NORMAN — Any football coach eventually has to make this simple decision: Do they want to create a system and recruit players that fit into it, or will they assess the talent the roster has to offer and run what best fits them?
It has becomes more apparent every season that Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has decided he wants to be in the second group.
“You’ve got to fit whatever you’re doing to your personnel. I’ve been here for three years as a coordinator and for some unforeseen circumstances — or this year you have a change in quarterback and your personnel that you’ve got coming back is different, too — we’ve changed all three years,” Heupel said.
The obvious change this season has been an emphasis on running the ball. OU ran the ball 50 times against Louisiana-Monroe in the 34-0 victory. The last time, it had that many carries was October’s 63-21 rout of Texas. The Sooners spent the entire second half trying to run out the clock after erecting a 33-point halftime lead.
If the trend holds, the Sooners will actually run the ball more than they pass for the first time since 2008.
The running emphasis goes beyond taking advantage of Trevor Knight’s speed and elusiveness.
The last two seasons the Sooners threw it more than 55 percent of the time, but Heupel insists that was what the personnel dictated. Landry Jones couldn’t run, but he was an effective short- to mid-range passer.
It takes experience to put the success or failure on the quarterback’s arm more often than not. It’s a variable OU no longer has at the quarterback position.
Knight’s youth and athletic ability, coupled with an experienced offensive line and three senior running backs and a senior fullback, means a different emphasis.