Lincoln Riley keeps saying things that you want to believe.
Following last Saturday’s 23-16 victory over Nebraska, he said the Sooner offense was “just a tick off.”
It’s hard to believe because the 23 points against the Huskers was Oklahoma’s lowest point output of the Riley era. It seems like the offense might have been a tick off in the seventh, eighth and ninth lowest outputs of the Riley era, but more than that the day it scored less than ever.
“I think there’s a general consensus around our program that we feel like we’re pretty close and probably a little closer than what a lot of people think to really playing some good ball,” Riley said.
You want to believe him because OU’s about to play a good team that plays defense, that’s already beaten somebody — Virginia Tech — better than anybody OU has.
Or, maybe the defense will make it all all right.
Yet, if the offense is to get out of the mud, here’s four things that could help make it happen.
1. Rattler’s comfort: One of the best questions asked Riley this week inquired what the difference has been for Spencer Rattler this season compared to the second half of last season, or is it just a matter of opposing defenses being so much better?
Riley said he sees fewer “bad defenses,” but on the first part of it said it’s “a little bit hard to compare.”
“Our skill positions are radically different,” he said.
Well, they’re not that different. Five of Rattler’s top six receivers — Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Austin Stogner, Drake Stoops, Jeremiah Hall — returned. Wease hasn’t played due to injury, but that’s still a lot of familiar faces.
The running baks are new, though, at least to Rattler, and the line’s been retooled.
Maybe Ratler’s just not comfortable. If he can get comfortable, maybe OU’s off to the races.
2. Who’s No. 1: Everybody wanted to anoint Marvin Mims the No. 1 receiver before the season and you’d have thought his emergence would be propelled by Wease’s absence, not made more difficult.
It hasn’t happened.
Mims leads the Sooners in receiving yards because he leads in yards per catch (21.0) by a wide margin, yet he’s tied for fifth on the squad with eight catches.
Maybe it’s Rattler not finding him or Mims not being findable, or maybe he’s just not the guy. If he’s not, somebody has to be and between Jadon Haselwood, Mario Williams and Mike Woods, none are averaging even 10 yards per catch.
If OU can find a No. 1, it could make a world of difference.
3. Give me an H(-back): Between them, Jeremiah Hall, Brayden Willis and Austin Stogner — OU’s tight end/H-back contingent — have caught 16 passes. Maybe go to them a whole lot more.
Hall has the most catches (8) but the least yards per catch (5.1). It’s the opposite for Willis (3, 20.7). Stogner’s in the middle (5, 11.6), so maybe they do different things.
If no wideout can be your primary guy, create a primary group and let Hall, Stogner, and Willis be that group. Double up the times they’re targeted. At the very least, it ought to open up more deep opportunities.
4. Free Drake Stoops: Here’s OU’s depth chart at Y-receiver, in order: Marvin Mims, Brian Darby, Drake Stoops, yet there is no way Stoops should be No. 3 at any slot. He might be the best blocker among the receivers, Riley gushed about his route-running just this week and he might have the best hands, too.
All he seems to do is make plays when given the chance and, turning his three catches into 14.7 yards per grab, he’s third on the team among anybody with at least that many behind Mims and Willis.
He never fails.
Seems a guy like that could help turn your offense around.