OU hits homerun with OC hire

Lincoln Riley

Following the most disappointing season in the Bob Stoops’ era at the University of Oklahoma, OU decided to part ways with longtime receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell and former national championship-winning quarterback and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.

Stoops’ decision to let Norvell and Heupel go was not an easy one for the 16-year Oklahoma head football coach, but it was one that needed to be made. It was the first step in a two-step process on the offensive side of the ball that needed to be addressed. The second was finding the right guy to replace Heupel as the play-caller on offense.website commentary new.qxd

It didn’t necessarily need to be a splash hire, but it needed to be someone who was a good fit and would help lead the way in getting the Sooners’ offense back to where it belongs, among the elite of college football.

For more than a week, rumors circled around the state and even the entire college football world on who Stoops was trying to lure into Norman. Names from Texas A&M’s Jake Spavital to Oregon’s Scott Frost were mentioned as possible Heupel replacements at OU, but none of those ever gained any traction.

It’s hard to say how many phone calls and how many offensive coordinators across the nation were poked by Stoops to see if there was any interest in the vacant position, but the guy that Stoops was able to land will be one of the best assistant coaches hired in OU football history, and that’s saying something.

Lincoln Riley from East Carolina was announced last week as Oklahoma’s new offensive coordinator, play-caller and quarterbacks coach. Riley comes from the Mike Leach system of throwing the ball all over the field with tempo, but a running game with the right pieces can be very potent as well in this offense.

There are many reasons to be excited about Riley heading to Norman, but the main one I want to focus on is the offensive talent Oklahoma already has on its roster waiting for their new offensive coordinator to coach them up.

Now I could sit here like every other reporter that covers Oklahoma football and spew out statistics about Riley’s offenses over the years, but I’m not going to do that because numbers don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to offense.

It all starts with the quarterback. Quarterbacks have to be the guys that lead the offense on and off the field. They have to be the ones who step up and make a big play when it counts the most for their team. Each style of offense has a particular style of quarterback it needs to be successful.

For the Riley offense, Baker Mayfield is a perfect fit. Mayfield ran this style of offense in his true freshman season at Texas Tech, and after having to sit out last season, Mayfield will undoubtedly be the guy to run this system for the next several years while he is eligible to play college football.

Mayfield will have a stable of play-makers to distribute the ball to as well next season. The notion that this offense doesn’t fit running backs is purely that, a notion. Reality is that Quentin Griffin ran for nearly 2,000 yards in this offense. With the number of big-time running backs Oklahoma has, getting them the football in a variety of ways in open space will be vital to the Sooners’ success.

Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, Alex Ross and Keith Ford all have the ability to not only run the ball out of the backfield, but catch the ball and make plays in open space. The Riley offense with the running back firepower OU will possess next season will be scary to watch.

Finally, receivers are a huge part of Riley’s offense. Oklahoma already has an All-American caliber receiver in Sterling Shepard, but the development of Durron Neal, Michiah Quick, Jordan Smallwood and others will be crucial, as well as the addition of junior college transfer Dede Westbrook.

If the Sooners can find several other big time play-makers at receiver other than Shepard, look out for the Oklahoma offense next year. With Riley leading the way, the sky is the limit.

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