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November 17, 2009
This has been a trying season for Stoops, 49, and the Sooners, who improved to 6-4 with a 65-10 thumping of Texas A&M this past Saturday. This could end up being Stoops' worst record since OU was 7-5 in his first season in Norman in 1999. The only other season Stoops lost four games was 2005.
Stoops entered this season with a 109-24 record and six Big 12 titles. He also has developed an impressive coaching tree, having produced the likes of Kevin Sumlin (Houston), Bo Pelini (Nebraska), Mark Mangino (Kansas), Mike Leach (Texas Tech), Mike Stoops (Arizona) and Chuck Long (formerly at San Diego).
Rivals.com caught up with Stoops to discuss what has been a turbulent season that has seen Oklahoma lose four starters to season-ending injuries.
What are looking for from your team down the stretch?
We are looking for some inexperienced guys to play better and to play at a winning level. Just more consistently, regardless of our injuries. We have 11 guys out there. We need to play well. Just more consistency in how they play.
Do you think your team has been snake-bitten?
I don't like to say that, but obviously it has been an incredibly unusual situation with this many injuries. And, really, almost all of them are on offense.
Have you ever been a part of something like this in all of your years?
No. Not at all.
Have you talked to anyone about how to deal with it?
No. I don't think anyone else has been through something like this, either. Not this many [injuries].
Has this been your most difficult year?
Oh, absolutely. With all of the different players being gone at different times, sure. No doubt about it.
What part of team has surprised you in how it has developed?
I wouldn't say 'surprised,' but it has been very positive in how we have played defense. Other than losing [end] Auston English, we have stayed healthy and have played really well. That has been a big positive.
How is Sam Bradford still helping the team?
Just in his presence and positive attitude and that kind of thing. He's always around at practice and in meetings. His presence being there -- he does all he can, that's for sure.
What did you say to him after his season ended?
We talked and told him that we appreciated all of his hard work and his commitment here. He was a great teammate to his buddies and a great competitor for us. ? We at least are excited that he's on his way to healing up again and getting this behind him and moving forward, and hopefully it just continues to go well.
What has impressed you most about redshirt freshman quarterback Landry Jones?
Just his overall poise and comfort level from the beginning. It wasn't as evident and he didn't have a very good game vs. Nebraska [on Nov. 7]. And that's the first one he hasn't played at a winning level. Really, up until that game, he was playing awfully well. In that game, for whatever reason, he was off a little bit on some of his inside throws and didn't play like he had in a bunch of the other games. But, overall, I think he's had a lot of positive plays for the most part, and hopefully he'll learn.
Who does he remind you of?
I don't think guys ever remind me of someone else.
What does Jones need to improve?
Just maturity on the field. He's a young guy. He needs to improve at everything, but that's to be expected from a freshman who only has played in a few games.
Does trying to feed the "Oklahoma beast" ever wear on you?
No, that's what you want. That doesn't bother me at all, really. When you are in a situation like that, it means you are winning an awful lot. It's to be expected then.
Did you spoil fans by winning that national title in 2000 in just your second season?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe. Whether I did or not, it doesn't matter. I'm glad we did it. It doesn't bother me if we did [spoil them].
Would you like to see a playoff or no playoff?
I could take either one. In the end, it's not quite as feasible and easy as everyone thinks it would be. So in the end, I would say probably not.
What would you change about college football?
I'm not going to get into it. I have my opinions on some things, but it wouldn't be right to put them out there right now. This isn't the right time to talk about it.
How does growing up in blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio, still impact you today?
Just probably that you earn what you get and that you have to work hard for whatever it is you're after. And it doesn't come easy and you have to continue to have a great work ethic.
How often do you talk to your brothers and also to fellow Youngstown native Bo Pelini?
I talk to Mike [the coach at Arizona] and Mark [the defensive coordinator at Arizona] at least once or twice a week. I talk to Bo every now and then.
Is this your last coaching stop?
Oh, who knows? I'm not that old, I guess. I haven't reached 50 yet. So, who knows what's in store, you know?
Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.