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The Wednesday newsletter: Imagine if Oklahoma’s next defensive coordinator yelled ‘Let ‘er rip’ before games | OU Sports Extra

Welcome to the Wednesday newsletter, where we take time to answer your questions.

There’s definitely intrigue in what Oklahoma’s defense is going to do under Ruffin McNeill, who is the interim defensive coordinator.

And, as a bonus, there’s a Les Miles reference this week. I’m going outside to eat a blade of grass in honor of the former Oklahoma State coach, who did just that during games and in a recent commercial.

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And now, to your questions:

With rumors swirling of a less-complex, more gap-attacking defense forthcoming, what ways can this new defensive strategy be exploited by opposing offenses, versus the more passive complex Stoops D? – James A.

Lincoln Riley said an interesting thing during his radio show on Tuesday night (besides saying that he once attended Gary Patterson’s football camp, showing how young he is). He said running 3-4 or 4-3 schemes do not matter; it’s all about the players who make plays on the field. That being said, if things are simpler for the defense, they should be able to make plays and avoid being exploited as often. OU gets a break with two struggling offenses in back-to-back weeks (TCU and Kansas State) but November will bring its own challenges. These next two games will allow the defense to gain experience and confidence with Ruffin McNeill’s style.

In dealing with the media, handling controversies, etc., in your view, how has Lincoln Riley changed from Year One to Year Two? How would you compare his approach in that regard to Bob Stoops in the latter years? – Scott P.

It’s hard to compare the two coaches because I caught the final five years of Stoops and first two years of Riley. It’s different when you are a young head coach compared to a veteran who knows how he wants to handle the media. But in handling controversies, Riley has done well taking tough questions head on. Plus he has final say on who gets to speak to the media. Riley allowed Curtis Bolton to talk on Tuesday night when he knew that questions were guaranteed to be asked about the halftime locker room atmosphere during the Texas game. One difference between Riley and Stoops, though, is that Riley has not let true freshmen talk to the media. Stoops typically would allow that after the first game was played.


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Oklahoma-Stoops Out Basketball

Ruffin McNeill (left) will serve as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator for the rest of the season after Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley fired Mike Stoops after the Sooners struggled to stop Texas during their first loss of the season. Steve Sisney/The Oklahoman



Is Ruffin McNeill the answer or is it possible OU will be possibly be looking for a permanent defensive coordinator at the end of the year? – Russell D.

Good question. I really think that Oklahoma will go out and try to find a young, aggressive defensive coordinator who has a strong background in recruiting (which is Riley’s biggest priority as a head coach). That being said, McNeill has nearly four decades of coaching experience under his belt. There’s not much he hasn’t seen. If things get turned around quickly, he could be a candidate. I just wonder how much longer he wants to coach

When OU fans panic after one loss, are you amazed at their short-term memory given how the college football season always plays out? – George B.

Just one month ago, many were predicting an unbeaten Oklahoma State team to face the Sooners in Bedlam. There’s a lot of football yet to be played and we’ve always seen teams implode in the final month. I get a kick out of those who, in mid-October, say ‘what if there are five undefeated teams at the end of the season?’ It never happens. Like coaches always say, it’s a week-to-week process. Just let it play out.

Do you know if Spencer Rattler is going to be an early enrollee? I know that Austin Kendall hasn’t really had a chance to prove himself yet but I just don’t think he has the intangibles to be “the guy” next year. – Jim N.

It’s still unknown if Rattler will join the program as an early enrollee. It’s worked out for the Sooners’ quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall. Going through spring drills would benefit the quarterback. For Rattler, it’s not a choice, but how many credits he has toward graduation. It’s hard to graduate before the spring semester of a senior year in high school. In terms of Kendall, this is his fourth year in the program. He knows Riley’s offense and the coach would cater the game plan to Kendall’s strengths.


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OU Texas Oct 6

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray (1) celebrates as Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marquise Brown (5) walks into the end zone for a touchdown during the Red River Showdown between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Saturday, October 06, 2018. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World



Will the OC and DC actually work together on a cohesive game plan for each game? Meaning, will the offense choose to slow it down at times to give the defense a chance to rest and be exposed less. Will the defense rise up at opportune moments with creative blitzes or a stacked box to give the offense a chance to swing the game? – Charlie J.

While slowing the game down would help the defense, I don’t know if you want to sacrifice the momentum that the offense has had in each game. The Sooners are averaging 8.9 yards per play, which is nearly a first down a snap. It would set a national record and shatter last year’s 8.3 yards per play. Oklahoma is averaging only 58 snaps per game while opponents are at 79 snaps a game. The key is for the defense to get third-down stops to get off the field.

Has Austin Stogner’s commitment to OU gone soft? The other day he posted on Twitter that he received a scholarship offer to Stanford. – @GregTNeubauer

The early signing period is only two months away and there’s no doubt that current OU commits will continue to get offers from schools. Stanford has a strong tradition of sending tight ends to the NFL and the school’s academics are outstanding. But OU fans cannot worry about every school that chases their recruits. My bet is Riley will do everything to keep all 2019 commits – including Stogner – solid.


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Les Miles Bob Stoops 2004 file

Then-OSU coach Les Miles (center) and Bob Stoops meet at midfield following the OU/OSU game at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Sat., Oct. 30, 2004. Tulsa World File

Is the Oklahoma athletic director interviewing Les Miles for the defensive coordinator position at Oklahoma? – @HomerHensy

I’m not sure who the Sooners are going to interview, but could you imagine Les Miles in crimson-and-cream? And then saying “Let ‘er rip” before kickoffs?

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