OU OC Riley has familiar look

Riley brings Heupel-like attack to Sooners offense

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops saw what he wanted, and he wanted it badly.

Texas A&M had its Manziel doll, capable of big plays and Heisman Trophies. Baylor’s offense was unmatched and – to an extent – it still is. Even Oklahoma State had its version of the pistol offense, built around a triangle rushing attack.

The Sooners were missing theirs, and Stoops desired one. Only he didn’t have a coaching staff that knew it.

He had one that knew the spread, but no one with extensive knowledge of the pistol option look.

Stoops did everything he could to get the pistol offense, one with a quarterback capable of changing games with one play, including forcing his national championship-winning quarterback turned offensive coordinator into a corner from which he couldn’t escape.

As soon as Oklahoma called in a consultant to establish the pistol offense, the beginning of the end had started for Josh Heupel.

Just two years later and after four quarterbacks saw significant action, Heupel was out and Stoops was back looking for a new coordinator “to run their system” – meaning the coordinator’s.

“I’ve got a strong idea of what I want to do,” Stoops said at his season wrap-up press conference when he confirmed the dismissals of Heupel and wide receivers coach Jay Norvell

So, Stoops went looking again for something that this time he needed badly.

He didn’t have to look for long before settling on former East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who had spent five years calling plays for one of the most potent offenses in the country.

A good hire, but one that left a little bit of head scratching.

If Stoops wanted a coordinator that runs his own offense, then why hand pick one that runs a similar style of offense that Heupel, who wasn’t given the option to stay on staff in another capacity, wasn’t allowed to run? The offense that Stoops wanted transformed.

Stoops just wanted a change, even if it was away from a pupil that has been by his side for 15 years and one of the reasons Oklahoma hasn’t gone three decades without a national championship.

Like he did three years earlier, Stoops wanted something different, and Heupel became the first coordinator under Stoops not to leave for a head coaching position - and the first that was forced to change his offense.

“I think it’s fair to say,” Stoops said. “I’ve been very careful in that I thought about this a lot. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights over the last week or so. I’m helpful that it will give us a strong boost and feel, as you watch a lot of these games … I watched New Year’s Day and the score was 42-41 and 38-35 and on and on in a lot of these games. I’m hopeful that will give us a boost in that way.”

Stoops wasn’t getting the points he needed in the pistol, so Stoops settled for going back to a system that might be a bit of a shock to Oklahoma’s current power running personnel. Stoops said that he thinks the players on the roster can run any system, but don’t expect talented freshman running back Samaje Perine to be running zig routes out of the slot any time soon.

The need for a running quarterback is gone too, and likely with it, signal caller Trevor Knight, the first quarterback brought to Norman with hopes of emulating Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III.

“We need to throw the football better,” Stoops said. “It’s painfully obvious to everyone. We want to recruit people that can throw the football. If they can run with it, that’s a bonus.”

Stoops confirmed that desire for change in his statement released by the university for Riley’s hiring announcement.

“Lincoln brings a fresh perspective to our program that I believe will help us maximize our potential offensively,” Stoops said.

Maximize and change – to the system Heupel wasn’t allowed to keep.


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories