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UCLA Football Preview: Sooners Coaching Staff is Full of Leach Disciples

Also, Oklahoma’s special teams have been pretty special so far this year

Houston v Oklahoma
Lincoln Riley is just one of many Oklahoma coaches who have worked for Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

This week, the UCLA Bruins will welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to the Rose Bowl. To say there isn’t much optimism among Bruin fans heading into this week’s game might be an understatement.

Oklahoma has started off as a 21.5-point favorite. Frankly, I’m not sure that’s big enough.

But, regardless of what the Bruins’ chances might be, let’s start off the week with a look at the Sooners’ coaching staff and special teams.

Coaching Staff

The Sooners are led by head coach Lincoln Riley. Now, I’m not saying that Riley is young, but he is just five years older than Bruins’ punter Wade Lees.

We’ve written a lot about how this year’s UCLA team looks a lot like last year’s team at the start of the season. However, it’s worth noting that, if UCLA football resembled Groundhog Day in the first two games of the year, the Bruins’ opponents may start to look the same, too.

That’s because Riley comes from the Mike Leach coaching tree. Riley played one season for Leach in 2002 before joining the staff as a student assistant. Eventually, he became a graduate assistant and then a full-fledged assistant coach during Leach’s final three seasons in Lubbock. So, don’t be surprised if the Washington State Cougars look a lot like Oklahoma offensively next week.

The Oklahoma-Leach coaching tree doesn’t end with Riley.

Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh played for Leach at Iowa Wesleyan and served as an assistant at Texas Tech.

But, wait, there’s more....

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is another Mike Leach disciple after spending three seasons as Leach’s defensive coordinator at Washington State.

Outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons also coached with Leach at both Texas Tech and Washington State.

So, don’t be surprised if the Sooners and the Cougars look a lot like each other over the course of the next few weeks.

Let’s look at the Sooners’ special teams.

I figured I would get the Sooners’ punter out of the way first since we probably won’t see much of him. His name is Reeves Mundschau. He’s a redshirt sophomore who has taken over the punting duties for the Sooners. So far this season, he punted once against Houston and twice against South Dakota. Will the Bruin defense be able to get him on the field more on Saturday? Well, that remains to be seen. He’s averaging 37.33 yards per punt with a long of 41.

Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Callum Sutherland will handle the placekicking duties. The good news is that Sutherland has missed all of his field goal attempts so far this year. The bad news is that he’s only tried twice and there looks to be a good reason why: Sutherland has made all 17 PAT attempts he’s tried so far this season.

Think about that for a second. The Sooners’ offense has been so efficient that they’ve punted just 3 times and tried just 2 field goals, all while scoring 17 touchdowns, over only two games.

That is the juggernaut the Bruins will face on Saturday.

When it comes to returns, look for junior wide receiver CeeDee Lamb on punt returns. Lamb has returned five punts so far this season and he’s averaging almost ten yards per return with a long of 27. He hasn’t broken one for a touchdown yet, but his career-long return of 66 yards did come against the Bruins last season. So, hopefully, the punt return team has improved enough to keep Lamb contained.

On kickoff returns, junior cornerback Tre Brown has been the only Sooner to return a kickoff so far this season. Brown has had just two returns so far. One was 21 yards long and the other was 16 yards long. Honestly, I don’t expect Brown to have any kickoff returns this weekend as UCLA’s JJ Molson has been routinely kicking the ball deep enough to force a touchback every time.

Go Bruins!