Big 12 Sports Articles

HCS Op-Ed: Can Lincoln Riley Save the Sooners?

Oklahoma football saw more upset this season than the fan base and coaching staff are used to in recent years. The fans didn’t know who to blame for the eight points that separated the Sooners from finishing the regular season 11-1, the play callers or the players?

The fans have scattered the blame from kicker Michael Hunnicutt, QB Trevor Knight and former OC Josh Heupel. But after last season, when Oklahoma suffered a crushing loss to Baylor and again this season, Heupel was the play caller that was not calling the right shots.

After finishing the regular season 8-4 with an injured starting quarterback, Oklahoma needed a win against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl for renewed hope for the next season. The Tigers brought in their back up QB Cole Stoudt, who was surrounded by a strong supporting cast in Orlando on December 29. After three interceptions from Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight, zero touchdowns and only 103 yards, the outcome went about as you would expect. Clemson rolled over Oklahoma 40-6 and the Sooners left Orlando 8-5. From there, Head Coach Bob Stoops clearly spent some time thinking about the changes that were going to be necessary for a successful fall come football season in 2015.

From some fans, former Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel was the piece to the Oklahoma puzzle that no longer fit. It took Coach Stoops until the end of a miserable season for Sooner fans to realize that a change in coaching staff could change the dynamic of the team.

Former East Carolina OC Lincoln Riley stepped in as the right man for the job on January 12, when he accepted the open offensive coordinator position in Norman. Riley has been described as a fresh perspective by Coach Stoops and will hopefully help the Sooners “maximize our potential offensively,” according to a statement that was released after Riley accepted the position.

In his time at East Carolina, he was able to bring the program their top five offenses in his five years with the team. As well as the third passing offense in the nation last year and the fifth in total offense in the country this year.

Although he comes with great pedigree to Oklahoma, fans are weary that he will not be able to find, pick and bring 5-star recruits to Norman for next season. But Coach Stoops has stated in a previously released statement that he believes “Lincoln is a talented recruiter who I’m confident will attract top-flight talent”.

As for those that are still weary, Riley spent his first seven years as a coach at Texas Tech under Mike Leach, who was Stoops’ first offensive coordinator in 1999. Riley has learned from someone that is Stoops’ approved, and hopefully that will bring back the football season Oklahoma is accustomed to, a great one.

As for the game that Riley tends to call, despite his air raid tendencies, Riley does use the run game, as proved by former RB Vintavious Cooper in 2012 and 2013. During those two years, Cooper was able to rack up 2,242 yards, 20 touchdowns, 70 passes and carried the ball at least 400 times.

With Riley’s play calling including a quality run game, RB Samaje Perine is as good an option as Riley could ask for after rushing for 1,713 yards in his true freshman season. As well as being named the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma, Lincoln Riley is going to be the new quarterback coach. Could that spark a change in starting quarterback for the next season? We will just have to see if Baker Mayfield or Trevor Knight turns out to be the man for the job. For whatever it’s worth, Riley did try to recruit Mayfield to Eastern Carolina his senior season.

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