Dean's Take: News On OU Offensive Coordinator Search

Wednesday, January 7th 2015, 4:57 pm
By: News 9

With the offensive coordinator position at Oklahoma, there are plenty of rumors on potential candidates for the job. Our Dean Blevins will keep you updated with all the news he hears from his sources here until Bob Stoops hires someone.

UPDATE Jan. 13, 6:15 p.m.

Mike Stoops will remain at Oklahoma as any chances of being offered the LSU defensive coordinator job are gone. Les Miles hires Alabama assistant Kevin Steele, former Baylor head coach. Now, only the future of OU LB Coach Tim Kish is uncertain.

Jan. 12, 5:49 p.m. - It's official. Our report that Lincoln Riley would be named OU's Offensive Coordinator, play-caller and QBs coach is confirmed by the school.

Jan. 12, 5:15 p.m. - I'm told to expect the announcement about OU's next offensive coordinator tomorrow or Wednesday. The focus on tonight's national title game and completion of paperwork the key factors. As we first reported almost 24 hours ago, OU plans to name East Carolina's Lincoln Riley to replace Josh Heupel as the Oklahoma offensive coordinator/play-caller and receivers coach. I was told yesterday that Bob Stoops will work the NCAA Coaches Convention later this week in pursuit of a WR coach to replace Jay Norvell.

Jan. 11, 6:30 p.m.- Sources confirm that OU plans to name Lincoln Riley as its new play-caller and offensive coordinator. Riley has helped set records at East Carolina as the coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past five seasons. It's a clear sign Bob Stoops is going back to the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach “Air Raid” style of attack that OU ran in the beginning of the Stoops Era (1999 under offensive coordinator Mike Leach). I'm told OU will emphasize getting its talented running backs in space in the attack and that Riley's success and experience of play-calling helped him become Oklahoma's choice.

I'm told Mike Leach and Hal Mumme gave rave reviews of Riley, who was a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech and spent seven seasons in the Tech system. The 31-year old Riley is expected to be named OU co-offensive coordinator, play caller and QB coach in the near future. It's expected that Stoops will immediately focus on naming a wide receivers coach, and that Riley's input would be considered. Stoops announced last week that his co-coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell were not returning to the OU staff following the 8-5 season in 2014.

The Leach-style of offense continues to thrive, although Oklahoma has wandered from it. Statistically, six of the top 13 offenses nationally come from this attack, including: TCU, East Carolina, Washington State, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Cal.

Riley's impact at East Carolina under Head Coach Ruffin McNeal has been record-shattering. His offensive units rank No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 No. 4 and No. 5 on ECU's single-season passing list. In addition, four of his five squads are listed first, second, third and fourth on the school's yearly total offense ledgers, including a recent record-breaking 6,086-yard compilation in 2013.

Riley's first fall in Greenville installing and directing a new up-tempo spread offensive scheme resulted in 29 team or individual school offensive standards, and he followed that up with 27 more three years later that played a role in ECU's first bowl victory since 2007.

The decision Bob Stoops is making to go back to the back to this base offense should help both on the field and with consistency in recruiting. Certainly, having one base offense to build around is better than the combo-platter run last year when, partly because of injuries, Heupel ran variations of the zone-read, four and five-wide, Pistol, shotgun, pocket drop back, I-formation, power, and triple option.

One FBS defensive coordinator tells me Sunday night that he's heard good things about Riley. He believes if OU "stays with the Leach-Mumme system it would help their QB/RB/WR s and protection schemes. Small menu. Big Understanding. Always helps,” he says.

First take would make me think Baker Mayfield would have the inside track at being the 2015 starter. Mayfield has FBS experience, has proven on the practice field with DGB and the OU scout team that he can do some special things throwing the ball, and he is more experienced than any of the other three—except Trevor Knight. While Mayfield is more suited to zone-read and duel-threat systems, he should not be undersold.

Gotta wonder if Joe Mixon could find a way to get on the field and in space in this system instead of having to wait to share reps with Samaje Perine and the reps any other of the proven backs get. If I'm Lincoln Riley, I'm drawing on napkins in North Carolina tonight.

Jan. 11, 10:30 a.m. - Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald writes today that Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost will only leave the Ducks for a head coaching job. No surprise and exactly what you'd expect a coach to say as he prepares for Monday¹s title game. But Shatel is money. Tom is one of the writers who has covered Frost and his family for over twenty years. I'm not working the Blitz tonight, but if there were a Play the Percentage question on chances Frost becoming OU's next play-calling OC, I'd say less than five percent.

Jan. 9, 6:30 p.m.- Bob Stoops perked up when we talked after his Tuesday press conference when I mentioned contacting Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost. I'm told tonight Nebraska writers are saying the Frost-OU offensive coordinator talk is heating up. Of course Frost was a star Husker QB and I believe would be the No. 1 choice of Stoops if he could lure Frost from the remarkable momentum within the Duck program.

But I've said before—and still believe—he's not untouchable for Oklahoma. A former head coaching pal—who spent one-on-one time with Frost recently—has excitedly mentioned in three phone conversations with me that he believes Frost would be the ideal fit; that Frost possesses that vital traits, skills and background most critical to specifically fit the next OU OC; that he'd hire him on the spot.

I'm reminded his coaching tree is somewhat impressive. Check this out. Bill Walsh, Tom Osborne, Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich! Hello!

I'm not saying Stoops could get him. But I am saying he twitched when I mentioned Frost, that there's growing speculation with some who've covered him for two decades that talk is heating up, and that he'd be the absolute home run hire.

More on Oregon's OC Scott Frost the guy has to be bright. He played his first two college years for Bill Walsh at Stanford before transferring to Nebraska where he QB'd Tom Osborne's last national championship team in 1997.

His Dad (Larry) played RB for Bob Devaney at Nebraska, his mother (Carol) made the US Olympic team in 1968 throwing the discus. Both of his parents were high school FB coaches (yes, his mother) for 30 years. I've always felt this guy's a special breed-a-cat.

Jan. 8, 10:15 p.m.- Learned quite a bit tonight from multiple sources in Norman and Texas. 

Multiple outlets are reporting former OU QB Garrick McGee—Louisville's offensive coordinator—“turned down” a Bob Stoops offer today to become next offensive coordinator. One source very close to the situation in Norman insisted tonight, "Yes, he was interviewed, but definitely not offered and used it to get more money."

Several of us have questioned if Sonny Cumbie is qualified to call plays at Oklahoma, that perhaps he'd be an ideal number two guy, sort of like he is now at TCU. He's never called plays, and one prominent Big 12 offensive coach told a close source of mine that “I don't think he's ready. Great guy and talented, but just not sure he's ready. That's a pressure-packed job.” Well, tonight it was confirmed to me that Stoops has only interviewed coaches who would be the play-caller and primary offensive coach. So Stoops would be rolling the dice with Cumbie, but one of the sources in Norman told me he remains a “very viable candidate.” He said it's helpful he's “worked with Baker Mayfield and has some history with Trevor (Knight).”

The same source outlined Stoops' timetable and plan and says Stoops “hopes to name the play-caller in the next few days and then will move on to hire a receivers coach.” The idea of having a 1-2 punch ala TCU is less likely as the receivers coach very well may not know the play-caller and may simply coach receivers, “depending who Bob ends up with,” the primary source told me tonight.

One opposing defensive coordinator texted me tonight with the following on Cumbie: “Did research on Cumbie today. Great teacher, develops QBs philosophies and mechanically. Great staff guy. Players like and respect him. Very smart. Thinks outside the box. Knows when and when not to use tempo. Good guy from all reports. Hope this helps.”

Mike Stoops has no new news. Les Miles interviewed Penn State DC Bob Shoop, who said yesterday he was offered the job but is staying in State College. There's a good chance Miles will bump up an assistant although he did interview Stoops, even though many seem to not recognize the meeting they had Sunday night in Dallas. Guess it doesn't fit their narrative, but it's a fact.

Jan 8, 4:15 p.m.- Of the names in the mix now, the most appealing combo platter to me would be Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as the play-caller and Sonny Cumbie as the number two co-coordinator. Even though I continue to be told that people should not dismiss Frost as an OU candidate because of his high-profile role in an Oregon program that's riding high, it still feels like wishful thinking to think he'd actually leave Oregon, Phil Knight and the Nike Ducks. Cumbie makes sense for lots of reasons, but never having been a play-caller would seem to leave him destined for the two-hole.

Jan. 8, 2:30 p.m.-A source tells me a highly respected Big 12 offensive coach told him he thought Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is another name OU has had on its radar as a co-offensive coordinator. 

Norvell makes a boatload of money--$901,560 according to USA Today. Just 33, Norvell's been at ASU three years and his high-octane offense is what OU seems focused on. This doesn't feel like the ultimate fit for Stoops and Company, but the guy's legit and the original source of this information certainly merits the mention.

Jan. 7, 4 p.m.- Sonny Cumbie was born in Abilene, TX. Remember the other rusty-haired Abilene-native QB who was the key figure in turning around an Oklahoma offense? If Cumbie is the guy and has half the impact of the late and great Jack Mildren, Bob Stoops will go out a winner. General Jack was OU's QB when Chuck Fairbanks had Barry Switzer switch the Sooner offense to the wishbone in 1970. Mildren set records, made straight As and darn near won a national championship engineering Oklahoma's first wishbone juggernaut with the Mad German (Barry Switzer) calling plays.Jan. 7, 3:30 p.m.: We've confirmed TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie is in Norman and had lunch with Sooner running backs coach Cale Gundy at a campus restaurant. Cumbie is interested in filling one of OU's two available co-offensive coordinator positions, opened after Bob Stoops fired Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell.

50-year-old Doug Meacham is the other TCU co-coordinator and play-caller. Meacham confirmed to a source that an OU assistant had recently spoken with him about his interest and his pay scale. Meacham tells a source he respectfully believes TCU is the best place for him but that Cumbie has been in contact with the Sooners.

Jan. 7, 3:20 p.m.- A conference assistant coach tells a trusted source of mine that he's not sure 29-year-old Texas A&M offensive coordinator or 33-year-old TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie “are ready for a job as high profile and demanding as being the one in charge of the Oklahoma offense.”

Jan. 7, 3:10 p.m.- Just spoke with a coaching source who was told by a Big 12 offensive coordinator that he believes OU has interest and “may have even already contacted” Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost. The coaching source tells me Frost might be more interested than most think because of his history as Nebraska's starting QB and healthy rivalry for conference rival Oklahoma.