoops