John E. Hoover: Heupel, OU coaches show signs of innovation
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
10/09/12 at 4:57 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Heupel, OU show signs of innovation
NORMAN - Looking in at Oklahoma from the outside, it seems that Josh Heupel grew up a little bit as a play-caller and offensive coordinator in the last two weeks.
That's probably oversimplifying it.
It's a good bet that Heupel and co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell worked hand-in-hand on the Sooners' game plan against Texas Tech - maybe more hand-in-hand than usual, maybe not - with a strong input from all the offensive line coaches and tight end coaches and fullback coaches and running back coaches.
But watching the Sooners beat up on Tech last week, seeing all the new offensive plays, all the wrinkles, the slight adjustments, the mixture of run-pass and inside-outside and fast and slow - it all appeared a bit less predictable, more advanced, less mundane than what Sooner fans saw in OU's first three games this season.
Landry Jones got the snap, looked wide to the left and threw wide to the right. First and second down, Jones handed off on a misdirection running play. Jones faked a handoff this way and bootlegged that way.
It was all just so different.
Jones acknowledged on Monday that he was excited last week when Heupel gave him the game plan for Tech.
"Really excited," Jones said. "I felt like that was a great game plan for us."
During his weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Bob Stoops declined to answer whether the new plays and new formations were specific just for the Tech game or represented a more permanent change to the system.
But in postgame interviews on Saturday, Heupel offered a clarification or two about the Sooners' new look.
"Just things we've been working on for a while," Heupel said. "From what we saw from their defense we thought we had an opportunity to exploit some things."
Maybe so. Maybe Heupel's playbook this week against Texas will look a lot like the game plan he tried against Kansas State.
But don't count on it.
Sure, Heupel and Jones exposed the Red Raider defense, softening up the middle with a punchy running game, hitting the edges with short throws, getting a shaky group of defenders - statistically ranked No. 1 nationally, but in reality nowhere near that good - moving in one direction and then chasing in the other.
Stoops on Monday acknowledged "the offensive coaches did have some different wrinkles in what we're doing," but said because of the team's two open dates in September, the Sooners had played only three games and they hadn't had an opportunity yet to diversify much.
"When you have an extra week, they did adjust some things," Stoops said. "I still believe there's more upside there where we can even be better at what we're doing running the ball, and we're gonna keep working on it."
Stoops also said that while Jones did play better against Tech - a good time for that, what with the Sooners going to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry this week - the coaching staff "(put) him in a better position."
Heupel also explained that, regardless of what the game plan looks like, Jones will continue to play better as all the young players around him gain big-game experience.
"I don't think people understand this," Heupel said. "You're so young in the parts around him, it takes 11 guys executing at a high level offensively. It's really a fine line. Those guys were in the right spots (last Saturday) for the most part. They won their one-on-one battles on the outside. When those things happen, when you have good protection up front, Landry's going to have a good day. His decision (making) was really good, he moved in the pocket really well, he took care of the football and he was accurate with it."
For his part, Jones said "yeah, maybe" Saturday did represent a significant step in Heupel's growth process as a play-caller and game-planner.
Jones, after all, found himself taking snaps under center for the first time this season. So Heupel's changes could be, at their most basic, a self-realization that quite a few things weren't working against UTEP and Florida A&M and Kansas State.
Remember, Heupel is but 34 years old, and he is now four games into his second season as a play-caller. He will continue to be out-coached, but he will continue to grow and improve as his career progresses.
Just watch. This week, Heupel will devise something that no one - not even Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz or his Longhorn defenders - will see coming, and if the Sooners execute it, he'll be hailed as a genius.
"I think he knows what he is and he knows what kind of coordinator he wants to be," Jones said. "I think he's doing a great job. Like last week, we did a really good job of scheming putting together a good game plan."