Big 12: Jackie Shipp
Roughly 90 percent of college football programs would be thrilled to win 10 games in a season. Oklahoma is not one of those programs.
Sharing a Big 12 title? That trophy is a whole lot less satisfying when there are seven others waiting in the trophy case since 2000 that weren't shared with anybody.
"Our expectations are different than everybody else. Everybody’s not Oklahoma," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "When you have Oklahoma across your chest, you expect to win championships, and that’s never going to change here."
He knows firsthand. Stoops helped his brother, coach Bob Stoops, win Oklahoma's seventh national title back in 2000, and the Sooners came up short two more times, once losing in the title game with Mike Stoops in 2003 and again a year later with Stoops coaching at Arizona. Without him coordinating the defense, the Sooners gave up 55 points to USC, more points than any team has ever scored in the BCS National Championship Game.
Arizona fired Mike Stoops six games into the 2011 season, and the Sooners' struggling defense needed an offseason jolt, despite winning 10 games that same season. Mike Stoops returned and brought assistant Tim Kish with him to coach linebackers and help coordinate the defense.
"Sometimes change is good, new ideas are good always, and change is good sometimes," Mike Stoops said. "That happens for whatever reason, and whether it’s complacency or just being stagnant, those things occur. Just trying to reinvent ourselves is something we need to do."
In 2012, there were more late-season defensive struggles after a strong start, but yet again, a 10-win season and a shared Big 12 title weren't enough. Losing three games isn't good enough, and nobody wants to hear that all three losses came to teams that spent time in the top five last season. The Sooners want to get back to competing for national titles, and Bob Stoops went the route of coaching changes to help get Oklahoma back there.
Assistant coaches Jackie Shipp and Bruce Kittle were shown the door, along with offensive line coach James Patton. The Sooners scooped up Bill Bedenbaugh from West Virginia to replace Patton and brought in Jerry Montgomery from Michigan to coach the defensive line. Jay Boulware filled Kittle's spot on the staff after coaching tight ends at Auburn. The Sooners' reboot was complete, and they're working toward results in the spring.
"[They bring] a new perspective in some areas, new ideas. They’re not drastic changes," Mike Stoops said. "Obviously, the coaches we had in here were involved and knew our systems well, but there’s always little changes in technique and little things schematically that can help you, so we’re always looking for fresh ideas."
Ten wins tastes bitter when you're used to winning 11 or 12, which can be the difference between proving yourself as a very good team and a great team. Oklahoma won at least 12 games six times since 2000 and 11 games on three more occasions. Ten wins isn't good enough, and a few former players and one famed coach were more than willing to speak up about it, echoing fan concerns.
Barry Switzer started it in September when he told one local paper that the Sooners "just don't have the talent."
"We’re not as good as we have been," Switzer said. "We don’t have the Tommie Harrises or Gerald McCoys squatting down there in the middle [of the defensive line]."
Offensive lineman Jammal Brown, an All-American who played in Norman from 2000 to '04, said he was "mad as hell" about the Sooners' 28-point Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M to cap the 10-win season, calling the Sooners "soft." CBS analyst Spencer Tillman, a Sooners running back in the '80s, said Oklahoma lost concentration on what made the program great in the first place.
Considering the Sooners let Shipp go at the end of the season, it's hard to believe Bob Stoops didn't agree in part with what Switzer had to say. As for the rest of it?
"We may not be as skilled at some of the positions as we want to be, but our toughness and pride is what made Oklahoma what it is, whether it was Bud Wilkinson or Barry Switzer or Bob Stoops, I think that’s the common thread that goes to being a great team," Mike Stoops said.
"Some of those, from the outside, may have felt like we didn’t have that common thread between us. I never felt that; I always thought our teams played hard and together. They’re certainly entitled to their opinions, you know. We’ve got to look at ourselves, and if it’s true, we need to change it. The things we needed to change, we’re working on changing, and nobody knows our program like we do.
"There’s areas we certainly need to get better at, and we’re aware of those. Some of those take time. Some of those take adjustments each day to get better."
The Sooners lose a four-year starter at quarterback in Landry Jones from last year's team, along with seven starters from Mike Stoops' defense. The task of winning more than 10 games seems difficult in a Big 12 that's deeper than it has ever been.
"We just need to get better, again, individually and schematically and play better across the board and come up with better ideas and a better scheme. We’re not far off when you look at the big picture," Mike Stoops said. "We had a chance to win 12 games, we lost them all late in the game and down the stretch and didn’t make the plays we needed to, but again, we’re not that far off."
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has now fired three staffers, reports Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman. Two more went out the door on Tuesday. With those moves, Stoops has taken a hatchet to criticisms that he practices cronyism, writes John Hoover of the Tulsa World.
- But really, was Oklahoma's running game better than ever in 2012?
- Good stuff from HornsNation's Max Olson looking at the state of the State of Texas on the recruiting trail.
- Athlon takes a look at quarterbacks on the rise, and there is a lot of Big 12 flavor in the group.
- It sounds like Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Arthur Brown's NFL stock is rising, writes Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. He also says only one QB will hear his name called in the first round, and he's from the Big 12.
- Mike Leach talks about Texas Tech's new coaching staff and a lot of other stuff.
- Oklahoma State's coaching staff is getting younger, and that might mean it's cheaper, too, writes Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman. Gundy talks about his latest hire on the radio.
- Former Texas Tech safety Cody Davis blogs about preparing for the NFL draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
JC Shurburtt of Scouts Inc. lists the nation's top 25 recruiters among assistant coaches. The Big 12 has three selections on his list, far behind the nine selections from the SEC and six from the ACC.
The Big 12 selections were Texas wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy, Oklahoma defensive line coach Jackie Shipp and Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
All deserve their selections, but I think a solid case could be made for about 10 others from across the conference.
Other ace recruiters in the Big 12 who could have merited mention include Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, Missouri receivers coach Andy Hill, Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost, Nebraska running backs coach Tim Beck, Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Kansas State defensive ends coach Joe Bob Clements, Oklahoma State special teams coach/associate head coach Joe DeForest, Texas offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and Texas A&M defensive backs coach Van Malone.
And I'm sure I'm missing some other deserving nominees, too.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Extreme competition at defensive end is keeping Oklahoma players on their toes throughout practice.
Senior Auston English, junior Jeremy Beal, redshirt freshman R.J. Washington and sophomore Frank Alexander all are involved in a close battle for playing time that has raged since the Sooners' first fall preseason practice.
Oklahoma defensive ends coach Jackie Shipp said that Beal is the only player who assured himself of a starting position after the first week of preseason practice.
"It's still really a battle for the first three guys," Shipp said. "Frank is coming on and playing well and R.J. is stepping out. But Jeremy Beal is standing out well."
English was an All-Big 12 defensive end in 2007 before he was hampered with injuries last season. Beal played well on the other side in 2008, leading the team with 8½ sacks.
"Austin and Frank are still competing for the starting job," Shipp said. "The competition is really stiff for us."
The Sooners racked up 42 sacks last season to tie for third among FBS teams last season. The additional depth should give Oklahoma an edge against offensive lines that will have to match perhaps the nation's deepest rotation of potential pass-rushing treats.
"It's good for us because we keep each other going every day,"Alexander said. "We know if we don't compete, we won't play. That makes us approach every play like we have something to prove."
The deep collection of defensive ends might be one of the Sooners' biggest strengths. And it's also making for some spirited work throughout the drudgery of two-a-day practices.
"All of us know we're capable of playing," Alexander said. "We've got to approach every practice and do what we can do because we know that anybody can take our spot if we don't come out and play hard."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma president David Boren said the salary hikes given to the football coaching staff are a reflection of market forces throughout the coaching industry.
Oklahoma's Board of Trustees approved new deals for all of Oklahoma's coaches, including football coach Bob Stoops and his staff. The Sooners' football coaches staff will pocket $6.05 million in salaries this season, compared to $5.006 million last season. That represents an increase of 20.9 percent.
"Do I think that salaries are too high nationwide? Yes, I certainly do, but we can't control the marketplace," Boren told The Oklahoman. "This does not make any of our coaches the highest paid. Coach Stoops, I think, it probably puts him just inside the top five nationally, but his record is certainly in the top five."
Here's a look at the Oklahoma coaching staff and the salary increases each coach received this season compared to 2008.
The biggest raises on Stoops' staff went to Wilson, who served as the architect for a potent Sooner offense that scored at least 50 points nine times last season and at least 60 points in a string of five games late last season. And Heupel helped develop Sam Bradford into a Heisman Trophy winner after his strong play at quarterback for the Sooners, passing for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdown passes.
Including "stay" bonuses designed to keep him at school, Stoops' contract would pay him more than $30 million through the end of 2015.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There was an interesting story in the New York Times about the commitment of heralded defensive tackle prospect Jamarkus McFarland of Lufkin, Texas. McFarland was ranked as the third-best defensive tackle prospect in the nation in the 2009 recruiting class by ESPN.com.
The Times' Thayer Evans has received incredible access to McFarland and his family. The story provides some interesting nuggets about his recruitment.
But my favorite part of the story came when he notified Oklahoma coaches at 12:01 a.m. on Christmas to tell them of his decision.
The story details how Oklahoma defensive line coach Jackie Shipp started screaming when he learned of McFarland's decision.
I guess you could call McFarland's commitment as the gift that keeps on giving -- at least for the next several seasons for the Sooners.
McFarland arrives at a position of strength for the Sooners with the return of starting sophomore defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and the expected return of junior DeMarcus Granger from his injury next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Saturday's matchup between Kansas and Texas Tech will be more than merely a challenge between the current North Division leader and a team sharing the Big 12 South lead.
It will also be an intriguing game between two of Bob Stoops' most notable coaching protégés when Kansas' Mark Mangino and Texas Tech's Mike Leach match wits.
Both were offensive assistants on Stoops' first staff at Oklahoma in 1999. And the contrasts between their strategies and coaching outlooks originally couldn't have been more diametrically opposed.
The Kansas City Star's J. Brady McCollough had an interesting story about how different the two coaches are -- and were back when they were coaching at Oklahoma. Leach's strategy featured an air-first mentality, while Mangino's was grounded on a hard-nosed running strategy.
The two clashed on the importance of the counter play in that offense. Eventually, it almost sparked fisticuffs between them before Jonathan Hayes, an Oklahoma assistant then who now works as a tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, jumped in to settle both down.
Interestingly, both Mangino and Leach have moderated their philosophies.
Today, Mangino's passing offense with quarterback Todd Reesing is one of the Big 12's most explosive. And while Leach still favors a high-powered passing attack, he's utilizing a polished and efficient running attack more than in previous seasons. The result has been a 7-0 start that is the best for a Tech team in 32 seasons.
The success both coaches have enjoyed in the Big 12 reminds me of that first staff that Stoops put together for the 1999 season. Here's a look at Stoops' original coaching staff with the Sooners and where they are now.