Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is quickly earning a reputation as one of the most innovative minds in football.
Oklahoma’s offensive success since Riley took over from longtime coach Bob Stoops a year ago has earned him praise from those inside the game. And it only grew when Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy last season and the Sooners’ potent offense was the biggest reason for the team’s trip to the College Football Playoff.
That success has led representatives from many teams to come to Oklahoma to learn more about the Sooners’ offensive philosophy.
Conventional wisdom has the Sooners relying on run/pass options for their quarterbacks.
But Riley is careful to tell them that philosophy really doesn’t dominate his offensive thinking.
In a fascinating story by SI.com’s Albert Breer, Riley refutes many of those perceptions.
“We’re not a huge RPO team here at Oklahoma,” Riley told Breer. “There’s a lot of teams collegiately that do it much more than we do.
“But the RPOs, you never saw it, not nearly as much in the league as you see right now. You watch the Super Bowl, and a good majority of what the Eagles did was RPO-based. Some of the run schemes have carried over, some of the tempo has carried over, and the aggressiveness in play calling and schemes, just from a general standpoint, has carried over.”
Riley has borrowed liberally from one of his coaching mentors, former Texas Tech coach and current Washington State coach Mike Leach, and has limited the number of routes that receivers are taught.
It leads Oklahoma coaches to require their receivers to become outstanding at a smaller number of things. The Sooners then package those elements creatively by dressing up those plays in different ways through formations and motion.
“I think route-wise, you see it a little bit more, kind of what we’re doing here, maybe teams are trying to narrow down and focus in on a few routes, where they get more comfortable, as opposed to what it was,” Riley said. “In the past when you had damn near unlimited hours with these guys from an NFL perspective, your play sheets, the amount of stuff you put in, you’d have all the time in the world to do it.”
Will Oklahoma’s attack remain potent without Baker Mayfield?
It’s a fascinating look at how Riley perceives his offensive strategy. And it leads to reasons why his fresh approach helps Oklahoma succeed offensively.
And of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a player such as Mayfield so strongly schooled in the offense.
It will be interesting to see if Kyler Murray or other quarterbacks slated for playing time in 2018 help the Oklahoma offense retain the perception of being so cutting edge.
But for now, Riley is considered an offensive guru. And it’s leading interested students from across football to flock to Norman, Okla., to learn from him.