Big 12: Cincinnati Bearkats

OU's not-so-special special teams

November, 20, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

An extra week of work provided Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops with ample time to tweak his offense and defense as he prepares for Saturday's game against Texas Tech.

But his biggest area of concern has been a facet of the game that has caused him to break out in a cold sweat the last few weeks as he analyzes their struggles.

Oklahoma has a marvelous offensive machine and a potent defensive unit that has a knack for making big plays.

But the Sooners can't cover kicks, among other special teams maladies. There's no way to sugarcoat those facts as Stoops struggles with what collectively might be his most unproductive special teams unit in his coaching tenure.

"There are no magic words," Stoops told reporters last week. "You can't work it anymore than we have."

During the off week, the Sooners looked better in kick coverage. But Stoops can't be sure how his group will play until it takes the field for Saturday's showdown against Texas Tech.

The biggest concern has been kickoff coverage. Oklahoma allowed Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard to return a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the second game of the season. Jordan Shipley's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown kick-started the Longhorns' 45-35 comeback victory. And Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray returned a kick 98 yards for a touchdown in the Sooners' most recent game. Gray totaled a school-record 261 kickoff return yards.

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