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January 14, 2013

FOOTBALL: Plenty of holes for Sooners to fix in 2013

NORMAN — After a second straight 10-3 season, Oklahoma appears to be in a holding pattern. Yes, it shared the Big 12 Conference title with Kansas State this past season — OU’s eighth conference title since 2000. But did it elevate its play from the previous year?

Some key personnel will change as the Sooners prepare for the 2013 season. Key players from the last three seasons — Landry Jones, Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson and Tom Wort — are gone. OU’s coordinators — Josh Heupel and Mike Stoops — remain in place, but how well they handle a league where offenses continue to put up record-setting totals, while defenses seemingly fall farther behind.

The Sooners are in a rebuilding mode. They need to come up with a plan that not only keeps as the perennial team to beat in the Big 12, but one capable of staying in the national championship hunt and winning it.

“We’re gonna do all we can to improve and compete for the Big 12 and hopefully the national (championship),” he said. “That’s what we try and do every year.”

Here’s five things OU must improve on for it to happen in 2013:

Improved production from the defensive line: The Sooners were 112th in tackles for loss with 55. The total was the lowest about half of what OU averaged the previous five seasons (102.2).

Stoops said some of decrease was due to OU blitzing less under Mike Stoops than it did under previous defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

The defensive line struggled to come up with negative plays. Less than half of the tackles for loss were made by linemen. The Sooners must create more pressure on offenses than it did this season and starts up front.

“Can we find a better balance? Hopefully,” Stoops said. “We can blitz more and do some things stun wise to get more tackles for loss and still not give up big plays.”

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