Five Keys to Oklahoma's Season

Jeff JohnsonCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2008

There’s still a lot of football left to play.  We’re now in the middle of Week Four, and I couldn’t be happier.

During the fall, my Saturdays are spent watching all the college football games.  Most people know not even to attempt to contact me on Saturdays unless it’s to discuss one of the games—and even then it's best left until a commercial.

Being an Oklahoma fan, the Sooners are of course my number one priority on Saturdays, either in person or on television. 

After last season ended, my enthusiasm waned a bit.  Oklahoma had lost to Colorado and Texas Tech during the regular season.  Then in the Fiesta Bowl they were outplayed and outcoached by West Virginia.  After that debacle I made five observations on the state of Oklahoma football.  I believe now is a good time to revisit those. 

My first observation was the difference between the 2000 Bob Stoops and the 2007 Bob Stoops.  It would seem that the play calling has gotten more timid over the past eight years.  While some of that can be blamed on the assistant coaches, the fault lies directly with head coach Bob Stoops.

So far this year, though, I’m seeing a glimmer of hope.  The introduction of the “no-huddle” offense has breathed some life back into the offense.  While it’s not run every play, they are using it just enough to throw the defenses off balance. 

My second observation leads directly from the first.  I want to applaud Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson and new Assistant Offense Coordinator Jay Norvell for bringing in the “no-huddle” offense.

One of my major complaints with Kevin Wilson last season was his reluctance to try anything new.  Even in situations where the rushing game was getting nowhere, he still kept calling it.  I know he was just hoping for a big play, but sometimes a dream has to give way to reality.

So far this season I’ve seen enough variety in the play calling to make me hope that trend is changing.

Special teams play was another area I identified that needed help.  When Bob Stoops started at Oklahoma, this was one of the stronger areas his teams had.  But in recent years we’ve seen the quality of special teams play go downhill.  Unfortunately, I have seen nothing yet this season to give me hope in this area.

I firmly believe that if Oklahoma is to compete for not only the Big 12 Championship but also the BCS title game, special teams play must improve by leaps and bounds.  Yes, Special Teams coach Chris Wilson, I’m calling you out. 

My fourth observation was on the mentoring of coaches over student athletes.  This point is more of an offseason deal, and we won’t see much until then.  Football season is a time when the student athletes are the focus as they are the ones out there on the field.

Fifth, who are those student athletes out there playing for?  Is it the school, the coaches, or the glory?  In the end, it’s none of those.  It’s each other.

While having a superstar like Adrian Peterson on the team is great, it also takes away from the cohesion of the team itself.  I believe that Oklahoma may have suffered an “AD hangover” last season.  It’s taken them time to start playing as a team again and not as the supporting cast of a superstar.

So far this season we haven’t seen one great standout.  Instead, we’ve seen a team effort.

Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray have split the rushing duties.  Quarterback Sam Bradford has stepped aside during each game and allowed Joey Halzle to get more experience.  Those quarterbacks have gone to 16 different players in only three games.

The defense has done an impressive job as well as a unit, allowing only 40 points so far. 

I don’t think I’ve suggested anything that is out of the ordinary.  Oklahoma as a team has looked good over its first three games.  I believe that is the key: “as a team.”

With the exception of special teams, all the pieces are in place.  We’ve seen glimpses of what could be the most balanced team in the Bob Stoops era.  If they can keep it all together, the future is bright indeed.

But that choice is in their collective hands.  Do they have the drive and desire to make it happen?

The first real test of that will be against Texas on Oct. 11.  After that, there’s still a lot of football to play.