NORMAN — Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay was asked about the offense this week. He believes the group is a few “tweaks” from becoming explosive.
The running game is on track, but OU’s ability to throw the ball, which has long been the offensive pillar, is what requires modification.
It would be easy to lay the struggles in the first two games on redshirt freshman Trevor Knight. His accuracy and decision making were far from perfect. The 43.8 percent completion percentage (21-for-48) for 205 yards illustrate the struggles.
Throwing the ball is a three-part process: protection, delivery and reception.
The Sooners have allowed three sacks, which is far from perfect. But the play of the receivers is what has to be elevated.
“We have to continue to push forward with even with receivers,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
The passing game has gone through a bigger overhaul than the quarterback since last January. One aspect the coaches point to is Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard both playing the outside receiver spots after both spent last season playing in the slot.
In terms of lining up, it just means moving about five yards farther away from the ball.
But routes are different on the outside and so are the defenders covering them. Slot receivers tend to feast because they go up against linebackers and safeties. Outside receivers go head-to-head with cornerbacks. They’re usually faster and physically more adept at running stride for stride with speedy receivers.
Still, the changes shouldn’t have thrown the passing as far off track as it has. In the West Virginia game, there were several instances of receivers running the wrong routes or missing audibles.
“There’s some growth that needs to happen there,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “We hoped it wouldn’t be as much as we’ve seen before. Hopefully, it will be better.”