Who is OU's next OC?

Young coaches lead list as Sooners look for replacement signal caller

With Oklahoma’s entire play-calling staff dismantled, Sooners’ coach Bob Stoops has a chance to start from scratch.

Running backs coach Cale Gundy and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh have done plenty to consider themselves safe for the chopping block. However, they aren’t likely candidates to call plays.

Stoops even said Gundy isn’t a candidate for the opening.

Stoops has the chance to take the Oklahoma offense wherever he wants. So where does he go?

It starts with the question of what kind of offense Stoops wants to run. Right now, even that question doesn’t have an answer.

“I feel we have the ability with what we have here to do about anything,” Stoops said. “I’ve considered it. I will to a point, but I’ve got a strong idea of what I want to do.”

Stoops said that he wants a quarterback who can throw above all else. If his signal caller can run, that’d be a bonus.

It’s clear that Oklahoma’s experiment with the pistol formation never went well. Now-removed offensive coordinator Josh Heupel never seemed to have a feel for calling the offense, and Oklahoma’s quarterback situation left a lot to be desired.

With that in mind and Stoops’ re-affirmation that he wants a consistent throwing quarterback, it stands to reason that any offense is in play.

But who will lead that offense?

Stoops has already said that he has a good idea of what he wants but wouldn’t divulge any secrets or his plan Tuesday. Here are five contenders for the position:

Lincoln Riley, East Carolina OC: Recently linked to offensive coordinator opening at Kentucky and one of the fastest-rising names in college football, it seems as though Riley, who was a receivers coach under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, is back on the market.

At 31 years old, he fits the Sooners’ youth movement, and after leading an offense that nearly hit 7,000 total yards and finished with the fifth-best offense in the country last season, he fits the success Oklahoma might be looking for in an attack.

Stoops said he wants a coordinator who knows what he’s doing and has a system in place.

“I’m going to hire someone to hire someone to run what they run,” Stoops said.

Riley has that at ECU, where the Pirates are more than just an air raid attack. Although, Riley called an offense that was 60 percent pass last year, whereas the Sooners were 60 percent run. With the Oklahoma roster, Riley’s attack might not fit, but his offense has been more and more run influenced every year.

Jake Spavital, OC: Another young coordinator, Spavital is just 29 years old and has worked with a trio of early round draft picks in the NFL – Geno Smith, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. He has a great pedigree for offense, having worked under Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgorsen and Kevin Sumlin.

There’s a lot to like.

And he helped turn Texas A&M into an offensive juggernaut, which averaged more than 455 yards per game this season replacing Manziel.

The bigger question is: Would Spavital make the move? There’s a viable debate that it might be a lateral move considering where the two teams’ offense are right now.

Spavital would fit into the mold of an offensive coordinator that Stoops would want though.

Rhett Lashlee, Auburn OC: Another young up-and-comer, the 31-year-old Lashlee is much like the two other young coaches on the list.

He has a ton of pedigree, having played for Malzahn in high school and coached alongside him for nearly his entire career. His offenses are prolific, and he understands the system.

Lashlee, a quarterbacks coach, doesn’t necessarily have an offense to call his own though. Auburn’s offense is Malzahn’s offense – not Lashlee’s

Like the previous two, he’s being linked to a lot of major jobs around the country and is considered one of the top offensive coordinators in the nation.

Bill Legg, Marshall OC: This candidate might come out of left field, but for the past three years, Marshall has had one of the top offenses in the NCAA.

Legg has coached just about every position on the offensive side of the ball and has been an offensive coordinator at two previous stops before Marshall.

He developed an erratic quarterback, Rakeem Cato, into the seventh-leading passer in the country last year. He’s not a prodigy by any means but a battle-tested play-caller. Legg is a run-first kind of guy who likes a quick passing attack.

He’s coaching in his home state right now and clearly isn’t a “Big 12 guy,” having coach at Purdue and Florida International as well.

Tyson Helton, Western Kentucky OC: Another young rising star, Helton helped lead the Hilltoppers’ offense that ranked second in the nation in passing yards and fourth overall.

He’s being linked to offensive coordinator openings around the country and possibly was in Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Stoops didn’t say if he’d reached out to anyone yet, but he did seem focused at the press conference.

Bringing in Helton, who has been a recruiting coordinator at other stops, right away makes sense.

His past history has been as a quarterbacks coach, but he has been an offensive coordinator for less than a year – he was hired on Jan. 15, 2014 at WKU.

It’s tough to argue with results, though – specially at Western Kentucky.

Other possibilities: Mark Mangino, Iowa State OC; Seth Littrell, North Carolina OC; Jay Johnson, Louisiana-Lafeyette OC; Greg Roman, former San Francisco (NFL) OC; Garrick McGee, Louisville OC

Sooners Illustrated’s early guess: The dream package would be to get Riley (to call plays and coach receivers) and Spavital (a quarterbacks guru) as co-offensive coordinators again. But each might want to call plays and you can’t have that.

Although Stoops said the administration hasn’t put any restrictions on him, and a big day could come for both.

In all likelihood, Oklahoma probably gets one of the two.

With play-calling duties, Riley would clearly be moving up. He would be far more likely to make the move. The best fit for Oklahoma might be to bring in Riley, whose system might fit Baker Mayfield best, and find a true quarterback guru, one to help develop the unimpressive group.

Helton is making a late charge, though. He comes in as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator alongside Riley, who coaches the receivers.

It’s anyone’s guess, except for Stoops’, at this point.


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