For Oklahoma, An Enigma of a Season
The Sooners went 8-5 this past year, and some were calling for Bob Stoops to be fired. I was tempted to do it myself. Before that, Oklahoma had enjoyed four straight 10-win seasons, dating back to 2009 when the Sooners again went 8-5. And before that, Bob Stoops had another four straight 10-win seasons, before which was another 8-win campaign, before which were five more 10-win seasons. In other words - eight wins under Bob Stoops is like a pretty quick trip to the basement to get some replacement light bulbs.
But, still, there were problems. That part can't be denied, because 5 losses is pretty much the worst-case scenario for a team with playoff-caliber talent. And the reason seems to go back to that coaching staff. After the season was over, Bob Stoops removed his brother Mark from coaching the secondary after watching an athletic, talented Oklahoma secondary post the worst pass defense in Sooner history. Mark was retained, however, as defensive coordinator. Bob also fired his co-offensive coordinators, despite ranking 20th in the country in scoring, a feat they accomplished in three of the last four years.
Perhaps the strangest gaffe came from Bob himself, who made a choice late in the game against Oklahoma State to re-kick a punt to Tyreek Hill rather than pin OSU at the 15-yard line with no timeouts. Hill promptly returned the kick for a touchdown, forcing overtime in a game the Sooners would go on to lose after leading by 14 in the 4th quarter.
Some of the coaching issues may have sorted themselves out, as Stoops brought Kerry Cooks in from Notre Dame to coach the secondary and Lincoln Riley from East Carolina to run the offense. Plus, it's tough to bet against a team with as many star players as Oklahoma. There's Trevor Knight, who has all the tools to succeed at the next level (though he put up mediocre numbers and looked out of whack late in the year). There's Samaje Perine, who ran for over 1,700 yards. There's also a Wisconsin-sized offensive line (though the hype that OU's line was one of the absolute best in the country was a bit generous). Eric Striker, Charles Tapper, Zack Sanchez, and Sterling Shepard all decided to forgo the draft and return to OU.
Shepard's return, especially, bodes well for an offense that was short on playmaking on the outside. His last five games were basically scrapped due to a groin injury, but he still put up 970 yards. Striker, meanwhile, is one of the most versatile linebackers in the country; he produced a combined 26 sacks and tackles for loss, plus 2 fumble recoveries and 5 passes broken up. Everywhere in the front seven that OU loses talent, there are good replacements - except maybe for Jerry Montgomery, the DL coach and co-defensive coordinator who left for an assistant job at Green Bay.
So, what does all this mean? A young team is a year older, and they'll have plenty of time to sort through their various hiccups (like making proper in-game decisions) and coughs (like keeping Trevor Knight in a comfort zone and healthy). Bob Stoops teams have a history of underachieving next to their preseason ranking, but they might go into 2015 unranked. That would be a big mistake.
Hitting the Links Plays Four Quarters
While places like East Lansing and Minneapolis have thrived with continuity, Urban Meyer's staff has been a revolving door.
The rule involves offensive linemen being allowed downfield to block during passing plays. This has been regarded as one of the least followed rules in football, to the point that offensive coordinators abuse it to try and confuse defensive players. If the rule change goes through, linemen would only be allowed downfield a yard past the line of scrimmage before a pass is thrown. Presumably, this would be in conjunction with an increased emphasis on throwing a flag for linemen downfield. This will have a big impact on a defense's ability to diagnose run or pass plays.
Thomas Brown returns to his alma mater at UGA. UW has a likely replacement lined up for that position in John Settle.
Phair lacks any exerience coordinating a defense or recruiting, but he brings NFL and defensive line experience to the Illini.
This move fits for both sides. On the one hand, Beckman needed to find an unheralded but well qualified coach, who would jump at an opportunity to take a larger role in a program. And on the flip side, the college coaching ranks are built more on relationships and stability, while NFL coaches are more nomadic. The risk of Tim Beckman losing his job would have dissuaded someone like Craig Kuligowski, but that would be less of a factor for someone like Phair.
Beckman will be able to ease Phair into his role, and Phair will have a chance to make his mark on a defense that needs some better position coaching and more toughness.
Ferentz is doing something at least, but it's fair to question if this is going to have any positive impact at all.
North Carolina is staking a claim to the Coastal Division, pulling in some intriguing coaching talent as well as a recruiting class that was 25% comprised of four-star athletes. The gem is high-four-star defensive end Jalen Dalton.
Nebraska's coach Mike Riley also spoke out about coaching turnover after Signing Day, which has been a popular discussion of late.
A good and important list for 2015.
This proved to be an important part of the season and especially the Big 12's season, as the champion of this conference can't claim a championship game win over a respected opponent. There are a few matchups with Big Ten teams - most notably TCU/Minnesota - but Baylor could use a matchup with Michigan, Indiana, or Iowa. Their non-conference schedule is terrible.
The first year for a head coach is always the most difficult, which makes the first sentence of this article so incredible - "Since 2010, Kansas has had as many head coaches as Big 12 conference wins." Beaty has his work cut out stabilizing the Jayhawks.
This was a well-written piece on Georgia's new offensive coordinator.
Fun fact: Kevin Steele was Clemson's coordinator for the infamous 70-33 drubbing at the hands of West Virginia in 2011.
Samaje ran for 1,713 yards as a true freshman, but he's not the most accomplished OU running back in the last ten years. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson ran for 1,925 as a freshman in 2004, and DeMarco Murray put up almost 3,700 yards before succeeding in the NFL.
Days Since Michigan Beat Ohio State