All the talk about Oklahoma and its new offense has been about tempo. Bringing in Lincoln Riley to be the offensive coordinator represented a blast from the past approach for the Sooners in their offensive philosophy.
But it couldn’t be Riley alone, and it won’t be. A vital piece to the puzzle was going to be the wide receivers coach that could work hand-in-hand with Riley to get OU the offensive success it’s looking to achieve in 2015.
That man is Dennis Simmons. Nobody is more qualified to run the show with outside receivers than Simmons. Well versed in the “Air Raid” offense from his time with Mike Leach, Simmons comes to OU from Washington State to replace Jay Norvell.
Norvell seemed like a fixture at OU, having recruited every receiver that is on OU’s roster for the 2015 season. It’s going to be an adjustment.
“He’s real laid back,” receiver Durron Neal said. “Coach Jay was a high energy guy. But Coach Simmons has his moments when he’s hyper. He’s willing to sit back and listen to the things that you need help with. He’s willing to take the time during practice and explain to you your wrongs and your rights.”
The competition is wide open. With a new (but old) style coming in, nothing seems like you can write in ink except for Sterling Shepard. Everybody else seems to have a fair shot and a reasonable shot at making something happen.
“It’s been a tough transition for them in that what we’re asking them to do, the way we practice, is hard on those guys,” Riley said. “We don’t have the numbers there quite yet as far as the number of people so there’s been a lot of reps on these guys.
“We’re starting to figure out what these guys can do, what they can’t do. In the beginning, you try to peg these guys into certain positions, not knowing exactly their whole skill set. I would guess we’ll be moving some guys around as we continue to learn more about them.”
The increase in tempo is also another reason why so many players are going to have opportunities. Depth is going to be important. Keeping fresh bodies will be important.
“It’s just about what I can do to help this team and they give me certain plays that I can make and I do my best to make them,” Neal said. “This offense is going to open up for a lot of people. This offense is designed for everybody to make plays.”
Part of that has been because of the simplification of the offense. The No. 1 thing being talked about is how much fun the offense is right now at OU.
“Coach Riley has made it as simple as it can get,” Neal said. “He has taken the time and Coach Simmons as well. This offense is really fun and once you get it down it’s so easy. It’s all about putting the time in because at the next level you’re going to have to learn a whole ‘nother offense.”
It could be Neal. It could be Shepard. It could Dede Westbrook, Michiah Quick, Dallis Todd, Jeffery Mead or somebody else. The opportunities are numerous, and Simmons is ready to bring the receiver production back for the Sooners.