NORMAN, Okla. — Heading into Big 12 Conference play the Oklahoma offense is averaging 42 total points per game and 35 a game when you take away special team and defensive scores. Not bad for a unit that most people don't pay attention to when talking about the Sooners. Chuck Long is in his second year as the Offensive Coordinator for the Sooners, and he talked with OUInsider.com for another segment of our two minute drill via his cell phone Friday afternoon while traveling down to watch future Sooner quarterback Rhett Bomar.
JH: Chuck, your team has been playing so well. Do you wish you played this weekend?
CL: "No, we are OK with the weekend off because we had some guys banged up. We had a tough four weeks in regards to good opponents — two of which we really didn't know much about because they had new head coaches. Coming into the Big 12 season off a tough non-conference schedule, I just thought it was the right time to have an off-week."
JH: You don't worry about the offense losing its edge during the bye weekend?
CL: "We had a good week of practice, and giving our guys some time off this weekend couldn't have come at a better time. We feel we will get right back into the swing of things on Monday, especially after it was such a much needed off-week."
JH: Coaches are notorious for adding schemes during off-weeks, so go ahead and tell us that you have added the inverted wishbone and that Jason has been holding back on his running during the first four games, right?
CL: "We may have added some wishbone to our offense. You never know. We had a throwback game our first game against North Texas and we were thinking about lining up in the wishbone then. However, we came to our senses and decided against it."
JH: At one time weren't you considered an option quarterback?
CL: "We ran a little option in high school and I kink of liked it. However, the more I got hit the more I decided that I needed to be a passing quarterback. We actually ran some option when I was at Iowa under Hayden Fry, but that was when I was a freshman and I weighted 180 pounds. When I gained weight to 220 pounds less and less option was in our playbook."
JH: After a 4-0 start, where do you think your offense is at heading into conference play?
CL: "We feel right now that we are ahead of the game. We have always felt good about our offense and our personnel, but we didn't have a lot of starts with our offense among our personnel. We felt good about our players and our talent. We don't have a lot of great starting experience here, but we feel we have come a long way in a short amount of time. We are excited about where we are right now and we feel we have bigger days ahead. We have done well so far, but we feel we can even have better games. We don't feel we have put together a complete game yet, but you can see the confidence gaining daily with our guys every week after we play a ballgame. Our chemistry is coming together pretty good."
JH: Do players turn it up a notch when conference play starts?
CL: "I definitely believe that we'll see that. I believe the off-week is for polishing up some things — a good week to bring back some plays that were on the shelf so to speak, just to keep them polished up and in the forefront of players' minds. Next week those guys will have conference games on their mind and be ready to go. I just think the Big 12 is such a challenging conference and we have guys on our football team that know that, and we started feeling that towards the middle of last week. We will definitely start feeling it this week."
JH: You start off with Iowa State and I know that you, the Stoops brothers and Brent Venables know Cyclone Head Coach Dan McCarney very well. Isn't that right."
CL: "Both staffs branched off from the Hayden Fry tree and part of it up at Iowa State with Dan McCarney. We know those people very well. We know the entire coaching staff very well and they know us. It is good to get together and play a ballgame against them. We have a lot of respect for Dan and he is doing a tremendous job there. To me, that is one of the hardest jobs in the country right now or it certainly was when he took it over. Coach McCarney has done such a great job that he has turned it around. We have great respect for what Coach McCarney and his staff have done there. We are not taking this game lightly be any means. This is a big game for us and it is on the road and it is a challenge for us."
JH: What about your running game at this point?
CL: "We think we are on the right track. We have explored getting into more of a downhill running scheme. More I-back sets, because we feel that fits our running backs better than the two man or one-back shotgun runs. Although we like our shotgun run game and we will keep aspects of that. We want to play to the strengths of our team, and we feel that the downhill running game fits us a little bit better. You may see more downhill run game in the future along with the play-action off of it. This time last year after four games I think we were still trying to find our way after the South Florida game. We think we are further ahead than we were last year, and you know how we ended up in our run game last year. We feel strong about where it is going and we think by the end of the year that it will be a real positive for us. Plus, we want to emphasis it and we want to run the football."
JH: Is one of the big surprises for you how well your backup quarterback Paul Thompson has played?
CL: "He has been a surprise because of his youth, but he has not been a surprise because of how hard he has worked. He has worked extremely hard on his game every since the first day that he has been here. He had a tremendous summer in the weight room in conditioning and studying tape learning our offense, and because of that it is just a simple fact that he is working so hard that is has all come a good way for him quickly. We feel really excited about how he is solidifying that position right now. You talk about confidence, the guys confidence rises with each practice and each game that he is in there. We like that and we like seeing that."
JH: What do you think of freshman quarterback Tommy Grady at this point?
CL: "Tommy is working very hard for us and is running our scout team. He can really throw the ball, but that is not a surprise to us or any of you, because we knew that coming out of high school. What has impressed me is his competitive spirit. When he is running the scout team he wants to score against the defense and really competes hard. He has a pretty good understanding of the passing game, but he really won't learn much about our offense until the spring when he will get an opportunity to work with our varsity a little bit more."
Long says OU's offense ahead of schedule
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