MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

February 14, 2013

Stoops’ shake-up: OU coaching staff in flux

OKLAHOMA CITY — Coach Bob Stoops confirmed a big shake-up on his staff at Oklahoma on Wednesday, with defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp and offensive line assistant Bruce Kittle both relieved of their duties.

Stoops has now let three of his assistants go this week, marking the most turnover Stoops has had on his staff in 14 seasons in charge of the Sooners.

All of this year’s moves have come in an apparent effort to shore up play along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Interior offensive line coach James Patton was hired at Indiana on Monday after getting dumped from the Sooners’ staff, and Kittle was in charge of the tackles and tight ends.

Shipp had been a staple on Stoops’ staff for all 14 of his seasons in Norman.

Stoops has praised all of the exiting assistants for the roles they played in winning Big 12 championships — and in Shipp’s case, the 2000 national title — and said he has not made any decisions yet on who will replace them.

“I anticipate speaking with several candidates that I have identified for our coaching staff, but I have yet to interview any of those individuals,” Stoops said in a statement. “I will continue to evaluate all of our options. Our objectives haven’t changed. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure Oklahoma Football and our student-athletes are given the resources and support they need to compete for championships and excel in the classroom.”

Oklahoma has finished the past two seasons with a 10-3 record but Stoops acknowledged last month that he knows that isn’t enough.

“People get bored with just winning the Big 12 championship. They want more. You’ve got to win the national championship,” Stoops said then.

After the 2011 season, longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables left to take a similar position at Clemson and cornerbacks coach Willie Martinez resigned. With three more position coaches departing now, only four will be left with more than one season of experience with the Sooners: co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy and defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright.

Wright and Gundy have been on Stoops’ staff since his first season at Oklahoma in 1999.

During the season, former coach Barry Switzer — who won three national titles at Oklahoma — suggested that the Sooners weren’t getting good enough play on either the offensive or defensive line and had fallen behind national powerhouse Alabama in getting the top talent.

Top-tier, NFL-bound linemen, such as Gerald McCoy and Tommie Harris on defense and Jammal Brown and Davin Joseph on offense, were a staple of some of Stoops’ most successful seasons at Oklahoma. In recent years, the offensive line has been plagued by injuries and a lack of depth due to dismissals and transfers. The defensive line has been relatively ineffective at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

After the season, Stoops said the defensive line play wasn’t good enough.

“We feel we have good guys coming up. Hopefully, we’ll get more than that,” he said last month. “We lost two guys that are playing in the NFL. Whether these guys do or not, we’ll see. In the end, it wasn’t as productive. That was obvious.”

He also said he considered the offensive tackle position “incredibly thin” but the Sooners added only three offensive linemen on signing day last week, including two junior-college transfers. Oklahoma signed seven defensive linemen, including four tackles.

“Just watching this coaching carousel go round and round,” center Gabe Ikard, a team captain, posted on Twitter. “Whenever and wherever it stops...we will be ready to go”

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