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Roundtable: Analyzing Oklahoma's coaching changes

1/7/2015


After an 8-5 season, Bob Stoops fired a playcaller for the first time in his career, terminating offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and receivers coach Jay Norvell over the weekend.

In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine the big moves, whether Stoops should go deeper with further changes to his staff and who he should target next at offensive coordinator:

Should Stoops have fired Heupel and Norvell?

Chatmon: That's a tough one but it sure looks like the Sooners needed a scapegoat. OU's offense was among the nation's best during their time in charge. Yet I understand the need for excitement to blow away the cloud of disappointment hanging over the program. Heupel and Norvell aren't high on the list of guys that should have been handed a pink slip. The better option was a return to the balanced spread offense the Sooners once ran. The change to a zone-read style attack was silly. But I do understand the need for tangible change for appearance's sake.

Olson: Honestly, I didn't think it would come to this for Stoops. I thought he would strip Heupel of his play-calling duties but retain him as a position coach. I thought he'd try to help Norvell find another job and ease the transition instead of just letting him go. But you could argue this OU team lost three or four more games than was expected, so that's naturally going to up the pressure and the calls for change. Stoops made it clear on Tuesday you can't accuse him of cronyism with this staff. He just dismissed two coaches he deeply cares about. Can't be easy, but I can see why Sooner supporters wanted a shakeup in some form or fashion.

Trotter: Were Heupel and Norvell necessarily deserving of losing their jobs? No. But did Stoops have to make a drastic change to his staff to appease the administration and donor base? No doubt. Blood is thicker than water, which made changes to the offense a little more palpable, even though Mike Stoops' defense had the more disappointing season. The fact is, the majority of Norvell's recruits failed to pan out (can you imagine if Jalen Saunders and Justin Brown hadn't transferred to OU?). Heupel, meanwhile, struggled to transition calling plays for the zone-read pistol scheme Bob Stoops demanded he install two years ago. The Sooners had to make a change. And that came at the expense of Heupel and Norvell.

Should OU make changes to the defensive side, too?

Chatmon: Now that the first steps have been taken with Norvell and Heupel shown the door, some changes on the defensive side of the ball might be a good idea. New ideas and new blood wouldn't hurt for a defense that finished No. 117 among FBS teams in passing defense. Jerry Montgomery's promotion to co-defensive coordinator is a great first step, and I don't think defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' removal is the right move as he has an eye for talent. I don't like calling for people's jobs but linebackers coach Tim Kish could be in the crosshairs, and if he left the program it wouldn't be a crippling blow.

Olson: You do get the sense that more change could be on the way, and I can understand why Bob Stoops wouldn't want to roll that out all at once. It's about optics, really -- you don't want the perception among recruits and boosters that OU is officially in the rebuilding business. Mike Stoops and Montgomery should feel safe but, really, why should any other member of that defensive staff feel the same? The Stoops brothers can and probably should seek assistants who can bring in new ideas and get more out of what I think is a talented defensive cast.

Trotter: Did anyone else find it a bit curious in that Bob's primary justification for keeping his brother on staff was the defense returned nine starters? What would have happened if the Sooners had graduated nine starters instead? Firing both playcallers would have reeked of desperation. So it's understandable why Mike Stoops is being retained. But OU needs to upgrade its overall talent level (Montgomery can't recruit for the entire defense alone). Bringing in a couple of young assistants who can grind on the trail, like Montgomery, would do wonders.

What offensive coordinator should Stoops go after?

Chatmon: East Carolina's Lincoln Riley is a name that immediately comes to mind. ECU led the American Conference in total yards (533), yards per play (6.48) and third down conversion rate (47.4 percent) with Riley running things. Riley's experience is just as important, as a offensive coordinator with five years calling plays and running the Pirates' offense for Ruffin McNeil's program. Stoops should look at Riley as an answer to OU's offensive ills.

Olson: If I were Stoops, I'd reach out to Jake Spavital at Texas A&M. He's a rising young offensive mind who'd offer a wealth of knowledge about Air Raid ball -- the Tulsa native has worked for Kevin Sumlin, Dana Holgorsen, Mike Gundy and Gus Malzahn -- and would bring a new jolt that these Sooners have been missing. He could be great for the development of Trevor Knight and the rest of this program's passers, and better yet, what if five-star A&M recruit Kyler Murray could follow him to Norman? The top dual-threat QB in the country is tight with Spavital and visited OU this fall. The Sooners need an innovator and Spav could be a great fit.

Trotter: Riley and Spavital are interesting names the Sooners should reach out to. But I would also make a call to TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie (my apologies, TCU fans). Cumbie hasn't called plays before. But he oversaw the transformation of Trevone Boykin, who went from being a below average Big 12 quarterback to one of the best in the country. Cumbie is a rising star in the coaching profession. Snatching him up from a Big 12 rival would be a coup.