Oklahoma Football 2010: Debunking the "System" Quarterback Conspiracy
It's not about the X's and O's, it's about the Jimmy's and Joe's.
We've all heard it.
Coaching legends like Barry Switzer and Pat Jones swear by it.
So why then, about every two years now it seems, does some member of the media (this time it's Stewart Mandel of http://si.com ) starts in on how Oklahoma is now a "System" for quarterbacks? See here-http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/stewart_mandel/07/21/parity/1.html
Do they not buy in to the same creed that just about every head coach, at any level, does?
While the system, or offensive scheme, is a part of what goes in to allowing the Sooner signal callers to have success, it's only one facet of many.
So I have decided to attempt to set the critics straight, with both an in-depth look at the ways the Oklahoma Sooners have such great success with quarterbacks, and a few more reasons why the term "System" does not apply to them.
Recruiting the Right Talent and Hiring the Right Coach
Evaluating talent is premium for Bob Stoops and his staff.
Always on the hunt for skilled athletes, and an incredible knack for grabbing up kids nation-wide, from California (Roy Williams) to Florida (Roy Finch), no school has done it better in the past decade.
With prospects like Sam Bradford, Josh Heuple, Austin English, Phil Loadholt, Jeff Ferguson, Bob Stoops and crew have several examples of disregarding the stars by the name, and seeing potential others miss.
But recruiting high school kids is only part of it.
Nobody ever gives Stoops enough credit for making the right call on hiring position coaches.
Several members of his staff have gone on to the NFL, or have become head coaches themselves, but it's the coaches that stay that separate OU from others.
Coaches like Brent Venables, Kevin Wilson, Cale Gundy, and Bobby Jack Wright have kept OU stocked with talented kids. All have been on the Sooners staff for multiple years.
Stoops continues to excel in this area too, stealing secondary coach Willie Martinez from Stanford this past off-season. Who is, you guessed it, known as a great recruiter. See here- http://bleacherreport.com/articles/338119-filling-the-ranks-stoops-hires-former-georgia-coach
The Ones That "Failed the System"
Remember Tommy Grady? What about Brent Rawls?
Both were tabbed as the next big thing at one time at Oklahoma, neither had any significant playing time. Both transferred to other schools (Utah for Grady,L-Tech for Rawls) after losing out on starting spots.
Grady is one of the what-if's though, even admitting when returning to Norman for his pro day, telling reporters "I regret leaving this place."
But what remains is that both were solid quarterbacks, who went on to have pro carreers.
The point here is that this is not a plug-and-play offense, and even some guys, as skilled as they were, didn't have success at OU.
If you need a few more, how about Joey Halzle? Or Keith Nichol?
Halzle had a stellar resume, only to come in second to Sam Bradford.
Guess who came in third?
You got it, Keith Nichol, a prior five-star commit and sixth ranked dual-threat QB out of high school. Who is now in a battle for the starting role at MSU with Kirk Cousins.
A quarterback "system" will allow several kids of the same type to have success by playing in a similar fashion. But that just hasn't happened.
So why did these players fall short when they had all the tools? Why didn't the "system" prop them up like their more successful counterparts?
The Steady Ground Game
Adrian Peterson, Quentin Griffin, Allen Patrick, KeJuan Jones, Chris Brown, and DeMarco Murray.
Within this group are the numbers three, five, nine, thirteen and counting, and seventeen on the all-time leading rushers at OU. All gaining at least 2,300 yards in their career.
I feel that right here I should mention that past backs at OU include guys like Greg Pruit, Joe Washington, Steve Owens, Billy Simms, and Billy Vessels among many others.
Also in the first group are the numbers one, three, eleven, sixteen, twenty-five, twenty-six, and twenty-seven single season record holders. All rushing for at least 1,000 yards, all playing within the last decade.
Would you call these running backs a product of a "system" also?
No matter the year or offensive staff, Bob Stoops has made sure that the Sooners maintain a balanced attack, almost to perfection in 2005, with 2,130 rushing, and 2,131 passing.
It's no coincidence that all of the top ten passing leaders in a single season at OU have had at least one of these backs keeping defenses honest, with two in most cases (two 1,000 yard rushers in 2008).
This shows us that the running game is not an after thought at Oklahoma, or even a close second, but a constant staple of the offensive scheme. Unlike teams like Hawaii or Texas Tech, who have not produced a 1,000 yard rusher since 2003.
The Arsonal of Help
Marc Clayton, Juaquin Iglesias, Malcolm Kelly, Antwone Savage, Curtis Fagan, Manuel Johnson, and Ryan Broyles are all inside the top ten in receiving.
What most don't know is that all of them played a significant role in the success of at least two separate quarterbacks during their careers.
Critics will point to this as helping their argument, siting that it's the "System" that inflates the numbers.
But I believe it shows the talent of the individual player, not just the strength of the scheme. Having these types of weapons at their disposal lends to better quarterback play. Because it can work against you also.
Remember the dropped ball problem of 2009?
Same for the offensive line. How well did the offense fare compared to other recent years without a solid group up front?
Without the biggest offensive line to ever be assembled at Oklahoma, would OU have set an NCAA record in scoring (716 points in 2008)?
Without future NFL'ers like Vince Carter, Jammal Brown (Outland winner 2004), and Davin Joseph, would OU have had such great runs earlier in the decade?
While some feel that this is just part of the "system", or that this should be combined with recruiting, I believe the big guys up front are as separate from the quarterback as they are from the receivers.
They allow them both to execute a play, but they won't make receiver run his route any crisper, or improve a quarterbacks accuracy.
While this may not be as strong of an argument against the "system" myth as others, it does help show the team concept is more important to offensive production, rather than some witty playbook.
Changes of Quarterback Style and Ability
One of the best arguments against half-witted critics is the fact that many different types of athletes have had great success as Oklahoma signal callers.
Josh Heuple was a strict pocket passer, that loved the short throw. A "heady" player that relied on his incredible game savvy to leave defenses guessing, even though he may not have had the greatest arm strength.
Nate Hybyl and Rhett Bomar were solid dual-threat guys, both won MVP honors in bowl games (03 Rose for Hybl, 05 Holiday for Bomar). Both preferred to get out and run when pressured, and both had some struggles with decision making and accurracy.
One of my favorites, Paul Thompson was a run first QB, and after learning just one day before camp that he was needed to move from WR back to QB, he stepped up and executed nicely in '06. Paul certainly didn't have the mechanics, or the great vision of others, but he made up for it with his elusiveness.
Sam Bradford and Landry Jones are throw first, run second quarterbacks. Bradfords' Heisman "moment" was on a dash-and-dive against OSU, showing his sneaky speed. But he excelled with pin-point accuracy, especially on the run.
While Landry has yet to cement his style, it is clear that his game differs even from Bradfords. Not as mobile as Bradford, Jones has been reportedly working to increase his quickness this off-season to add to his game.
It's clear to see that this is not a cookie-cutter "system". But a collection of different types of athletes that have all put their own distinct touch on the offense they led.
Not just another guy that happened to be the next name up on this year's roster.
The Two Jason Whites'
2003 Heisman winner Jason White was an absolute beast at Oklahoma.
Throwing for over 3,200 yards in his junior year, then over 3,800 as a senior, combining for 75 TD's and only 19 picks, and winning back-to-back Davy O'Brian awards in the process.
Oh, by the way, he also came the close to joining Archie Griffin as a two-time Heisman winner, placing third in 2004.
It was in those two final years that White solidified himself as one of the greatest pocket passers in the history of college football, not just OU.
But what most don't know is that White stepped on campus as a scrambler, not a pocket passer.
In the 2001 Red River Rivalry, White got his chance when starter Nate Hybl went down with an injury. He took full advantage of the moment by taking over the game. Leading the team in rushing, and eventually leading the Sooners past their hated rival in incredible fashion.
Two games later at Nebraska, while throwing a long completion on the run, White sustained a major ACL injury in his left knee and was out for the season.
The next year, White, still very much a run threat, won his spot back from Hybl. Only to go down again, this time blowing out his right knee against Alabama.
This is where most would give up. Not Jason White.
He reinvented his game, and after two reconstructive knee surgeries, came back as a pocket passer.
The rest, they say, is history.
Because of a "system"?
No. This was a combination of great coaching, raw skill, and true grit. It's also further evidence that there is no "system" in place at Oklahoma.
No way can someone have success two separate ways in one singular system. That goes against the very definition of having a "System" for quarterbacks.
Changes in Offensive Staff and Schemes
Mike Leach, Mark Mangino, Chuck Long, and Kevin Wilson. That's how many different offensive playbooks have been in play at OU during Stoops' tenure.
Did they all have the same one?
Was anyone jokingly referring to OU as "Bubble Screen U" while Chuck Long ran the show like they do about Kevin Wilson?
Of course not.
Every last one of these coordinators had at least one QB in the top seven for career passing yards at OU.
Two (Long, Wilson) had Heisman winners, one (Mangino) had a runner-up.
Mangino won the Frank Broyles Award (nations top assistant coach) in 2001, Long was a runner-up in 2004, and Wilson won it in 2008. All with different core players, and their own offensive scheme in place.
Need I say more?
I didn't think so.
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