We're one quarter of the way through the 2011 Sooners schedule with what we certainly all hope to be a less than challenging game Saturday against Ball State. So I thought it would be interesting to 'grade' new OC Josh Heupel's performance through the first three games. Now I want to be very clear, do not take this to mean any "set in stone" conclusions have been reached after just three games. I think it's pretty obvious that Heupel is working his way through his first year calling the plays and to expect immediate success would have been foolish. I think there are plenty of us out there still very excited with him and the helm and with what we've seen in these first three games, but at the same time I think there is still room for improvement. I don't know they man, but I have a hard time believing that Heupel wouldn't agree with that.
So I'll throw a couple thoughts out there on each side of things, but I really want to hear from you all. That said, I ask that you approach it from the same premise that I am meaning it's just been three games. Save the "he's Kevin Wilson Part 2" comments, like I said it's three games I doubt he knows who he is as a play caller yet. So it would be pretty stupid to form that kind of opinion this early.
We'll hand out our grades after the jump.
* For as much griping as some of us (who, me?) done already, it's hard to argue with the 521 yard average per game the offense is putting up right now. Especially when you take into consideration, a point that I and others have made and would still stand by, that for as many yards as they've racked up watching them play you can't help but feel they not quite clicking on all cylinders. So if a team can average 500+ yard of total offense and be off a tick, it's scary to think how good they'll be if they can really get it working.
* Before and after the AD era, this has always been an offense that liked to get the RBs involved in the passing game out of the backfield. I think there was some understandable worry when Demarco Murray graduated and took his WR like hands and route running with him. However Brennan Clay, Dom Whaley, and to a lesser extent Roy Finch have all proven very capable in the pass game. This last game in particular, Whaley really showed me something catching balls out of the backfield and his ability to gain chunks of yards after the catch. Heupel has found some creative ways to get them involved in the passing game and I can only hope that will continue going forward.
* We were all blessed when Ryan Broyles chose to come back for another year. However, one can't help but think what things will be like next year without the all-time great. So it's clearly essential to develop a WR that can step up into that #1 role and I don't think many question that guy is going to be Kenny Stills. Unfortunately, he's only played in one of the first three games but what a big game that was. Both Heupel and Co-OC Jay Norvell have developed this kid until a bonafide down field threat and he's poised to have a big 3/4 of a season as he continues to develop while biding his time for that #1 role next year.
Just to clarify, as I said in the open it would be dumb to have formed any conclusions after just three games. So these aren't going to be "failing marks" as that would be stupid, but rather question marks instead. And to that point, not necessarily things I think he's not doing well but maybe more questions I have about how he's done things thus far.
* Why no hurry up? Maybe it's not fair to say "no" as it implies they haven't done it at all, which is certainly not the case, but through three games it definitely doesn't feel like they're doing it as much as they have in years past. Maybe that's a product of Heupel not being comfortable quite yet and that pace or maybe it's been a strategic decision? Whatever the reason, it seems to have taken away (at least to a certain extent) the inherent advantages it brought to the offense.
* Where is the triangle? We've seen it, at times. But for some reason they seem hesitant to use it. And when they do, they're doing something I don't remember them doing with it last year in playing a RB deep, Millard to one side, and usually Hanna to the other. Last year I remember it being two RBs along with Millard. It doesn't seem like they are doing much with the run off of it either, more passing, and I don't remember that to be the case last year either. Some may say they are holding it back, but I'd ask them "What for?" It's not like people don't know we run it. It's not like it couldn't have come in handy against a Top 5 team on the road. If they are in fact holding it back, I'm just not sure why the feel that's really necessary. No matter what you do or when you do it, other teams will find film on it. And when they do, why would that mean you had to run the same plays out of it over and over again? Can't you create some different variations and try to exploit the fact they might think they know what is coming and use that against them?
* The red zone/goal line offense. Clearly he inherited the same issues from his predecessor. Now they were much better last week against Missouri, but you can't look past the problems from Games 1 & 2. I think the use of the TEs, Trey Millard, and Dom Whaley can help to alleviate a lot of the problems they've had in the early going.
* I'm not gonna lie, part of what I was so excited about with Heupel calling the plays was my belief that he would use much more imagination than Wilson did. I'm very much reserving judgment for now, but in my opinion I don't think we've seen much difference between the two so far. Obviously I hope that changes, say for instance in Dallas would be good, and I'm optimistic that it will. Never the less, I am a little surprised that we haven't seen more if for no other reason than to just try some things out to see what may or may not work (much like what seems to be the prevailing theory for Venables playing a 3-2-6 all night against Mizzou).
Overall, I'd say an easily passing grade through the first quarter. Probably somewhere in the B+ to B range for me personally. I say that for all the reasons above as well as my belief that it can, and hopefully will, be so much better going forward. Also say it knowing that they've yet to be at full strength for even a single game whether that's along the o-line or at wide receiver.
So what have you all seen that I didn't mention? Anything you've really liked and want to see more of? Or something you've yet to see and would like to see them try and work into the offense? Sound off peeps!