2015 Spring Football Review: Oklahoma

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 27th, 2015


2014 record:
8-5 overall, 5-4 in Big 12, lost to Clemson 40-6 in Champs Sports Bowl.
Returning starters:
7 on offense, 6 on defense.
Top players returning:
Junior QB Trevor Knight, junior QB Baker Mayfield, sophomore RB Samaje Perine, senior C Ty Darlington, senior WR Sterling Shepard, senior LB Eric Striker, senior DE Charles Tapper, junior CB Zach Sanchez, sophomore CB Jordan Thomas.
Key players to replace:
TE Blake Bell, DT Jordan Phillips, DE Geneo Grissom, S Quentin Hayes, K Michael Hunnicutt, FB Aaron Ripkowski, OT Tyrus Thompson.

Spring review
After 16 seasons of unmatched success, the winningest coach in Oklahoma history knew changes had to be made. For the first time in Bob Stoops’ tenure, the Sooners lost four Big 12 games. They finished 8-5 and lost by 34 points on Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl.
A year after spending the offseason as a national championship contender, OU and Stoops are going through the transition of remaking the coaching staff. Gone are co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell.
Lincoln Riley takes over the offense. He’s a disciple of the Mike Leach “Air Raid” offensive philosophy. Leach spent time as an Oklahoma assistant coach and when Stoops first arrived in Norman the Sooners became a pass happy attack. Combined with a dominant defense, OU’s offensive firepower fueled the success enjoyed for most of the century’s first decade.
“Little by little we gravitated away from it,” said Stoops. “Right or wrong, I feel strongly about moving back to it. With coach Riley’s offense the last four to five years at East Carolina, it’s been pretty productive, so why wouldn’t it be here?”
In recent seasons, Oklahoma fans have wondered about the team’s offensive identity. That will need to be answered this season as Riley takes over. One of the team’s top offensive threats is sophomore running back Samaje Perine. Balancing a dominant running game with a fast-paced attack that features plenty of passes will be an interesting work in progress.

Quick slants
Oklahoma hasn’t had a productive tight end since Jermaine Gresham tormented Big 12 defenses in 2008. That could change this season. The Sooners are excited about the potential of redshirt freshman Mark Andrews, who is 6-6 and 250 pounds.     “He’s a hard matchup,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s too big for defensive backs and he’s more elusive than linebackers. He’s got great hands, he’s a great rout runner. He does a lot of really good things.”
Mike Stoops is still the defensive coordinator but now he’s working with the team’s linebackers. The new secondary coach is Kerry Cooks. Last season, the Sooners finished 114th in pass defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Bringing in Cooks to coach all the defensive backs is part of a plan to decrease communication break downs that helped opponents average 12.5 yards per catch. Cooks came to OU from Notre Dame. He caught the eye of coach Bob Stoops in 2012 when the Fighting Irish came to Norman and held the Sooners to 13 points en route to a spot in the national championship game.
The competition for the quarterback job will be interesting once preseason practices begin. Junior Trevor Knight is a former Sugar Bowl MVP while junior Baker Mayfield, who sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech, was the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year in 2013. Cody Thomas, who was Knight’s backup last season and started three games when Knight was injured, is a dark horse contender.

Coach Bob Stoops on …
Improvement shown in the secondary:
“I was particularly pleased with the overall improvement in the secondary and defensively as a whole, with the discipline of our coverage. We were in position to make some plays and we made them, whereas maybe a year ago we didn’t make them.”
New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley:
“It’s exactly what I envisioned and wanted. He’s organized and deliberate about what he wants to do with the offense and with every position. He’s a great leader and communicator in getting the players and coaches on the same page with him.”
The quarterbacks adapting to Riley’s system:
“I’ve been pleased with what they’ve been doing all spring. I still believe strongly in the system that we have offensively, that it will be quarterback friendly and these guys will be capable of throwing really well in it.”

2015 Schedule
Sept. 5     vs. Akron
Sept. 12     at Tennessee
Sept. 19     vs. Tulsa
Oct. 3     vs. West Virginia*
Oct. 10     vs. Texas*
Oct. 17     at Kansas State*
Oct. 24     Texas Tech*
Oct. 31     at Kansas*
Nov. 7     Iowa State*
Nov. 14     at Baylor*
Nov. 21     TCU*
Nov. 28     at Oklahoma State*


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