EDITOR’S NOTE: Starting today, SI Sooners will be reviewing Oklahoma’s 2021 football season. It has been an unusual season, pockmarked with ups and downs. For every good trick, it seemed, was hiding something bad.
After an active January on the transfer portal, the offseason began in turmoil when incumbent Spencer Jones was caught on camera fighting – and losing badly – in a Norman men’s room. Three starters were kicked from the team following an alleged armed robbery and multiple felony charges. Midway through the season, Heisman frontman Spencer Rattler lost his starting job to genuine freshman Caleb Williams, and the team have played very irregularly all season – a good play, a good quarterback. , a good match, followed by a bad one.
Finally, after a fourth-quarter meltdown in Stillwater and an unceremonious end to OU’s six-year domination of the Big 12 Conference, Lincoln Riley fled under cover of darkness for the USC job. .
Over the next 12 days, SI Sooners takes a look at the OU’s season in review, including a daily bulletin on each position in 2021.
What is Sooner Nation’s position on the 2021 football season?
Without a conference championship, without a college football playoff appearance, and without a New Year’s bowl game, was that a bitter disappointment?
Or given a mid-season quarterback change (to a real freshman, plus) and a head coach with one foot out, was that a success?
Maybe it was something in between.
- The Sooners finished 11-2 – with a victory over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. A mixed bag.
- The Sooners started the year 9-0 for the first time since 2004, but went on to lose two of their last three games. Another mixed bag.
- The Sooners watched the head coach Lincoln riley bail out for a less than lateral move to USC – but was able to relive some real nostalgia when Bob bends over came back for a month, fixed everything then put the visor on Brent Venables.
- Beating Nebraska stirred the fan base in one direction. Losing to Oklahoma State made him turn the other way.
- Winning so many close games early on ultimately masked some underlying issues that arose during the OU’s late stumbles.
Yes, 2021 is in the rearview mirror. In some cases, looking back is not a good thing.
Perhaps a more relevant question for Oklahoma fans as the timeline turns to 2022 is whether things in OU are up or down.
Sports Illustrated Pat Forde, for example – one of the country’s most respected college football journalists, and objective as he is – sees a general downward trend in this Twitter post in response to a column from Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel.
Gabe Ikard, on the other hand – a former Sooner offensive lineman and member of the OU broadcast team, in addition to his duties as co-host on SiriusXM Satellite Radio – sees Oklahoma as a rising trend since defeat of Bedlam.
Forde went on to list the litany of downward steps the program has taken since late November.
Here’s the thing: Forde and Ikard are right. Forde approaches the subject from a macro perspective, a view 30,000 feet from the program, while Ikard sees everything from a much more micro view thanks to access to subtle details that only an insider knows.
At Forde’s point, that OU team was supposed to be the one that ultimately competed for a national championship, remember? Not finished the season in San Antonio. And absolutely, a jumping coach like Riley – whatever his reasons – is a bad thing. Venables, that’s right, is 0-0 as a head coach. The loss of two QBs ranked No. 1 in the general classification in the 2019 class and the 2021 class can in no way be interpreted as positive. And, a small tweak: The incoming Class 2022, by 247 Sports, while still unfinished, currently ranks fifth in the SEC (one of them being Texas, which obviously isn’t a real problem).
But at Ikard Point, Oklahoma under Venables already seems to have a harsher roster than under Riley – a defensive mindset first, a gritty, sharp mindset, as opposed to Riley’s wide open offensive mindset of the 21st century. The crooked nose, bloody lips and fist mentality that Stoops created in 1999 slowly faded and was no more than a memory under Riley. Venables is already bringing this back, evidenced by his hiring of Jerry schmidt as a strength trainer to replace Riley’s preference of Bennie wiley.
The days of being gentle, some former players have hinted, are over.
OU Bulletins 2021
- Saturday January 8: Offensive line
- Sunday January 9: Defensive line
- Monday January 10: Running back
- Tuesday January 11: linebacker
- Wednesday January 12: Receiver
- Thursday January 13: cornerback
- Friday January 14: H-Backs
- Saturday January 15: Security
- Sunday January 16: special teams
- Monday January 17: quarterback
- Tuesday January 18: Coaching
Venables has already established a new way of thinking about his coaching staff – in particular, his scouts: a southern way of thinking, you might say.
To Clemson, Todd bates brought in the kind of defensive raiders that Riley and his team could only fantasize about. Landing of other aid from At Dabo Swinney Clemson staff room (and, it seems, soon Nick Saban’s Alabama staffroom) only fortifies Venables’ relentless pursuit of the nation’s most feared schoolchildren. Venables saw first-hand the kind of d-line talent it takes to win national titles. Riley could only see them from a distance.
It’s also worth noting that Venables, 51, is far more accomplished and far better prepared to be a head coach than Riley was when he was hired at 33.
Riley’s experience consisted of coaching receivers at Texas Tech, coordinating East Carolina’s offense and breathing new life into the Stoops team in Oklahoma for two years thanks to a generational quarterback who literally fell down. from the sky. Yes, Riley has two QB Heisman Trophy and two No. 1 draft picks on his CV, but Baker Mayfield and Kyler murray did as much or more to make Riley than Riley did to make them.
Venables has taught three Hall of Fame head coaches (Swinney, Stoops and Bill Snyder). His tenure at Kansas State (eight years in all) was the same length as Riley’s at Texas Tech. Venables was a full-time defensive coordinator for 18 years for two college football behemoths, coached eight domestic league games and won two of the biggest trophies. Riley led offenses for seven years before Stoops handed him the reins.
Riley and those he took to USC haven’t won exactly any FBS National Championships in their careers. Venables and his newcomers to OU, meanwhile, have won seven FBS National Titles. Add strength coaches into that equation and it’s even more lopsided, as Schmidt has trained national champions in three different blue bloods.
Oklahoma in 2021 won 11 games, but frankly struggled to fend off awful teams like Tulane, Nebraska and West Virginia. The whole season just had a weird vibe. Something, somewhere, was wrong, and no one knew what it was until Riley walked over to the California sunset wearing that USC shirt.
Was the Sunday after Thanksgiving a low point for Oklahoma football? Without question.
Has the Sooner program been all the rage since? Absoutely.
Even the punch announcement Caleb williams jumping into the transfer portal – quite expected (as was his eventual departure) – was quickly appeased when the UCF gunslinger Dillon gabriel promised his transfer to Oklahoma a few hours later.
Newton’s Third Law of Physics teaches us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The same could be said for the last 12 months of Oklahoma football.