College football is all about offense. Whether it’s Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack or Hawaii’s wide open passing game, each university has a system within which they operate, recruit and find an identity unique to their program.
In this week’s breakdown, we’re going to look at what makes the Oklahoma Sooners‘ quarterback position so successful. From a Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield to baseball prodigy Kyler Murray, the quarterback is the centerpiece of the Sooners’ offense, and that stems directly from the offensive genius of second-year head coach Lincoln Riley.
During his time as the offensive coordinator at East Carolina, Riley coached two quarterbacks in a five-year span — both of them, Dominique Davis and Shane Carden, combine to hold every single school passing record in a game, season and career. Carden became the Pirates’ all-time leading passer from 2012-2014 under Riley, and it’s not even close.
When Baker Mayfield left Oklahoma last season, many thought their offense would sputter and lose steam. Sorry to disappoint Big 12 fans, but the exact opposite has happened.
Oklahoma is averaging 567.5 total yards per game (15th in the nation) and scored 63 and 49 points in their first two games, respectively.
How do they do it? They have so many playmakers that playing quarterback at OU is like picking apples on a cool Fall day.
Take a look at Kyler Murray’s touchdown run on 1st and Goal:
The play starts with a motion behind the quarterback with two backs to either side of him. Immediately, the defense has to worry about the sideline-to-sideline speed of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown coming in motion.
Now, all the power is in Kyler Murray’s hands. The defensive end (circled) collapses down to cover a potential dive to the running back Trey Sermon. Murray sees this, keeps the ball and continues onto his next read.
Both the defensive end and linebacker have worked outside to respect the speed of Hollywood Brown — Oklahoma could throw a screen out of this action, or run an option with the wide receiver, if these two players don’t run towards the sideline.
Problem is, both UCLA defenders have turned their hips, bailed out, and it’s a wide-open walk into the end zone for Murray.
It helps that you have a professional baseball player with world-class speed at quarterback, but with action like this for the defense to deal with, the threat that Lincoln Riley’s offense presents can make the quarterback incidentally become the last priority.
Next, having exceptional arm talent is one thing, but being able to recognize coverage is even more important for a quarterback.
Oklahoma is going to run what’s called a “rub route” across the middle of the field with the receiver at the top of the picture, and the slot receiver coming underneath of him in front of the linebackers.
Right away, UCLA’s defense runs with the receivers, which signals that they’re matched up in man coverage. The key read for Murray, now, is going to be 6-foot-3 wide receiver A.D. Miller (highlighted in red).
As the play develops, the rub route in the middle of the field causes all kinds of confusion, and Miller continues his run directly behind that mess.
The UCLA linebacker is standing there flat-footed while Miller (now circled in yellow) beats the cornerback to the inside. The middle of the end zone is WIDE open, and the soon-to-be professional baseball player let’s his arm talent do the rest.
If you ever expect to keep pace with Oklahoma, you better do it by getting after Kyler Murray early in the game.
The Sooners can beat you in so many ways, and if they get out to a big lead, it’s game over. It’s going to be hard to slow them down, so you’d better plan to outshoot the defending Big 12 Champions.
Oklahoma’s offense is designed to work quickly, stretch the defense sideline to sideline, and they have a super-athlete in quarterback Kyler Murray orchestrating the entire thing.
Good luck, to the rest of the Big 12. You’re going to need it.