Oklahoma Sooners Football: Three Keys to the 2015 Season


8-4. If I said a year ago, that would be the Oklahoma Sooners record at the conclusion of the 2014 season you would have said I was crazy. I would have said I was crazy, but as the cool kids say, sh*t got real.

This season was a massive disappointment, there is no sugar coating it. You defeat the defending national champion in the Sugar Bowl, which should send expectations through the roof, and it did. I bought into the hype, and sometimes, when you do that, you get burned. As we await the bowl game against Clemson, the Sooners will begin preparations to take on the Tigers. There are changes that will need to be made going forward into 2015 but the Sooners do have talent coming back next season. Coach Stoops needs to look in a mirror and make those changes to get Oklahoma back on its winning track.

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I have identified three major changes that I would like to see made; in my opinion they would make for the Sooners to be more successful in 2015. I am going to start off by saying this: The “Fire Stoops” chants are a little premature. Yes, this season was bad in terms of the level of disappointment, but you shouldn’t fire a coach who routinely gives you an average of 10 wins a season.

A 10-win season is not something to scoff at, especially when there are dozens of programs in the college football landscape scratching and clawing to get there. The prestigious University of Michigan, for all the struggling they have going on, would love to have a coach who could win 10 games a season on average, and still win 8 to 9 even though that would be considered a horrible year.

I am not saying that should be acceptable, but what I am saying is, Bob Stoops could be Brady Hoke…or even John Blake (I shudder at the thought). If Coach Stoops begins to morph into the reincarnation of Mack Brown, then yeah, it’s time to move on. If this type of melt down happens next season however, you would definitely begin to consider it.

Coach Stoops has to make some changes to make during the offseason to his staff. He has already made some really good changes; Coaches Montgomery, and Bedenbaugh are prime examples of that. I have identified three areas in which I feel changes need to be made for the Sooners going forward into 2015:

1. Relieve Mike Stoops of his duties as Safeties coach. Hire a Safeties coach so Mike can focus on coordinating the defense.  Ahmad Thomas and Steven Parker have both played a little better as the season has progressed, and shown flashes that they will be a really good tandem down the road. A coach who’s directly over them, as opposed to one splitting duties, would be beneficial to them and the defense. Seal off the back end, this defense can then hit home with the pressure that they were built to put on offenses. Mike Stoops vowed to fix the rushing defense at the begining of the year. He accomplished that. Now its time to improve the secondary. I feel like that a Coach who does just that will be key.

2. The special teams schemes. I guarantee Oklahoma fair caught it 90% of the time. Sterling Shepard was the main punt returner, I believe, you should get him out of punt returning duties. He is too valuable of an asset to risk injury to on a punt return. That fact should be more evident, with his groin injury, which effectively knocked him out of the last 4 games of the season especially when you have a top 10 return man like Alex Ross. Get Ross back there returning punts.

You have Joe Mixon entering the lineup, and with the current season Samaje Perine is having, I expect Perine, Mixon, followed by Ford, to be the featured running backs next season. Ross would be exceptional in the punt return role, but having one of the best return men in the nation will not help much if you do not give him the help he needs.

The punt return coverage has been extremely soft. I don’t have an answer as to why Oklahoma went from giving their punt returner a chance to return kicks, and to make things happen, to letting the kicking team run by them without so much as a block. I don’t blame the players for that; I blame the schemes and the coaching. In 2013 it was a strength, in 2014, not so much. Not that I am calling for Coach Boulware’s head, I am just saying that in 2015, I expect the punt return team to BLOCK some players.

3. Coach Heupel needs to either move on or at the very least take a demotion. The Sooners have a lot to look forward to in 2015 in terms of the offense. Unfortunately, I don’t know if Heupel will fix the lapse issue that has plagued Oklahoma in 2014. It’s devastating when you see flashes of brilliance and then BAM! back to sub par play calling with the fans wondering if he is even watching the same game they are.

If OU were going with the demotion route, I would love to see what Cale Gundy or Bill Bedenbaugh would do at OC. Gundy and Bedenbaugh have both brought a hard-hitting attitude to the Running Backs and Offensive Line. Imagine if that attitude translated to the Quarterback and Wide Receivers during the course of a game? Coach Norvel, being the Co-OC, would need to be relegated to coaching the wide recievers only. He is also a part of the planning that goes into the games, he’s part of the problem as well.

There will be changes to the offense and I believe will be for the better. As far as I am concerned, the 2015 Sooners belong to Baker Mayfield and with Joe Mixon, and Dorial Green-Beckham (if he stay’s) coming in; Sterling Shepard returning, and the tank Samaje Perine…Oklahoma will have more than enough fire power to have a championship season.

I am also, excited about the 4 star commit Dede Westbrooke, I believe he’ll make an instant impact next season. He reminds me of Jalen Saunders. If Jalen Saunders was 6’1. Michiah Quick has the chance to have a coming out party next season. All in all I trust the talent level this team will have on the field. However, the inconsistency at Offensive Coordinator has to improve and become more consistent, otherwise we’re doomed to have a repeat of the 2014 season. A new offensive coordinator calling the shots, might just prevent that.

I did not give these sticking points in any particular order. In fact, I don’t care what order they are in, as long as things change for the better. This season definitely was a wash but despite that, we got one more game to watch. Finish strong Oklahoma…finish strong.