Ri­ley’s of­fense evo­lu­tion stays ahead of de­fenses

The Oklahoman - - BEDLAM KICKOFF - Ryan Aber

NOR­MAN — When Bob Stoops in­tro­duced Lin­coln Ri­ley as Ok­la­homa’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 2014, he ham­mered home the point that the Soon­ers were re­turn­ing to their Air Raid of­fen­sive roots from early in Stoops’ ten­ure.

“We had so much suc­cess with it through the years,” Stoops said of the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach of­fen­sive scheme. “Lit­tle by lit­tle in the last sev­eral years we slowly drifted away from it.”

That sys­tem was the rea­son Stoops went af­ter Ri­ley.

Four years later, in year two of Ri­ley’s ten­ure as head coach af­ter tak­ing over as Stoops’ hand­picked suc­ces­sor, Ri­ley’s of­fen­sive bag of tricks has ex­panded far be­yond just the Air Raid.

You don’t have to look any far­ther than last week’s win at Texas Tech to tell that.

On more than a quar­ter of the Soon­ers’ of­fen­sive plays, the Soon­ers packed up the field with two tight ends or slot re­ceivers and a full­back and just two — or even one — wide re­ceivers.

Such was the case on Jeremiah Hall’s 34-yard re­cep­tion in the first quar­ter.

The for­ma­tion was wildly suc­cess­ful, with Kyler Mur­ray com­plet­ing all five of his passes out of it and Trey Ser­mon pick­ing up more than half of his ca­reer-high 206 rush­ing yards out of the for­ma­tion.

That fig­ures to con­tinue to be the case when the Soon­ers host Ok­la­homa State on Satur­day (2:30 p.m., ABC).

“We got on a lit­tle bit of a roll in that per­son­nel group­ing,” Ri­ley said this week. “The con­fi­dence is high in it, and we were able to con­tin­u­ally pro­duce.

“I cer­tainly en­joy find­ing any edge that we can and that was an edge for us the other night, cer­tainly.”

One of the rea­sons Ri­ley is con­stantly tin­ker­ing — he’s also added an oc­ca­sional dose of op­tion — is be­cause of his suc­cess.

“Peo­ple are try­ing dif­fer­ent things against us,” of­fen­sive line coach Bill Be­den­baugh said. “They see it more against other teams and we’re do­ing some dif­fer­ent things. We’re tweak­ing it.”

The play to Hall was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant, be­cause it added a wrin­kle the Soon­ers had yet to show off.

It forces op­pos­ing de­fenses to pre­pare for that and not to an­tic­i­pate when Ok­la­homa uses the for­ma­tion again.

“It may get them a lit­tle hes­i­tant where we get a lot of (line)back­ers run­ning through in those sit­u­a­tions, just run­ning as soon as the ball is snapped — run­ning down­hill and run­ning through gaps,” Be­den­baugh said. “It may slow that down a lit­tle bit, at least I’m hop­ing.”

Stoops might’ve been talk­ing Air Raid that day nearly four years ago when he brought Ri­ley aboard, but even then, it was ap­par­ent that Ri­ley wasn’t go­ing to be boxed in.

“One of the beau­ti­ful things about this of­fense is it can be­come what­ever we need it to be,” Ri­ley said on the day he was in­tro­duced in Nor­man.

[PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa coach Lin­coln Ri­ley con­grat­u­lates Kyler Mur­ray and Trey Ser­mon dur­ing the Soon­ers’ win over UCLA ear­lier this sea­son. Ri­ley’s of­fense has con­tin­ued to evolve in his time at OU.

Raber@ ok­la­homan.com

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