Mike Stoops is out as defensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma. Stoops, the younger brother of former head football coach Bob Stoops has held the position on two occasions from 1999-2003 and again from 2012-2018.(six games) Now, this move comes on the heels of a 48-45 loss to the Texas Longhorns. Stoops defense gave up 501 yards in the loss. With the change, there has not been a formal announcement in terms of his replacement. Now, moving forward what does life after Mike Stoops look like for Oklahoma?
Let’s face it, there is never really a good time to make a leadership change. Especially, at a high profile program like Oklahoma. But, just watching the defensive performance it was critical that a move was needed now. For three quarters, the Sooners played uninspired ball on defense against the Longhorns. This echoed a tone to the season of bad tackling, disorganization, lack of accountability, and poor effort. The Sooners ranked dead last in the country in red zone defense, 100th in 3rd down conversion defense, and 91st in total defense. Statistics that are not only alarming but unacceptable at Oklahoma. The fact that Oklahoma has a bye week next week makes it the best time in-season to make this change.
With an in-season coaching change, Lincoln Riley will need to put an interim tag on someone on the defensive staff currently. In order of likelihood, here are the individuals most likely to take over as interim defensive coordinator for the Sooners to finish out the season.
Diaco came over in the off-season as a defensive analyst. But, he has the experience to take over the defensive. Most recently, he served as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and Nebraska. Also, he had a stint as the head coach at Connecticut. Many speculated when Riley made the hire that it was for him to take over full time or when a situation like this arose. He was very successful at Notre Dame and helped lead the Irish to the title game against Alabama. But, he struggled as defensive coordinator at Nebraska most recently relinquishing over 30 points per game.
McNeil was Riley’s first hire at Oklahoma. He has both defensive coordinator and head coaching experience on his resume. In 2008, he took over as defensive coordinator at Texas Tech and led the Red Raiders to a respectable finish in his two years there. Later, he went on to serve as the head coach at East Carolina for six seasons. McNeil is a Riley guy and nobody would be surprised if he was elevated, but he would certainly be a change for the remainder of this season only.
Although it’s possible, this one is not as likely. Sooner fans might have about as much heartache on this one as they did with Stoops. Kish served on Stoops staff at Arizona and has been the linebacker coach in Norman since 2002. However, the linebacker play this season might possibly be the best position group for the Sooners this season.
What to Expect From Here
Most Sooner fans are looking for a magic trick to get the defense back where it needs to be. The lack of toughness, making competitive plays, and overall effort forced Riley’s hand to make this change now. This move should result in getting the defensive confidence back and playing with more effort. But, there are still a lot of problems that need to be fixed and that won’t happen overnight. I would expect Diaco to get the nod in the interim. And, that just might be an audition for next season. The Sooners have a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, two future NFL wide receivers and an offense capable of winning a national championship. They just need a defensive to compliment them. Oklahoma has two weeks to improve, find an identity, and play with more effort. And, a change at the top might do just that.