Sooners and the search for identity

After massive coaching changes, now OU is starting to see the ripples of those decisions, for better or worse.

With four coaching changes and other coaches changing their responsibility, it is no shock that it has been an eventful late spring at Oklahoma.

OU coach Bob Stoops is determined to get the program back where it once was and has put all his chips in with first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

In going to Riley from former offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, the “Air Raid” offense has returned or whatever Riley’s version of the offense will entail. Not everyone fits what Riley likes to do and the latest example of that was with redshirt freshman quarterback Justice Hansen announcing Wednesday afternoon he is leaving the program.

Since the end of the season, an incredibly disappointing 8-5 campaign, that’s now five scholarship players who have either been dismissed or have elected to transfer.

Two of them happened almost immediately with running back David Smith and tight end Taylor McNamara not even waiting around to see the coaching changes. Smith said he has transferred to Jacksonville State, while McNamara is now at USC.

A mass exodus was expected, but it never occurred during spring ball. It has only been in the last few weeks where the dominoes have started falling.

Wide receiver K.J. Young, who started three games last season, was dismissed from the program for violation of team rules as he could never get it together academically.

A huge one followed days later when former five-star running back Keith Ford announced he was transferring from the program. Even more telling than him leaving was Ford’s comments about OU first-year running backs coach Jay Boulware and how they couldn’t get along.

There was news in the secondary although nothing concrete has occurred. Multiple sources have said redshirt freshman cornerback Tito Windham is on his way out although he’s still listed on OU’s online roster.

Fellow redshirt cornerback Marcus Green was reportedly looking to transfer but denied that vehemently last week, saying he is “Boomer Sooner all the way.”

Just when it looked like the great purge had come to an end came the news of Hansen, the local boy who grew up an OU fan and dreamed of being the Sooners quarterback, announcing he will pursue other opportunities.

Every few seasons Stoops has one of these “getting rid of bad apples” type events. The last one came following the 2011 season. But for the most part, this wasn’t about players with sour grapes as much as things simply sometimes don’t work out.

Running back is far and away the best position at OU and the loaded depth chart was going to mean limited touches for Smith and Ford. If you can accept that, you will be OK. But when you have someone like Ford, who has announced his intention to transfer to Texas A&M, limited touches aren’t enough.

Names like Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon don't feel like they'll be going away anytime soon and incoming freshman Rodney Anderson has made the best possible first impression at running back to go along with capable/niche guys like Alex Ross and Daniel Brooks.

Windham was always a bit of a minor head-scratcher. There’s no doubt he has talent, but the days of the 5-foot-9 cornerback almost seem obsolete at this time. He would have added depth but maybe nothing else this upcoming season.

The one to circle is Hansen as it leaves OU with only three scholarship quarterbacks for this season. A star at Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe and ranked No. 261 in the Scout 300 for the 2014 class, perhaps he saw the writing on the wall.

All three quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield, Trevor Knight, Cody Thomas) have started in their college careers and all have at least two more years of eligibility remaining.

Hansen tried to take it in stride with Riley’s arrival, but it seemed clear what Riley does best doesn’t suit what Hansen does best. Riley has already been able to land a huge four-star quarterback for the 2016 class in Waxhaw (N.C.) Cuthbertson’s Austin Kendall, who seems tailor-made for a Riley offense.

There are going to be bumps along the road as OU continues to try to forge its identity. You’d like to say the transfers/dismissals are done, but there’s no way of knowing as the Sooners try to bounce back in 2015.

Addition by subtraction might be too strong of a way to explain what has happened, but it’s definitely a new day in Norman. What remains to be seen, now less than 100 days from the start of the season, is if this is the beginning of the end of the Stoops era or the start of a rebirth.

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