Let’s wrap up our preview of Oklahoma with a look at the Sooner special teams and the Sooner coaching staff and we’ll start with special teams.
The Oklahoma Sooners’ special teams pretty much begin and end with senior kicker Austin Seibert. That’s because, at least, last week Seibert handled both the placekicking duties as well as the punting duties. Yeah, believe it or not, the Sooners did actually punt the ball against Florida Atlantic...twice. One was a 40-yard punt and the other went for 36 yards.
Seibert really had to go to work after the Sooners scored. That’s when he saw most of his action. He was a perfect eight for eight on PAT attempts, but he did miss a 53-yard field goal attempt, the Sooners’ only field goal attempt of the game.
Finally, after eight PATs, head coach Lincoln Riley sent true freshman Gabe Brkic (yeah, I know it looks like it’s missing a vowel, but it isn’t, according to Oklahoma) in for a PAT and he nailed it.
Seibert handled the first six kickoffs as well before Brkic took over just before halftime.
CeeDee Lamb and Lee Morris handled the punt returns for OU with Morris’ 28-yard return the longest of the day. Meanwhile, Tre Brown took the only kickoff return for the Sooners, which went for 21 yards.
That was it for the Sooner special teams last week. I did say that they pretty much began and ended with Seibert, didn’t I?
With the special teams out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the coaching staff with good reason. Longtime Sooner head coach Bob Stoops abruptly retired shortly before the start of last season and Lincoln Riley was named as his replacement.
Since then, Riley has literally taken the college football world by storm. When he was hired, he was the youngest head coach in the FBS. He went on to set an Oklahoma record for a first-year head coach with 12 wins, beating the previous record of 10 set by Chuck Fairbanks in 1967 and tied by the legendary Barry Switzer in 1973.
Riley, who just turned 35 on Wednesday, played for Texas Tech under Mike Leach as a walk-on in 2002 before becoming an undergraduate assistant the following year. Eventually, he worked his way up to receivers coach before becoming the offensive coordinator at East Carolina. In 2015, he was hired by Stoops to be the Sooners’ new offensive coordinator until he was promoted last season.
Given his history on the offensive side of the ball, it’s a pretty safe assumption that Riley still calls the offensive plays for the Sooners, even though he does have a pair of co-offensive coordinators.
One of the co-offensive coordinators is Bill Bedenbaugh, whose position group is the offensive line. More than anything, this symbolizes the fact that Lincoln Riley understands the importance of that familiar adage: “Line wins games.”
Oklahoma has had its top two rushing seasons under Stoops after Bedenbaugh joined the OU staff.
Given that Riley coaches the Sooner QBs, it should come be of little surprise that the third piece of the Sooner offensive triumvirate is Cale Gundy, whose position group is inside receivers and, while Gundy currently coaches the inside receivers, he spent 16 years coaching the Oklahoma running backs before shifting to inside receivers. Some notable players Gundy has coached at Oklahoma including Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray and Samaje Perine.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mike Stoops returned to work under his brother following an eight-year stint as the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats. While the younger Stoops has done a great job with the Sooner defense, there is one important piece of information that Bruin fans should know. Chip Kelly’s Ducks beat Stoops’ Wildcats the last four times they played them. In fact, the only time the Ducks lost to the Wildcats was in 2007 during Kelly’s first year as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator.
Obivously, this raises the question about Kelly being able to beat Stoops’ defenses. Of course, there’s a four-game winning streak that started in 2008 and continued into 2011 before Stoops was fired from Arizona.
Of course, this could point to two possibilities. The first is that Stoops got the better of Kelly during his first year as offensive coordinator for the Ducks because Kelly had yet to build them into the offensive juggernaut they became. The other possibility is that Kelly figured out a way to beat Stoops’ defense.
Does it tell us much about this year’s battle between the two? Probably not in advance because of the questions raised about the UCLA Bruins’ offense following last week’s Cincinnati game.
But, you never know....