By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Classes begin at Oklahoma today. Training camp is over and the routine of a long season will quickly be established.
For some Sooner players, it’s been a familiar routine with the same coach for the last four years. Others, however, have had different experience. They constantly had to adjust.
OU safety Gabe Lynn reminisced about it last week when asked about defensive coordinator/safeties coach Mike Stoops entering his second season. Lynn talked about adapting to his style and personality last season. There was a natural transition period.
But he was used to the coaching modifications.
“For me and Aaron (Colvin), he’s our third DB coach,” Lynn said. “You definitely got to get used to it. After getting a full year under our belt, we’re pretty good with it.”
That could be one of the most overlooked factors in the play of the Sooners’ secondary that last few years. Lynn, a fifth-year senior, started his career when Bobby Jack Wright was the secondary coach in 2009. He spent two seasons working under Willie Martinez before Mike Stoops returned to OU last season.
That’s a lot of change.
Along the way, Lynn has shifted from cornerback to nickel safety to, now, one of OU’s starting safeties.
It’s not uncommon for defensive backs to switch positions like that. Developing a good secondary involves a lot of trial and error. Colvin, is one of the best cornerbacks in college football. In 2011, he was OU’s leading tackler at safety.
But with each secondary coach, those experiments seem to begin anew.
“That’s what coaching is, is trying to make adjustments and being sound in how we attack those situations,” Stoops said. “I think you feel much more comfortable. It takes a year to understand the players, for the players to understand you and what your expectations are.”
For most of the returning players, that bar was set last season. They’ve had well over a year to settle in to what’s expected.
Perhaps, OU has lacked that kind of secondary chemistry needed due to the coaching changes.
They’re going through another this season. Wright is back coaching the cornerbacks, giving Stoops more time to preside over the entire defense.
Nonetheless, getting the entire secondary on the same page has been the focus since the 2012 season ended. Stoops hasn’t hid the fact the Sooners need to disguise coverages better and get a lot more complicated to keep quarterbacks guessing this season.
Good secondaries can do those things, but it requires a rapport with all involved.
“That’s what we use the offseason for, spring ball and summer and things like that. It’s to build that chemistry up,” Colvin said. “Anytime you have new guys out there, it is going to take some time to build that chemistry but as a secondary, we’re all close. We all hang out outside of football so we already have that chemistry. It’s just getting a feel for what player can do what. I feel like we did a great job of figuring that out this offseason.”
Figuring everything out takes time. Cagey veterans like Lynn and Colvin know it all too well.
– John Shinn is a sports writer for the Norman Transcript.