NORMAN — Much criticism has been levied against OU’s defensive backfield after allowing a combined 831 yards passing in two straight games.
OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is also looking for more from his linebackers, who were among those committing miscues during Saturday’s loss to Iowa State.
“I didn’t think Obo [Ogbonnia Okoronkwo] or Caleb [Kelly] played anywhere near where they’re capable of. Kenneth Murray made … I thought it was the worst game our linebackers had played collectively as a group,” Stoops said. “If you’re gonna play with those four, when they play well, we play well. Certainly the DBs are gonna give up some plays. They gotta make some. But I didn’t think our linebackers played very well Saturday.”
Kelly, who was poised for a breakout year after leading OU in tackles in last season’s Sugar Bowl win, recorded just three tackles against the Cyclones.
“Very disappointed in the way I played. I was real hurt, I was mad at myself. I feel like I let down a lot of people: coach Mike, my teammates, really, my second family,” Kelly said. “I watched film, and it was a big wakeup call for me personally.”
• Parker practices: Stoops wasn’t making any promises about Steven Parker’s status for Satuday, but provided a good sign.
The senior safety practiced Tuesday after being injured against Iowa State.
OU coach Lincoln Riley said on his radio show that a few injured Sooners are coming along health-wise.
The most critical pieces OU hopes to get back are running back Abdul Adams (lower leg) and receiver CeeDee Lamb (shoulder).
“A couple guys are progressing and a couple guys are on the bubble,” Riley said.
• Redshirt situation: For now, true freshmen Charleston Rambo (receiver) and Justin Broiles (cornerback) will maintain their redshirts. That could always change.
Rambo could be forced into action if Lamb can’t get healthy, and Broiles is traveling with the team due to depth at corner thinning after Jordan Parker’s injury.
“If we did have another injury there, it’s something that could happen. Receiver-wise, our depth is pretty good. I feel like we’ll stick to the plan and redshirt Charleston Rambo,” Riley said.
• Teaching the new guys: OU’s roster includes players from coast-to-coast, so coaches have tried to educate everyone on the importance of the Sooners’ annual meeting with Texas (2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN).
Running backs coach Jay Boulware — who counts freshman Trey Sermon, of Georgia, in his position group — has been a useful resource in that way, having played for Texas after growing up an OU fan in Oklahoma City.
He finds most players are already aware of the stakes.
“The one thing they do know, this is one of the top-three rivalry games in the country. Everybody knows about it. It’s something when you’re a part of it and you’re able to come down that tunnel, no matter which side you’re on, it’s special,” Boulware said.
• Making the most: Senior receiver Jordan Smallwood has just 14 career receptions, but his number was called Saturday when Lamb was sidelined.
Smallwood’s 29-yard catch was OU’s longest pass play, and he showed off a physical edge while playing in short duty.
The end result against the Cyclones wasn’t what Smallwood wanted, but he took another step toward playing a bigger role his final season.
“Whatever coach Riley wants me to do. I just try to be physical out there whenever I can be, whether it’s blocking or catching the ball, I just want to be a part of the team and help out the guys the best that I can,” Smallwood said.