Last season the Oklahoma Sooners went through what most fans, and pundits, expected. By OU standards, it was supposed be a bit of a transition season; plugging in its third consecutive transfer quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who despite his immense talent, his skill set was not close to what the previous two Heisman winners, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, brought to the table.
First year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was expected to make waves, but not big splashes, in Year One of an Oklahoma defensive rebuild. Ultimately, the Sooners ended up with the same record as the previous two seasons at 12-2, losing in the first round of the College Football Playoff. Granted it their worst defeat by far under Lincoln Riley, a 63-28 result against the eventual National Champion LSU Tigers. In the end though, Oklahoma overachieved in the 2019 season. The Sooners were not supposed to end up in the Top 4 and in the College Football Playoff. Maybe the most optimistic fan thought it could be done, but many were unsure.
For the Sooners, however, the future starts right now. Oklahoma has the chance to turn constant defeat into consistent winning on the biggest stage. The Sooners have been close, but they have the opportunity to get over the hump the next couple of seasons.
Lincoln Riley was certainly fortunate to be handed one of the nation’s premier programs at such a young age, however, many people do not seem to understand the impact that Lincoln Riley has had on the program, and how much the program had begun to deteriorate under coach Stoops in the last third of his tenure. O
Oklahoma was no longer a recruiting powerhouse. Oklahoma was no longer a shoe in to win 11 or 12 games per year. And Oklahoma was no longer even guaranteed to be a contender in the Big 12 conference. From 2011 to 2014, the Sooners had only split one Big 12 conference Championship (Kansas State) and lost to the Wildcats on the field in Norman. Oklahoma had gone from poster child of football success and consistency to losing its identify. OU was developing talented three-star kids, some low-end four-star kids, they were always finding “diamonds in the rough”. That’s great and all, but a program that wants to compete for national championships every year needed to recruit better than Bob Stoops was at the end of his tenure.
The Sooners composite team talent reflected what you would expect at the likes of middle tier programs like Stanford, Oregon or Iowa. The Sooners had a negative blue-chip ratio (the blue-chip ratio is three-star and lower players vs. four and five-star players). When Riley arrived as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma that ratio was 48/27 or -21. In 2017, when Riley became the head man the ratio was 42/37 or -5, and right now the ratio is 31/50 or +19. Oklahoma’s current ratio is equal to, or greater than, every team in the nation aside from three programs: Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State.
Oklahoma has never had a ratio this high since sites began tracking player ratings, including between 2001-2008 when Oklahoma was at the pinnacle of the sport in recruiting and success. Riley also inherited a mostly intact strong staff, but has in the meantime made great hires to improve it with the likes of Bennie Wylie, and Shane Beamer, and the entire new defensive staff. Time had passed Bob up. He was an incredible coach, but it was his time to pass the torch and he did it at the perfect time.
Oklahoma now has the depth and coaching in place to make a serious run at winning the National Championship. They have the bright-eyed young quarterback in Spencer Rattler who was announced the starter in Tuesday, a slew of young, talented skill position players to go along with a behemoth of an offensive line Plus, Alex Grinch is now in his second season as defensive coordinator, and with as much success as he had in Year 1 many expect Years 2 and 3 to be even better.
One season ago, Oklahoma was riddled with depth issues because of the transition of so many young pieces, but now those guys have game experience and a deeper rotation will be available. OU suffered tremendously a season ago when their depth was tested on the defensive side of the ball.
But now, Oklahoma is primed to take that last, difficult step forward that many pundits around the country have criticized them for. Whether Oklahoma is like 2009 Alabama, or even 2015 Clemson is yet to be seen, but within the next three years the football program will add National Championship Number 8, bet the bank on it.
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