John Hoover: OU's problem lies in lack of talent, Switzer says
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
9/25/12 at 5:13 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Switzer: OU's problem lies in roster's lack of talent
NORMAN - In the aftermath of Saturday night's 24-19 loss to Kansas State, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops summed it up best when he fielded a question about his team's toughness."I think we're a tough enough team," Stoops said. "What I don't think is we're a good enough football team."
Barry Switzer agrees completely.
Entitlement isn't the Sooners' problem. Discipline, suspensions and dismissals aren't the problem. Play-calling and schematics aren't the problem (though Switzer has an idea or two about that).
The problem with the Sooners - they narrowly escaped at UTEP, they tripped up repeatedly against Florida A&M, and they couldn't make a key play when they needed one against Kansas State - is simple.
"They just don't have the talent," Switzer said Monday in a phone interview from his Norman home.
Switzer won three national championships and 84 percent of his games from 1973-88. His tenure ended with ignominy before the '89 season when bad behavior became vogue and a handful of players became felons.
Stoops certainly has had discipline problems of his own lately. Fifteen scholarship players left the program prematurely in 2011 and 2012, and four are currently under suspension. But Stoops' troubles aren't to the level of chaos that Switzer had to endure.
OU's current swoon, Switzer said, is more like his stretch of 1981-83, when the Sooners lost four games three years in a row. Both dips, Switzer said, happened because of talent.
Asked Monday if his postgame remark was a comment on the team's talent level, Stoops hedged.
"I don't know," he said. "You could equate it however you want. Regardless, we've got to keep trying to improve."
Switzer, as usual, was more to the point.
"We're not as good as we have been," Switzer said. "We don't have the Tommie Harrises or Gerald McCoys squatting down there in the middle."
A lack of strength in the middle on defense, brought on by several lean recruiting classes, is the biggest culprit. OU signed two tackles in 2011, then re-signed one of those - and that was all - this year.
While the Sooners were adding two defensive tackles in two years, Alabama signed seven.
"You've got a quota, and if you can only sign 18, 19, 20 players and you've got to get every position covered, that limits you to how many you can get," Switzer said. "When you don't sign any, when you're shut out, you really are in trouble. Because it really makes you fall off. If you can't play defense, people will beat your ass."
Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee and Casey Walker are all fifth-year seniors and third-year starters. But they've been just average throughout their careers, and Walker missed the first two games this season because he was burned out on football, and McGee remains under university suspension (a source told the Tulsa World on Monday that McGee wouldn't be back until after the Notre Dame game Oct. 27).
"Sometimes you don't want the experienced players coming back every year," Switzer said. "I experienced that, too. Everybody's, 'Well, we got our whole team coming back.' Well, I'm not too damn sure I'd not rather have some damn sophomores. I'd rather have Lee Roy and Dewey and Lucious (Selmon) as sophomores than a bunch of five-year seniors.
"I'd rather have Tommie Harris as a freshman than a bunch of fifth-year seniors that are average."
Switzer also acknowledged problems with the offense (Landry Jones is far too inconsistent for a four-year starter), and a committee of running backs indicates there's not one great one in camp.
But if things were different on the defensive line, Switzer said, a lot of other problems could be overcome.
"They don't have people squatting down in the front four," he said. "They got gashed (against Kansas State) time after time. Can't get off blocks. They can't just go in and push the pocket when they've got to. That's what the Tommie Harrises and Gerald McCoys were able to do.
"Remember how many times they just pushed and all of a sudden there'd be a lot of people back there where the quarterback is? They'd cave in the line. We don't cave in on people because we don't have that type of player.
"You've got to get 'em. And everybody's trying to get those guys. ... But the scholarship limitation makes that, because you're only gonna get three or four of those guys, and you want all three or four of 'em to be Tommie Harrises, don't you? Alabama gets the top three or four Tommie Harrises."