Year One Returns On OU’s New Coaching Trio

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While many of us who choose to pay enough attention are subjected to the ridiculous over-hyping of the “dream team” assistant coaching staff that new Texas head football coach Charlie Strong has just assembled, Oklahoma just finished reaping the rewards of their three first-year assistants.

Who knows, maybe Strong and his staff eventually live up to the considerable hype being heaped on them by the Texas media and the burnt orange nation (barf). They’re certainly all qualified individuals and as so many down there are quick to remind you, they certainly won’t be hurting for resources be they on or off the field.

Meanwhile after a year of tangible results on the field, Oklahoma fans are no longer hoping that Bill Bedenbaugh, Jay Boulware, and Jerry Montgomery will be able to deliver the goods. The verdict is in and based on that transpired in 2013, it’s a positive one for the Sooners.

Let’s start with Bedenbaugh who came in with a reputation of tough, physical offensive lines which was something many believed this Oklahoma offense was desperate after a tendency to rely too much on passing and finesse to move the ball. The offense lacked an ability to line up, blow the man in front of them off the ball, and pick up those short-yardage gains when everyone in the stadium knew you were going to run the ball.

During the 2012 season, Oklahoma ran the ball 434 times for a total of 2,103 yards. Which translates to a fairly respectable 4.85 yards per carry. Now compare that to this past season where the Sooners had 125 more attempts (559) than last year, over 800 more yards (2,911), and averaged 5.21 yards per carry.

Granted, some of that was as a result of losing Landry Jones and a transition to a more run-oriented offense. But just because you run the football more than you did in the previous year does not necessarily mean you’re going to have more success doing so. Coach Bedenbaugh helped to transform this Oklahoma offensive line into a unit that was capable of helping to produce four 300+ yard rushing performance this past season. A unit that was capable of dominating a much bigger and more powerful Notre Dame defensive front with an incredibly impressive game play that showcased the athletic ability of OU’s interior linemen. A unit that would withstand losing their entire left side at the end of the season and avoid becoming the liability so many feared it might against Oklahoma State and Alabama.

Going forward things are still a bit of a work in progress for Coach Bedenbaugh. While he returns a number of starters and players with experience in 2014, offensive tackle depth is an issue and this is still a line whose strength is pass-blocking and can struggle at times against bigger, more physical defensive fronts.

But all that said, there is no denying the future is a bright one for both Bedenbaugh and the future Oklahoma offensive lines.

It’s hard to talk about Jay Boulware without making reference to the plethora of OU message board goers who were adamant for so many years that the Sooners needed a dedicated special teams coach rather than the collective effort approach Stoops had taken in years past. Of course Boulware also serves as Oklahoma’s tight ends coach, but with that unit being such a small part of OU’s offense most of the focus on the job he did this past season falls on the special teams.

And if you were to just look at the statistics, one might mistakenly assume Boulware’s specials teams underperformed this past season. After all the Sooners finished 118th out of 125 teams in punt returns defended and 101st in kickoffs defended. However, can you recall any point in the season when either would have ever been considered a liability?

Yeah, me neither.

In fact, when you think back to how OU’s special teams performed this past season what comes to mind? Multiple big punt returns from Jalen Saunders, the first blocked punt in god knows how long during that Kansas game, or the Bedlam fake field goal touchdown, or any other number of big plays the Sooners made on special teams. I think you get the point.

Special teams is often an aspect of a game and/or team that can easily get overlooked, but Stoops has always made it a point of emphasis and reaffirmed his belief in doing so when he brought in Coach Boulware to run things. And run them he did.

And what can you even begin to say about the job Jerry Montgomery did this past season. As many of you already know, the Brainiacs were ‘all-in’ with Montgomery for some time and their (along with all of Sooner Nation’s) faith was rewarded with the performance of this OU defensive line.

Because if you’ll recall, prior to the season just about everyone who thought they knew anything about OU football was considering the defensive line to be a potential liability. There was a question as to who would even play and that was well before the transition from the traditional 4-3 scheme, that had become a staple under Stoops, to a 3-4/3-3-5 scheme that virtually no one on staff had any experience with. Including the man, Montgomery, who was coming into his first year on the job at one of the most storied programs in the sport.

It was not a small task being asked of Coach Montgomery and his guys along the defensive line, but over the course of the season they proved more than capable and now look to be the strength of the defense heading into 2014. With multiple potential stars in both Charles Tapper and Jordan Phillips, assuming the latter can make a successful return from mid-season back surgery (with all reports being positive to date). And imagine if Geneo Grissom can build off his performance in the Sugar Bowl where he was virtually unblockable and looked like the dominant pass rusher many projected him to be coming out of high school.

Coach Montgomery has a bunch of young talent to work with going forward and considering what you hear about him as a recruiter and his ability to develop/maintain relationship with recruits there is no reason to believe Oklahoma will be lacking for talent in the foreseeable future.

OU’s coaching trio came in with their own fair share of hype and much to the delight of Sooner Nation, all three lived up to it and OU fans are looking forward to that trend continuing into 2014 and beyond.

We’ll find out relatively soon whether or not Texas fan will be as fortunate.

  • Nathan Brenneman

    honestly hope we can keep these three for SEVERAL years to come, very excited about these guys recruiting prowess and coaching abilities. I’ll even bet TE’s begin to come back into focus for us and we’re running closer to a pro-style offense again very soon

    • ohiosoonerdevildog

      I pray that you are right on both points. And I love the mental make up of this team.

  • ccmosaic

    Great write up. I have been very impressed and pleased with our coaching staff this year. Honestly this may have been the best coaching performance at OU in a very long time. The coaches accomplished two incredible tasks this year – 1. the players bought into the coaches philosophy. 2. The coaches built an attitude in the Locker room that manifested itself on the field (Have each other’s back and never quite.). Very impressed.

  • Ed Cotter

    Great write up Jordan, thanks for giving these coaches the props they so rightly deserve. Looking for even big and better things from them in 2014.

  • Sooner Ray

    Jordan,as always, great insight and thanks for contributing. I have been very impressed with what these coaches have done this year. I love the toughness I see and the organization that we lacked previously. The thing that was real impressive to me was how prepared the backups were when needed. The only weakness that really stood out all year was our lack of bringing people to the ground at the point of attack and that’s a fundamental that hopefully can be corrected. The future looks bright if we can keep coaches like this on staff.

  • ToatsMcGoats

    After the 2011 and the 2012 seasons I began to buy into the idea that Stoops had “lost his passion” and just simply wasn’t “hungry” anymore. People would point to the castle that he lived in, the huge paychecks and assume that he had already achieved what he wanted at OU and was satisfied w/10 win seasons from here on out. It wasn’t until a lOSUr fan told me this that I started to question it, and that’s when it started to seem stupid to me. Stoops has shown to still be quite the spark plug on the sideline, arguing with the refs, his brother, getting into the players faces, being plucky with the media (SEC comments in pre-season come to mind). So, what was different? I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out.

    Stoops has been well known for his “coaching tree” that has produced multiple head coaches. Mangino, Leach, Long, Sumlin, Wilson, and Mikey were all on staff here in Norman and they were good enough to assume HC positions elsewhere. That hasn’t been the case in the more recent years. Although Heuple has been offered, or at least considered for HC jobs in the recent past, Stoops has not turned out any HC candidates in the last few years like he used to. I think this is all starting to change. Stoops hasn’t found his fire, or passion, “or whatever you call it” (in my best Data voice from the Goonies). He finally got the type of asst. coaches that he’s used to having once again. I for one, am well pleased with his selections. I was basically called an idiot on another fan site that shall remain unnamed for saying that Bedenbaugh had transformed our O-line into one that was a viable run blocking line. I actually read someone’s comment that was calling for him to be fired…seriously… Anyway, I think the stats and the season speak for the improvement of this O-line unit. We couldn’t run against UTEP last season. This season we just finished up a game where converted key 3rd and 4th and shorts against ALABAMA. I think that should speak to our improvement across the Offensive line, but, then again, I’m not a coach. I’m just a fan. A HUGE fan of Bedenbaugh’s.

    • Sooner Ray

      I don’t know who would call you an idiot for stating true facts? Anyone watching can see the transformation. I too thought that Stoops went through a period of blandness and thought he had lost his fire and have stated so on other sites but I had never considered the fact that maybe it was his position coaches who were not pulling their weight as being the primary problem. I was very happy when he made the changes but must admit the results were much more than I ever expected. Now the problem is going to be keeping these guys together.

      • ToatsMcGoats

        Agreed. Retention is always a big concern when you have great asst. coaches. The guy that told me I was an idiot is supposedly a coach and, since he was a coach, he knows more than me. This is true. If he is indeed a coach, he more than likely does know more than me, at least let’s hope so for the sake of his players. But he must have a problem with observing the obvious. I posted links to several articles throughout the season that spoke of our new found running ability and the like, and it finally shut him up.

        • Sooner Ray

          I have found that the truth with proof will shut just about anyone up!

  • connie usa

    I’m just concerned that Monty will be offered a DC position (at a different school) within the next few years.

    • Sooner Ray

      Let’s hope that it is a “few” connie because in today’s CFB world, a few is an eternity. We hire coaches away from other schools because they are very talented and other schools are looking at programs like ours for their next coordinators or HC’s. We can’t control it so we have to appreciate their contribution while they’re here. Let’s just hope that our administrators always have the next big replacement on the hook.

      • connie usa

        You are 100% correct!!
        I think this guy is the real deal. I hope that if anyone comes a lookin, then OU makes a financial commitment and he stays for many years.

  • Steve Johns

    With the deep group coming back, this incoming class, and the fast start to ’15, the coaches are getting the talent level back up to where it used to be. In the 70’s, the 3’s would be starters on just about any other team. Boomer Freakin Sooner!

    • Sooner Ray

      You got that sh%t right! Looking forward to history repeating itself.

  • Shifty

    On the 4th and 1 against Bama didn’t the announcers say “this is most likely a pass play” or something like that? They thought there is noway that we would try to run the ball against the mighty beast on 4th and short..Man this offseason is going to be so good..this season reminds me of Bob’s first season here where we made steady improvements on season before w Blake and then the next year we run the table…here’s to hoping!!

    • Sooner Ray

      They basically said there’s no way OU runs a play here, they’re just trying to draw them off…..Ball snaps………WOW, they’re running it……FIRST DOWN! as they all hit their heads on the back of the press box in amazement! HAHAHAHA, I’m lovin’ it.

  • Jack Durrett II

    I think Stoops was loyal to his assistants too long before he finally decided to make changes. He needs to remember to be loyal first to the university that pays him and to the players on his teams THEN to his assistants. He is loyal to a fault.