Simmons looks to revitalize OU receivers

Last season's offensive scapegoat has a new look under new assistant coach

Everything about Oklahoma appealed to Dennis Simmons.: Coaching under Bob Stoops, who Simmons called a “legend,” and alongside both Bill Bedenbaugh and Lincoln Riley each of whom he has a past relationship.

That made his decision easy, but Oklahoma needed someone just like Simmons – maybe they needed Simmons specifically.

The Sooners needed someone to help implement Riley’s new pass-first offense, which Stoops is still unwilling to call an “air raid” attack. Simmons was very familiar with the nuances of it and hasn’t had to spend much time learning it along with the players.

Like Riley, he was “raised by Mike” Leach.

Simmons’ biggest task when coming for Norman wasn’t figuring out how to teach the Sooners’ offensive system. It was teaching it to a unit that was looked at as the weak link on offense.

“Those guys wanted to change the perception of the group,” Simmons said. “No one wants to be looked at as the letdown of the unit. . . . Those guys don’t want to let their brothers down.”

There was no special speech that he gave to the unit, which might have been the talk of the spring game after being the scapegoat of the regular season.

The Sooners are far deeper than they were last season and now have two coaches to manage the group that will run more than 10 players this season. With Sterling Shepard out last year, the Sooners’ passing game fell apart.

Simmons’ biggest challenge is making sure that doesn’t happen again this year. He’ll have to do it seven players in a rotation that haven’t taken an FBS snap. Jeffery Mead, who Simmons said has had an up-and-down spring, played limited snaps last year and never caught a pass.

To improve, it will take more than just reps.

“Don’t confuse activity with execution,” Simmons said. “There’s a different between getting better and just going out and practicing. Everyone practices, but if we focus in and do what we’re supposed to do – especially with our offensive system – we can get better.”

There’s some diversity on the roster that Simmons sees. He looks at Shepard, Michiah Quick and incoming freshman John Humphrey as players who can play both inside and outside.

He said that Dede Westbrook’s interest had been a “tremendous, tremendous plus,” and Durron Neal has been very consistent, something that he wasn’t exactly doing last season.

Simmons stills wants more.

“I’m kind of selfish in that aspect,” Simmons said. “You can never have too much talent. I guess if that’s unique then I want a whole lot of uniqueness.”


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