NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 1: Running back Dominique Whaley #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners rushes up field during the first half against the Ball State Cardinals on October 1, 2011 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Ball State 62-6. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Let me just stop you right up front.
Yes, I am aware that Texas' offense does, in fact, suck.
Yes, it is sacrilege for an OU fan to compare oneself favorably, in any way, to the Texas Longhorns.
And no, I have not fallen and hit my head when suggesting that Oklahoma would be wise to copy the Texas offensive model.
So, you ready to hear me out now?
I've actually been pondering this since last year when Texas
cleaned house acknowledged failure "re-staffed" and made the clear and concerted effort towards a power run game type offense. Even though Oklahoma has had a substantial amount of success with it, the 'sling it all over the field' offense they've run essentially since Stoops arrived (minus the AD years) never really struck me as Bob's true style. In my mind, I see him more with that SEC mentality (and sadly, now Texas mentality) of a more grind it out style with a bad a** defense. I'm willing to admit that might be me projecting onto Bob & Co., but has Stoops ever done anything to give you the impression he's flashy?
My theory of copying the Texas model is much more relevant with this 2012 team, given the known potential issues heading into the season, than it was with last year's team. So, if you'll indulge me, allow me to present my case.
The Landry Issue -Might as well go ahead and deal with this one right up front. There is no need to rehash all the same old arguments about Landry and his "issues" that have been debated ad nauseum. You know what they are just as well as I do. Which is actually one of the primary reasons why I feel so strongly about this theory. If you take the pressure off his shoulders to have to win the game by throwing 50 times, can't you see him flourishing in that type of role? You know, like the role Texas is very likely to ask David Ash to play this year. A guy who doesn't need to take that many chances, rely on the run game/defense, and, well basically, just don't screw things up.
While I think Jones is capable of more than that "game manager" type of role, if you and the team can be successful with him playing that role isn't that a win/win? I can easily see him having a great deal of success working those short/intermediate routes, those screen passes they love so much, then hitting Stills over the top off some play action, right?
The Wide Receiver Issue - Unless you've been living under a rock for the past six months, I don't need to rehash the team chemistry issues that have taken place and the toll that and other disciplinary issues have taken on the wide receiver position. You already know that Kenny Stills is the only returning player to catch a pass at the D-I level. You already known that true freshman Trey Metoyer 'wow-ed' folks in the spring game, but that he's still a true freshman and relying heavily on one of those is a dicey proposition. You already know that after those two guys (and more likely after just Stills) it's a list inclusive of a great deal of talent but precious little experience.
The Offensive Line Issue -This isn't an "issue" in the traditional sense of the word because this is actually a positive. In a very likely to be unfair placement of expectations, this OU offensive line is being billed "the best since 2008." Now we've heard preseason praise of the offensive line in the past (I'm looking at you Kevin Wilson!) only to be incredibly disappointed by the inability to punch the ball in the end zone, from the one yard line, against East Handkerchief State (requisite residual check dropped in the mail to you Bob). So I'm understandably wary of all the positive reports regarding the offensive line thus far and reserving judgment until I see some results on the actual football field . . .
BUT, if you presume to give them the benefit of the doubt given that four of the five starters from last year are returning. And that both Adam Shead and Daryl Williams have legitimate NFL potential, then a case can be made that this unit could easily be the greatest strength of this offense.
The Running Back Issue - The status of Dominique Whaley following last year's brutal ankle injury was never going to truly be known until he put the pads on, attempted to cut on a dime, and display his ridiculous balance that we all saw last year. The thing is, people (and by people I mean Bob Stoops) are only now just starting to publicly admit it.
Is there a person on this planet proudly clad in their crimson and cream not rooting for the guy? Heck no. We all are. But until you see him out there, running, showing no effects of the injury, and breaking tackles you simply have to prepare yourself that he might not be that same guy (at least this year).
The upside is that even if Whaley cannot regain that same form (and, again, we're all rooting for that not to be the case) the Sooners will have no shortage of options at the position. In fact, it hearkens back to just a couple years ago when, heading into the season, OU looked to be as many as six deep at running back with guys like Jermie Calhounand Jonathan Miller fighting just to see the field. You all remember how that played out, hopefully this is not a repeat. Oklahoma will have JUCO transfer Damien Williams, holdovers Roy Finch and Brennan Clay, true freshman Alex Ross, redshirt freshman Danzel Williams, and of course there is always Trey Millard as well. The point is, obviously, they'll have options.
Alright, so this is where I attempt to tie all these things together.
I eluded to it above, if you put Landry in a position where he's allowed to let the plays come to him as opposed to putting him in a position where he feels forced to make a play, to me that is unquestionably a winning formula.
There is just so much unsettled at the wide receiver position, why complicate things even further by placing the expectation on them to be the primary focus of the offense?
If your offensive line is in fact the strong point of your offense, why not feature them by establishing the run early and often?
I didn't even mention the tight ends, which is fitting given how little Heupel used them last season. Even more fitting when looking at the inexperience there in 2012 and the strong likelihood that Heupel could conceivably use them even less this season.
This offense is going to have so many different options at running back it only makes sense in my mind to feature them. You have a bunch of guys that can do a bunch of different things. Whaley and Damien Williams are bigger guys who can still hit that seam and take it to the house. Brennan Clay is nothing if not dependable and catches the ball out of the backfield. Roy Finch and Danzel Williams are scatback type guys who can make plays in space. Alex Ross looks to have that rare combination of size and speed. Trey Millard is a brick wall with legs and we've even seen him break off a 60 yard touchdown run.
Then you look at the schedule and just pick out the games you believe could be the most difficult.
- Texas -Use their own offense against them with personnel that can actually run it. They are soft up the middle after losing their best interior defensive lineman and two starting linebackers. The best way to neutralize their very talented defensive ends (especially Jeffcoat, who is pretty undersized according to their latest roster update) is to run right at them. You avoid a match up that you dominated last year (our WRs vs. their DBs) that could be (stress could be, Texas is not the "greatest secondary of all time" that they'd have you believe) a significant mismatch this year. And need I regurgitate the well used stat that the team that has the most rushing yards typically wins in Dallas?
- Notre Dame - Is this really even a difficult game? Regardless, you run the ball and keep the ND offense (always the stronger of the two units under Brian Kelly) off the field.
- West Virginia -Here is where, assuming OU could have success with it, you simply cannot argue against it. I think it's more than fair to say this is the game most people point to and say "I can see OU losing that one", right? So what's the strength of this WVU squad? Sorry, stupid question. Clearly it's their offense, so in Morgantown what makes more sense (1) Run the ball down their freaking throats and keep their offense off the field or (B) Try to outscore them, in their own house, in what's likely to be a night game (because Stoops have a stellar recent track record in those)? Option 1 by a mile, right?
- Oklahoma State -Tough game? In Norman? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Sorry, had to be done)
In the admittedly small sample size of last season alone, we believe offensive coordinator Josh Heupel's preference is to lean heavily towards the forward (or sideways) pass. By all accounts, Heupel is a highly intelligent football mind. Most of us can remember the stories of his playing days and how he was the son of a coach, watched film constantly, and has always been around the game. So I think it's fair to say that I'm not the only OU fan hoping that he realizes, especially with this year's personnel, what he attempted to do with this offense last year will not work in 2012.
Which is why this theory is brilliant (in my own mind of course) in its simplicity. The ideas behind it are not complicated and yet it, or something fairly similar to it, have lead the masses to proclaim it's supposed originator (for all the short term memory simpletons out there) the SEC! SEC! SEC! the greatest thing
of all time in the college football world. Even in spite of the obxoxious of it all, you cannot argue with the results it has produced. It's proven. It works. This is fact.
Texas did not (and might still not) have the personnel capable of running this type of offense with consistent success. This Oklahoma team does (Minus, of course, the Mickey Mouse gimmick plays that worked so well in Dallas. Oh, wait . . .) and that, my friends, is a monumental difference between the two teams. The Sooners arguably may not have the collective talent at running back that Texas has in Brown/Beregon/Gray, but they don't need to when they have the much more crucial pieces at quarterback and offensive line.
As far as I'm concerned, all the pieces are there. As an added bonus, our hated rival has even given us the blue print. The only question is whether or not the Oklahoma coaching staff chooses to acknowledge the signs and adjust accordingly.
I fear it almost makes too much sense and thus as a result guarantees the coaches won't do it. Honestly, I'm not sure I can think of any argument that convinces me this isn't the perfect offensive formula for this Oklahoma team this season. Though I would certainly welcome you to try and convince me I'm wrong.