Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sooners' new OC hopes to keep status quo
By David Ubben
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Wilson will take over as Indiana's head coach after Oklahoma finishes its season in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. He's coordinated the offense and called plays the past five seasons, but like he's done with the other four coordinator openings during his tenure in Norman, Okla., coach Bob Stoops promoted from within.
Josh Heupel, Oklahoma's quarterbacks coach since 2006, earned Stoops' approval to take over, but the Sooners' matchup against Connecticut will serve as a one-game audition for fans whose favorite pastime is criticizing play calling.
For players, the ideal outcome is Wilson's same message coming from a different voice.
"We're hoping that's the case," said Heupel, who will call plays from the booth upstairs with Wilson sitting next to him. "For our players, there’s some stability and comfort in knowing that a guy that’s been heavily involved in the game plan already is taking over. Not only for this ballgame but for the future as well."
In January of 2001, Heupel held a game ball while being hoisted on teammates' shoulders to celebrate a national championship, one of the enduring images of the Stoops era at Oklahoma. He's back, and that experience does nothing but lend additional credibility to the Sooners' new 32-year-old playcaller.
"It’s great to have somebody like that as your coach, somebody who has won a national championship and been a Heisman finalist and things like that," said quarterback Landry Jones. "He knows how I feel, he knows the pressures of the game. You feel like the whole weight of the game is on your shoulders and things like that, so it’s been a blessing."
Heupel will be dealing with a different kind of pressure, wearing a headset instead of a helmet this time around.
"There’s going to be a lot of challenges, but you’ve got to react to what you’re seeing and not just what you’ve seen on tape," he said. "The game-day challenge for me as a playcaller is being able to strike that balance to reacting to what I’m seeing and counteract to it as quickly as possible."
Heupel has emphasized since he was first named co-coordinator with receivers coach Jay Norvell that Oklahoma's offense wouldn't change. The Sooners' offense has been the biggest reason for their seven Big 12 titles under Stoops and eight trips to BCS bowls in the past 11 seasons.
"We want to have balance in what we’re doing. We’ve got to make plays on the perimeter, we’ve got to be physical, we’ve got to protect the quarterback, gotta be able to run the football," he said. "When we’re successful, we have balance, and then we mix in our [fast-paced] tempo as well."
The means won't change. We should get an idea of what to expect out of the ends after Saturday's game.