DALLAS – Rhythm and timing: Two of the most important factors in the pass-heavy, air-raid style attack that new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley learned at Texas Tech and brought to Norman from East Carolina.
Oklahoma doesn’t have all the time in the world to figure out – and perfect – both.
There are three quarterbacks vying for the starting spot, according to Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners have only one receiver who has ever caught more than 45 passes in a season, according to the stats.
Time is precious for Oklahoma. The Sooners have to make the most of every opportunity.
“That’s one of the big things going in to camp,” said receiver Sterling Shepard, who has three-straight 45-catch seasons. “Even in spring, we were trying to get that connection. Once you have that connection, it’s hard to break. It’s a very important part of the game. We’re going to do a good job of it.”
Right now though, the onus is on the players. Every Monday and Wednesday for no more than an hour, the Oklahoma passing attack goes through the motions –player-organized and player-run.
All three quarterbacks rotate through as Oklahoma tries as quickly as possibly to figure out its chemistry. It has to right the ship after one of the worst seasons under Stoops. It has to find more balance in its offense after last season’s passing struggles.
It has to do all of that while learning a new offense, one that’s tweaking the way 7-on-7 is run.
“It’s a lot more fast-paced,” Shepard said. “Coach Riley does a great job of just simplifying everything. Guys are out there just running around and having fun now. I feel like guys get to play their game.”
Every day, the offense does a little better of a job of putting the defense to work. Shepard said he has seen the improvement. There aren’t many differences as far as scheme is concerned during the player-led practices. It’s more about the tempo and the pace of the workouts.
“Conceptually, there’s not a whole lot differently that people do,” Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight said. “It’s the mentality. It’s how you put it together. It’s the communication. It’s how fast you go. That’s what makes the difference between two offenses.”
On Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days, the general consensus was that the adaptation is going well; that receivers and quarterbacks are picking up the offense pretty quickly. Shepard smiled when he said that working with different quarterbacks isn’t a problem.
“Since I’ve been at Oklahoma, there’s been a quarterback battle,” he said. “Guys are used to that. We’re used to getting adjusted to each quarterback.”
It’s up to Shepard to lead the young receivers. Oklahoma has only three receivers on its roster who have caught a pass. Shepard is one of only two – Durron Neal as well – who was around in 2012 for Landry Jones’ senior season, the last year before the Sooners departed from a heavy passing attack.
“It’s an easy adjustment,” Shepard said “The terminology is kind of different, but everything else is kind of the same.”
Oklahoma’s hoping it’s just that easy.