Seven years don’t just get thrown in the trash. No doubt Oklahoma and its fans have been excited about what first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has been able to do, but there aren’t any hard feelings as it pertains to former assistant coach Jay Norvell.
Norvell, now calling the plays at Texas, is back in the Red River Showdown. He’ll just be wearing the burnt orange instead of the crimson.
“I was thinking about that last night,” senior offensive lineman Derek Farniok said. “That’s going to be weird seeing him over there. He’s on the wrong side, but it will be fun.”
Head coach Bob Stoops has been through this process enough to know it’s just part of the job. He has coached against a number of former assistants as assistants for other schools or as head coaches at other schools.
Stoops had nothing negative to say about Norvell, saying he’ll always be a friend and the two have the same relationship they’ve always had.
The relationship wasn’t the problem. The production on the field at wide receiver became the issue. It was telling that in trying to speak to receivers this week about Norvell there weren’t really any options outside of Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal.
For one reason or another, other receivers in the various classes just hadn’t panned out for the Sooners. Neal was not made available to the media this week, but Shepard said essentially the same thing Stoops said as well.
Norvell is always going to be a friend. OU quarterback Baker Mayfield talked about how he still keeps in touch occasionally and how Norvell is somebody you definitely want on your staff.
But on Saturday, that friendship will go out the window. As much as Norvell built relationships with OU’s receivers, it’s cornerbacks that might actually factor into the game Saturday.
He had a long time to monitor OU’s defensive backs and what they do well and what works against them. Zack Sanchez is definitely expecting that.
“It's definitely going to be weird,” Sanchez said. “The relationship that I have with coach Norvell, my freshman year on scout team and things like that, and obviously going against him every day in practice.
“He knows me. He knows my tendencies so I kind of know where he's going to attack me, some things he's going to try to do. It's going to be a lot of fun just going out and competing against him. I've got nothing but love for coach Norvell.”
And Norvell has nothing but love for the Sooners and for this game. Norvell said earlier this week this is by far his favorite game to coach in and be a part of, and he feels very fortunate to get this shot once again even if it’s on the other sideline.
“It will be different,” Norvell said. “Once the game starts, the players will decide the game on the field. I’m looking forward to it. At the end of the day, I’m a football coach. I’m excited to get a chance to coach in this game.”