Mike Stoops encouraged by defense

NORMAN, Okla. -- It was a difficult position to be put in.

Not wanting to give opposing offenses any kind of edge heading into the fall, new Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops didn't want to give up any of the plans for his defense. Yet, he wanted to win the Red-White spring game on Saturday at Owen Field in Norman.

"It's hard," Stoops said of the offense vs. defense spring game. "When you're in a competitive setting you want to compete, but we want to protect what we are doing as much as we can."

While the White (offense) defeated the Red (defense) 22-21, Stoops was pleased with the overall performance from his defense.

"I've been encouraged with our guys all camp," Stoops said. "Our position on the football was much better as the game went on. Take out the first quarter, we were pretty solid after that."

The emphasis this spring has been on limiting big plays, and the Sooners' defense did that on Saturday except for a 60-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bell to Jaz Reynolds. Safety Javon Harris misplayed the ball on the play allowing Reynolds to make a terrific catch and cruise into the end zone.

"That's something we've been working on all spring," Stoops said. "Again, that crept up and got us. We still have a lot of work to do in that area."

Multiple members of OU's starting defensive line, including defensive end R.J. Washington and defensive tackle Casey Walker, missed the spring game due to injury, giving Stoops hope the Sooners' pass rush will improve.

"Our contain and pass rush need to be more consistent," he said. "Our pass rush needs to improve, and we still need to continue keeping position on the football in deep balls."

The offense had some success running the ball, particularly early in the game, which was a disappointment for OU's new defensive coordinator.

"The first couple of drives we were playing gap control defense and weren't able to stop the run very well," Stoops said. "I should have been better against the run than we were, that was a little discouraging."

Several players had solid outings, including linebacker Corey Nelson and nickelback Julian Wilson with eight tackles apiece. Other standouts were linebacker Aaron Franklin, safety Tony Jefferson, cornerback Demontre Hurst, defensive end David King, cornerback Joe Powell and safety Jesse Paulsen finished with five tackles each. In addition, Hurst and Wilson each added a sack.

One bright spot was the play of cornerback Lamar Harris opposite Hurst. Replacing Jamell Fleming will be key for OU, and Harris held his own against Kenny Stills, Trey Metoyer, Jaz Reynolds and the rest of the Sooners receivers on Saturday.

But Stoops wants more from the senior, who played the majority of his snaps with the No. 1 defense.

"Lamar had some great breaks on the ball," Stoops said. "He should have intercepted the ball on the out route. He can't get in better position than that, but he has to be able to make plays. You can't be a guy who 'just misses' all the time. That doesn't do anybody any good."

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