Every Oklahoma assistant received a raise on Tuesday in Oklahoma City when the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents met. However, the $30,000 pay bump and extension (through 2020) Oklahoma Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was awarded is head-scratcher for a few reasons.
With his 2019 stay bonus, Stoops could clear $1 million as OU’s highest paid assistant. This feels like a vote of confidence for a coach many fans—myself included—have reached the limit of what they’re willing to tolerate in the head of OU’s defense.
However, upon closer inspection, it doesn’t’ feel like Stoops has been rewarded for play-calling last season that resulted in a loss to Iowa State for the first time since 1990 and, ultimately, a loss in the Rose Bowl earlier this year—squib kick or not.
While his Saturdays were nothing to behold outside of Oklahoma’s win against Ohio State in 2017, Stoops and his defensive assistants managed to help put together a top-10 recruiting class according to the 2018 247 Composite.
Notable inclusions to OU’s 2018 class include defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles, defensive end Ronnie Perkins, defensive end Ron Tatum, defensive tackle Michael Thompson and linebacker DaShaun White—all U.S. Army All-Americans and all on the defensive side of the ball.
In earning the signatures of these star prep players, Stoops and company needed to beat out nearly every big-name college football program in the country. And beat them late in the game. Radley-Hiles, Thompson and White all committed in 2018, just weeks before National Signing Day (and on NSD in Thompson’s case).
Fans are split about Stoops in 2018, though.
Many believe it has been past time for him to move on. The defense has been bad more often than it has been good in Norman since Stoops returned in 2012.
For every win against a name-brand program like Alabama in 2014, or Ohio State in 2017 or Tennessee in 2014 and 2015 there has been a kick-your-TV performance by Stoops’ defense.
Tavon Austin’s torching in 2012. Johnny Football’s Heisman victory lap in the Cotton Bowl in 2013.
Back-to-back demolitions by Baylor in 2013 and 2014. Clemson’s 40-6 mollywhopping in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Pat Mahomes’ 819 yards of total offense in 2016. Ohio State’s drubbing in Norman in 2016. Houston two weeks before that.
In all this, there’s also a belief that Big 12 offenses are more difficult to stop than others. But only Oklahoma and Oklahoma State ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense in 2017. West Virginia and Texas Tech ranked No. 22 and No. 23, respectively. Only Oklahoma and Texas Tech ranked in the top 25 of offensive S&P+.
And the only time Stoops ever has to play OU is on a practice field.
But there are some fans who believe Stoops can’t be held responsible for players who too frequently miss their assignments and allow big-gainers or touchdowns. That Stoops’ recent success in recruiting is foreshadowing for the skull-dragging defense to come.
That Stoops hasn’t had the players to play the kind of attacking, aggressive defense Sooners’ fans crave and still remember from Stoops’ first stint as OU’s defensive coordinator.
Now he does.
In this 2018 recruiting class, Stoops has won not just some of the best talent in the country but the players he recruited. Players he convinced, along with their families and high school coaches, that OU was the place where they could develop and compete for championships.
That message is working for the 2019 class too. The Sooners sit at No. 3 in the 247 Composite and continue to add defensive talent to bolster the already formidable 2018 roster.
This is where the extension through 2020 feels like a way for the coaching staff to continue to say Stoops will be the person coaching the defense when 2019 recruits arrive.
After six years of mediocrity on defense and blatant gaffes in play-calling, Mike Stoops is coaching for his job in 2018.
The excuse about not having enough talent is gone. He has the players he wanted. He’s running the scheme he likes. He’s surrounded by some of the most talented defensive position coaches and recruiters in the game.
And man in charge of the Sooner offense, Lincoln Riley, is the one man in college football no defensive mind has figured out how to stop.
This could be your best year at OU since the early 2000s, Mike. Or it could be your last.