Dumb penalties. Dropped passes. Receivers giving up on routes. Turnovers. No ranking. Four losses.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is largely in uncharted territory in his 11th season with the Sooners, one marred by all those problems and a rash of devastating injuries.

Like many coaches, Stoops considers discipline and hard work to be the cornerstones of his program. And he hasn't seen enough of either one from his team to overcome the adversity.

Blame the coaches for failing to teach the players that discipline or blame the players for failing to put in the hard work.

Or, Stoops says, point fingers at both.

"Criticize us because ultimately we've got to get them to do it right," Stoops said. "In the end, it's always the two of you. End of story. It'll be that way until they quit playing football."

More than a failure to evaluate talent _ the Sooners have still been pulling in some of the top-rated recruiting classes in the nation _ Stoops admits he and his staff may have misjudged some players' willingness to put in their best effort.

"You try and get to know kids," Stoops said. "You try and you visit with people that are involved with them. A recruiting coach gets many opportunities to visit with them in person. ... You're constantly trying to evaluate guys and how competitive they are and what their will is, but it's not that easy to determine."

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said coaches use every resource available during recruiting, questioning the prospects, along with their coaches, assistant coaches, friends, parents and anyone else for indicators of how committed a player will be in college.

Does he constantly talk about going to the gym? If he's a slacker, will someone close to him drop a hint?

Some of Oklahoma's most decorated players during Stoops' tenure _ such as Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman _ were not the most talented but had a willingness to work. Venables cited Jeremy Beal, who leads the Sooners' seventh-ranked defense with 9 1/2 sacks, as a current example.

"You come here and we're going to push you and challenge you and motivate you to be the best on and off the field, and when you leave here, you'll never ever be able to say, `I never realized my potential,' and have regret about that," Venables said. "I'm big on promoting that line of thinking."

Recently, some players recruited by the Sooners haven't fit in with that approach. Four offensive linemen have transferred or been dismissed in the past two offseasons and the team's top receiving prospect in recent years, Josh Jarboe, was asked to leave after he followed a gun conviction by posting an online rap music video about shooting people.

"There's a number of reasons. Some guys don't want to go to class, don't want to work out. They want to set their own schedule and that, generally with a team of 100 guys, doesn't set real well. So eventually, they're dismissed," Stoops said.

Those players could be the missing link for Oklahoma, which lost four starting offensive linemen and three senior receivers after last season _ all in moves expected as part of the normal turnover of a college program.

But the Sooners, who are also operating without two scholarships lost due to NCAA rules violations, haven't been able to make up for the lost depth.

There was some false hope when Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, a second-team All-American, joined left tackle Trent Williams and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in returning for another year of college instead of entering the NFL draft.

Instead, Gresham has missed the whole season after knee surgery and Bradford has only played in three games because of a shoulder injury.

Consider, though, that until three more starters were lost to season-ending injuries this week, the Sooners had most of the same personnel they would have expected before Bradford and Gresham made surprising decisions to stay in school.

Stoops isn't convinced the Sooners would've been better off if he had kept some players around. After all, the principles he follows have led the Sooners to six Big 12 championships and four appearances in the national championship game.

"In the end," Stoops said, "I'm very confident in our standards and what we expect."