Twitter to blame for OU's struggles?

NORMAN, Okla. -- In the aftermath of a Bedlam debacle, Oklahoma fans were out for blood, scouring for abstract reasons why the Sooners tanked the final month of the season.

The players have been too coddled was one explanation. The coaches have lost their fire was another. Ultimately, though, the players' use of Twitter took much of the blame on message boards, sports talk radio and in the media. And more specifically, the California tweeting trio of Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson and Brennan Clay.

"Yeah, a little bit. It's crazy. People like to pick at us. (We're) something different, and they're not used to that," said Clay, when asked if he felt like the Cali trio had become scapegoats for OU's late-season swoon.

"Since things didn't go well this year, people had to blame it on something," he said. "Some people just wanted to blame it on a few of the players that have the most popularity, so to speak, on Twitter."

The Sooners opened preseason No. 1, with expectations of contending for the school's eighth national title. Several players, notably the Cali trio, even launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #ChaseForEight.

But after a stunning home loss to Texas Tech, the Sooners later fell apart late in the year, due in part to injuries to leading receiver Ryan Broyles and leading rusher Dominique Whaley.

But OU also struggled with chemistry, leadership and discipline issues, underscored by late-season suspensions to starters Jaz Reynolds and Ronnell Lewis. After the Sooners were routed in Stillwater, some wondered if players using Twitter somehow was a factor.

"Twitter? That's a reason why we were losing?" Jefferson said. "We aren't tweeting during games, we aren't tweeting before games. We aren't doing anything against the university. We are just normal college students. I think people feel like you have to be serious all of the time. I'm a leader, but I definitely have a sense of humor.

"That's not going to change, that's just my personality, and that it often gets mixed up with being serious and being a leader. I can turn it on and be a leader, too. I just think (the fans and media) needed somewhere to point their fingers at."

Clay added that Twitter has no bearing on what happens in practice or on game days.

"Twitter has no effect on whether a player can make a play or not," he said. "It's all focus on the field throughout practice. People act like we tweet during practice. We're not in practice thinking about Twitter, like, 'Oh man, I wish I could tweet this right now,' you know what I mean?"

Stills said he is OK with criticism after losses. But he takes issue with anyone who says the use of Twitter shows a lack of focus or commitment.

"There is stuff said that I agree with and some stuff I disagree with -- I don't feel like a lot of the stuff that is said is wrong, just some of the stuff," he said. "Like talking about the drops, that's unacceptable. I see a lot of stuff talking about receivers dropping balls, and they're right.

"Then there's stuff like people saying we don't have any heart. That's unfair for someone to say when they don't know, someone sitting on the couch."

Clay pointed out that those who criticize the Cali trio's use of Twitter have forgotten how committed they have been to recruiting out-of-state prospects to come to OU, notably from California. Sometimes even via Twitter.

"We're all about getting people to come here, recruiting people. (Our tweeting has) helped recruits come in," Clay said. "I feel like people have forgotten that -- most definitely. I feel like they feel like we're getting lost in this Twitter and social networking, when that truly isn't the case."

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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