Nitpicking the Sooners' offense

Glaring holes that might not seem so glaring to some

Oklahoma has had plenty of success on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Sooners have scored three times in each first quarter thus far this season and have usually put up enough points by halftime to secure a win.

When in doubt, Oklahoma has scored on its first drive of the second half every game thus far.

The Sooners have three running backs each of who are averaging at least 5.5 yards per carry and have eclipsed 250 yards passing in each of the first three games of the season, despite holding a multi-touchdown lead for just about every game.

An average of 44.7 points per game and 5.6 yards per carry is definitely something to build on, but this support structure isn’t as firm as it might appear on the outside.

Here are a handful of areas where the Oklahoma offense is lacking:

The Sooners have struggled on third down . . .

For an offense as prolific as Oklahoma’s, picking up first downs should be a piece of cake. Not a 100-percent mark but much higher than the 38.5 percent showing the Sooners have put up through the first three games.

That percentage actually puts them in the bottom half of the Big 12 and well below Baylor’s conference-leading 59.2 percent margin.

Of course counter arguments can be made. The most likely is Oklahoma doesn’t need to pick up third downs because it is so far ahead. Still, good habits must be forged early.

Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel pointed to the inability of the offense on early downs, which has caused a lot of third-and-long situations. Against Tennessee, the Sooners were 3-of-12 in third downs.

“We looked at third down,” co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “There wasn’t one thing that you could put your finger on and say this will help us. It’s just overall focus execution, everybody beating their man, making the play, and we’re just going to have to do better there to be competitive in real tough games."

Oklahoma didn’t convert a third down in the second half and faced only one third down with less than four yards to gain.

Oklahoma has to find a receiver other than Sterling Shepard . . . While Durron Neal has come to the forefront recently, the Sooners will need another deep threat. Either by scheme, defensive alignment or comfort, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight has relied almost exclusively on Shepard for any passes beyond 15 yards.

Before the game against Tennessee, during which Neal had seven catches, receivers outside of Shepard only accounted for just 16 of Knight’s 31 non-Shepard completions. Although not a bad sign because the offense is becoming more diverse, Knight will need more receivers soon.

“It’s making sure Trevor’s seeing the whole field and not just zeroing in on one guy,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “It’s hard to deny the plays Sterling has played.”

Knight needs to get more involved in the run game …

In his three most complete games last year, Knight rushed 32 times. Through three games this season, he has 14 carries.

One looks and says this is a good thing. Knight isn’t risking injury or exposing himself.

That’s true. He’s even setting up for keepers when he direct hand-offs early in the game. The problem lies in the zone read – or lack thereof.

“There are a few opportunities during the course of a ball game based on scheme,” Heupel said of using a pre-determined zone read with Trevor. “You’re going to pick your opportunities to use them right. Some of it is read, some he has a blocker out in front of him. It’s just the opportune time.”

Knight has learned the importance of sliding. He gets it. It’s time to let him run more often and make the zone read a true zone read.

Get Blake Bell the ball …

Bell is averaging just one catch and 20 yards per game this season. He is just a dynamic weapon.

“We’ve seen a lot of it,” Stoops said. “He’s got great hands.”

He has been getting more and more involved every game and is proving he has the hands to catch passes over the middle.

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