Stoops all-in with Riley, Air Raid

Lincoln Riley has arrived at OU, welcome back the days of the Air Raid offense for the Sooners.

For the last couple of years, Oklahoma fans have been clamoring for the Sooners to return to the way things used to be at OU.

To the way things were during the first few years of the Bob Stoops era. Well, maybe Stoops took those words literally. Because it’s clear with the hiring of Lincoln Riley as offensive coordinator, it’s going to be a blast from the past with OU’s offense.

Before Riley could be a candidate, Stoops had to know what direction he wanted the OU offense to go. Once he knew, Riley was in that short list.

“I felt over the last several years we’d gravitated away from where we started here,” Stoops said. “That was in the Hal Mumme, (Mike) Leach type system in how we’re moving the football. We had so much success with it through the years.

“Little by little in the last several years we slowly drifted away from it. I had a goal in mind to get back to running that kind of system, and I felt I got the absolute best guy. He’s a guy who has come up through it and understands it inside and out and has had success running it.”

Riley was formally introduced to the local media as the OU offensive coordinator Saturday afternoon with a ringing endorsement from Stoops.

Stoops beat the critics to the punch. A lot of the concern has been with having a coordinator like Riley, what is going to become of OU’s vaunted, talented rushing attack?

Before that question could even be asked, Stoops offered his two cents.

“I’m very aware, as Lincoln is, with the quality of running backs we have here,” Stoops said. “That will not be a problem. They averaged over 160 yards rushing a game a year ago. He’ll find way to take advantage of the great running backs we have and tailor our offense to the personnel we have.”

Riley spent seven years at Texas Tech in various capacities before spending the last five seasons as the man in charge of the East Carolina offense.

It has been a whirlwind week for Riley, who was offered and accepted the job Monday, but it’s obvious Riley is going to be open to doing whatever is necessary for OU to be successful.

In other words, don’t be so quick to dismiss the days of Samaje Perine shouldering the load and putting up big numbers just yet.

“One of the beautiful things about this offense is it can become whatever we need it to be,” Riley said. “We’ll go recruit certain players for certain positions and look for certain skill sets. At the same time, I don’t think you need a lot of specific things to make it work.

“Growing up and learning this from Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen and all the guys I was with at Texas Tech as I was learning, the one thing I appreciate was how open-minded they were. I think sometimes coaches can get a little too rigid in what they’re looking for and that can limit you.”

Getting Riley hired before the end of the recruiting dead period has allowed OU to have a face for its offense when out on the trail.

The offense, although pretty productive, looked like it never had any real direction. The direction was to score points, however it came was sort of irrelevant.

Now the Sooners have it locked down. The days of the Air Raid, the Lincoln Riley edition, are here in Norman. It was an important first step for what could be a program-changing offseason.

“Absolutely,” said Stoops about the importance of getting Riley in now. “Getting Lincoln in here first as our coordinator was our primary goal. Then trusting him and us communicating where we go from there. But definitely wanted to get this piece set.”

The pieces are set. The direction is there. It took a major step back with OU and its offense in 2014 for everything to come together, but the old days of OU under Stoops are back.

“It’s ultimately my fault that we haven’t been in it the last several years,” Stoops said. “Again, I had a strong feeling and commitment that I wanted to be back in it and adapt to our personnel and what we can do best.”

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