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OU football: Does Jamar Cain know what he's up against?

Lincoln Riley painted a rosy picture of OU's defense. He has some data to back up his point. He also was speaking in the wake of a 63-28 Peach Bowl in which Louisiana State scored touchdowns on nine of its 11 possessions, and one of the Sooners’ stops was a missed field goal.

Whatever inroads the Sooner defense made in Alex Grinch’s first season as defensive coordinator were wiped out by the Peach Bowl. Does Riley’s new hire, Jamar Cain, realize the task at hand? Does Cain, whose Division I-A experience is all out West (Arizona State, Fresno State, Wyoming), realize the stigma he must recruit against, that Big 12 defenses are low quality?

I asked him that very question Wednesday when he and DeMarco Murray were introduced as OU’s newest assistant coaches.

"I think you've just got to work hard every day,” Cain said. “Honestly, just work hard every day. At some point we'll get better and everybody will get better.”

I loved that answer. Because that’s the only way anything changes. No magic elixir. No special scheme. Work hard, get better players, get your players to be better.

“I think you got to work hard every day at recruiting and doing the little things on the field at practice and, you know, the selling point is coming here and working with (Alex) Grinch and working with coach Riley,” Cain said.

Grinch was hired a year ago to coordinate the OU defense, and the Sooners made improvements from 2018, when they sported the Big 12’s worst defense. In 2019, they rose in national defensive rankings and were a middle-of-the-road Big 12 defense.

Riley said Grinch sat in on the interview with Cain for the defensive job that opened when Ruffin McNeill resigned. Cain will coach outside linebackers and defensive ends.

“Grinch has a history of getting defenses turned around, and he had a top-10 defense in Washington State,” Cain said. “So that just sells itself. At Washington State, you're not getting that same athletes that USC is getting or Oregon is getting and even Arizona State. But he had a top-10 defense. And we're definitely going to get there, and I'm just excited to work with Grinch and coach Riley."

Cain had virtually no impact on the 2020 OU recruiting class, but he will be instrumental going forward in the Sooners’ upgrading their talent base, which Riley says already has begun.

“It was exciting,” Riley said of recruiting defenders for the 2020 class. “It was certainly different, and it’s gonna get more different in a positive way as we go on. You could feel the results of making some of the jumps we did defensively.

“I know you guys have gotten tired of saying it, but it feels like recruiting offensively after the 2015 season. We’ve had some success, some big jumps with a lot of the same players. We’re not as good yet as we’re getting ready to be. But now we feel like we can have a great shot with anybody.

“Now those players can look and see direct results. If you’re a high school recruit you can say, look what they did. They jumped in some cases 80 or 100 spots in the national rankings in a lot of different major categories defensively. They did it with a lot of the same players in a number of months. What can they do with me in two, three or four years?

“That’s the same question that went through Kyler Murray’s mind and Marquise’s (Brown) mind and CeeDee Lamb’s mind on down the line, Creed Humphrey’s. Those are the same things those kids thought about, and then they chose OU and have all reaped the benefits. This class defensively was a huge step in that direction, and it’s gonna get better.”

Maybe. We’ll see. The Peach Bowl is too fresh to get too excited about OU’s defensive prospects. But Jamar Cain seems to know the answer of how to fix the problem.

Related Photos
New University of Oklahoma assistant  football coach Jamar Cain speaks during a press conference at OU in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.  [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

New University of Oklahoma assistant football coach Jamar Cain speaks during a press conference at OU in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4a4d41647ac7566b647062935cc22c73.jpg" alt="Photo - New University of Oklahoma assistant football coach Jamar Cain speaks during a press conference at OU in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]" title="New University of Oklahoma assistant football coach Jamar Cain speaks during a press conference at OU in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>New University of Oklahoma assistant football coach Jamar Cain speaks during a press conference at OU in Norman, Okla. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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