By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Let’s talk alternate reality. Not one in which Landry Jones continues to get better following a sterling sophomore season that had people wondering if he might enter the draft two years ago.
That ship has sailed.
Perhaps he’ll rebound.
It’s a discussion for another day.
Let’s take a trip.
Imagine an Oklahoma football team that, upon struggling at UTEP, irrelevantly smashing Florida A&M and looking like a team playing on no sleep rather than coming off an off-week in a 24-19 loss to Kansas State, decided something had to be done. Because if nothing is done, it’s unclear how it will beat Texas Tech, Texas, Notre Dame, Iowa State, West Virginia or TCU (and home games against Baylor and Oklahoma State might be iffy, too).
Imagine the head coach decides, as he’s often said in the past, that every player is accountable, that even the quarterback must earn his starter’s status. Imagine that his best players will play the most.
Also, imagine the Sooners taking a page out of their recent past, trying to run opposing teams off the field, finding their rhythm by setting the pace, by no-huddling every moment but those they’re manipulating the clock, the way they did back when Kevin Wilson handled the offensive reins.
Blake Bell could be the new quarterback, and talk about a shock to the system. He might excel and he might not, but he probably doesn’t make those impossible-to-understand mistakes because rare is the good quarterback who does, and we should assume Bell is good. He’s the backup at OU, after all.
It might light a fire under teammates, who would immediately understand nothing to be sacred and who should understand a new quarterback needs their help more than ever.
It should raise OU’s toughness quotient overnight, for even as Bell would be expected to be a drop-back passer, he’s still a battering ram and would be called upon in that role, too.
In this new reality, Sterling Shepard no longer provides receiving depth, but he takes over in the slot because now you’re playing your best players, and that means he plays.
It likely means Kenny Stills plays better, too, because now he’s out wide where he’s always been and he’s been challenged, a true freshman taking his slot position from him.
It means finding a consistent role for Trey Millard, because he’s been saying Millard’s one of the best players on the team forever and it’s time Stoops lives up to his rhetoric. That makes OU tougher still, and more balanced.
Now you’re not throwing it 50 times a game anymore. Now you’re emphasizing the running game more. Now you can find a tailback rotation that makes sense, because what you’ve done thus far hasn’t.
This can be done.
It’s an alternate reality.
It’s a reality that might bring Josh Heupel back downstairs, because he probably needs to be there for his new quarterback. It might mean Jay Norvel heads upstairs and calls the plays. It makes sense. Heupel and the fullback position have long been at odds, and his unwillingness to play fast this season remains a mystery.
The thing about this alternate reality?
It might not work.
Or some of it might not work.
Jones may need to be benched, but pushing pace may be too much for Bell. Or Jones may remain the best option, because the pace needs to be pushed.
It’s impossible to know.
The only clear thing is Bob Stoops can do whatever he wants. He can play Jones or not play him. He can insist on a running-back rotation that makes sense or not. He can choose toughness and balance or not. He can keep Heupel as his play-caller or not.
He can do whatever he wants.
Now, back to reality.
Monday, Stoops was asked if he could see Jones’ mistakes ever prompting him to change quarterbacks.
“No,” he said.
Also, he threw cold water on the idea that his team could dictate the pace of the game.
“You have an idea what you’d like to do, but (there are) circumstances in the game you have to adjust to,” he said. “The game affects it. You have to do more or less, depending on how the game is going. Whether it’s fast or not … it’s execution that allows you to move the ball and succeed.”
Can’t rhythm prompt execution?
“To a degree,” he said.
How about change as a concept?
“You’re always tweaking things and trying to play to your personnel,” Stoops said. “Like I’ve said, we’ve got quite a few new pieces that we’re working with.”
But “tweaking” sounds like continuing to grind it out and hoping for the best. It doesn’t sound like coming to terms with the idea that what you’re doing isn’t working.
But he’s the coach.
He can make any alternative a reality.
Only if he wants to.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org
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