FRISCO, Texas — Picture a time not long ago when Oklahoma dominated with a championship defense.
Players like Roy Williams, Dusty Dvoracek, Derrick Strait, Teddy Lehman and Rocky Calmus used to haunt offensive coordinators during the early Bob Stoops era. OU’s success was anchored by a mouth-foaming group that attacked opponents.
Fast forward to current day — what is considered a championship defense?
That question was posed to linebacker Kenneth Murray, who represented the Sooners at Big 12 Media Days in Frisco, Texas.
“A championship defense is a defense that puts fear in the eyes of the opponents. It’s a defense that doesn’t give up a lot of points. It doesn’t give up a whole lot of yards,” Murray said while staring into a reporter’s eyes. “I feel like a championship defense is one that, when we are in warmups, the other team has watched film and seen us busting heads and then say ‘Oh, that’s Kenneth Murray over there? Neville Gallimore? Them boys are kind of big, huh?’
“That’s what a championship defense is, a defense that is going to intimidate from the jump, before we step on the field, and then when we step on the field, we’re going to bust you in the mouth.”
The optimistic OU fan is probably thinking “that’s the attitude the team needs to have.” A pessimistic OU fan is likely in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” group.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley understands the importance of a group led by defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. The roster is being reset with younger players on that side of the football.
“We gotta recruit. We feel like we’re in the process of making a pretty good move there,” Riley said. “That’s the first thing that I’ve seen is our talent levels needed to increase and I think we’re on the way to doing that. I feel like some of our best talent defensively right now is from our freshmen and sophomore classes. We are probably only going to play with maybe one, maybe two seniors this year, which is alarming in some ways. But it also I think shows you we’ve been on a nice run recruiting over the last couple of years.”
In the same breath, the second-year head coach is quick to say the current roster has “good players, don’t get me wrong. But our talent level has not been the same as some of the other defenses in the country.”