NORMAN, Okla. - Mike Stoops is back at Oklahoma for a second stint as defensive coordinator. And, my, how the job description has changed in the high-octane Big 12.
The 10-team league had six of the nation's top 13 offenses last season, including the Sooners', and 500-yard games are getting closer to becoming the norm instead of the exception.
Stoops left in 2003 to coach Arizona after overseeing an OU defense that was among the top seven in the country for fewest points allowed his last four years in charge. Since then, the Sooners have finished in the top 10 only once and are more regularly outside the top 30 while trying to slow down the likes of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and other high-profile Big 12 quarterbacks including Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell and Brandon Weeden.
"You know, it's video on grass, and that's something that you have to be able to adapt to and have a bunch of skilled athletes, I believe, on the field, to be able to not let them find matchups that they feel like they can exploit," Stoops said.
"That's about what it is. You get isolated on players with a lot of green grass out there to cover, and it makes it much more difficult. This is one of the best offensive conferences in the country, and obviously with the addition of TCU and West Virginia, it's only going to get that much better."
West Virginia (14th) and TCU (28th) don't quite stack up to Texas A&M (seventh) and Missouri (12th) in terms of sheer offensive numbers but, then again, both can claim BCS bowl victories in the past two seasons. The Mountaineers' Dana Holgorsen, formerly Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, will bring in a fast-paced, spread offense similar to those seen all around the Big 12.
Oklahoma helped to create the monster it currently is fighting. Mike Leach installed a wide-open attack in Norman before becoming Texas Tech's head coach. Then, Kevin Wilson took no-huddle offenses to another level with the Sam Bradford-led 2008 Sooners team that scored an NCAA-record 716 points.
"I think that's football. I think you see it in high school, and it's just the way it's evolved," Stoops said. "That pound-it-out football, you don't see very often anymore. Very few teams do it. It's a movement game, it's a misdirection (game). ... It's just a very bizarre game anymore."
Even so, Oklahoma's approach to stopping opponents doesn't figure to be much different with Stoops replacing Brent Venables as defensive coordinator. The two were longtime colleagues at Kansas State and then at Oklahoma; Venables left for Clemson.
Stoops still expects to use field and boundary cornerbacks, instead of one to always cover the left side of the field and the other to cover the right. That will depend somewhat on finding the right candidate to replace Jamell Fleming, a senior who was the boundary corner last season.
When he missed the game against Texas Tech, Oklahoma gave up 441 yards passing in a loss that ended a 39-game home winning streak.
"With Jamell, we had a very good cover guy there. I think we dropped off a little bit when he was out," Stoops said. "We have got to have somebody that can hold down that spot. That's where most teams put their best player."
Oklahoma finished 10-3 and ranked 31st in the nation in scoring defense last season, after ranking 33rd the year before.
Stoops, 50, said he spent the first part of last week meeting with new linebackers coach Tim Kish, 57 - his defensive coordinator at Arizona - and discussing what changes they might implement. The two also plan to bring in Ryan Walters, 26, one of their graduate assistants with the Wildcats.
In the end, head coach Bob Stoops, 51 - Mike's brother - figures to have a say in the schemes, too.
"I think it'll be a combination of the three, don't you? I know it was for me when I was at Arizona," Kish said.
"I absolutely think the world of Mike, and obviously that has a lot to do with me being here," Kish added. "We worked well together for eight years at Arizona.
"We have a similar philosophy about what it takes to play on this side of the ball, and we're excited to combine that with what Bob's philosophy is and hopefully that'll get us kick-started this spring."