A look at the unique impact the Sooners are having on America’s favorite pastime.
Remember Baker Mayfield? A lot has happened in the football world at the University of Oklahoma since the Heisman Trophy winner, and number one pick overall in the 2018 NFL draft, carried his legacy to lift a defunct Cleveland Browns football team out of the doldrums in his rookie year. Notably, another OU Quarterback, Kyler Murray, kept the torch in the OU camp by winning the Heisman Trophy again before going number one overall in the 2019 draft to the Arizona Cardinals. Not bad Sooners…
Now, with another full season of OU football behind us, we are seeing some interesting parallels with Murray. The Cardinals Head Coach, Kliff Kingsbury, had the bird’s eye view on Murray through his standout high school career. Kingsbury, who had been the Head Coach of the Texas Tech program, and Murray got to know each other well through the recruitment process before fate would lead them in different directions. With Kingsbury having the overall number one draft choice for the upcoming season it was no surprise who his preference would be. Indeed, it would have been no surprise to see Murray be anyone’s first pick, but this match has a ring of destiny to it. No doubt, anticipation is high, and it is going to be a lot of fun to watch what they do.
Speaking of those two Heisman winners who went as the first overall pick in the NFL draft two years in a row, it is worth celebrating that this all happened under the first two years of Lincoln Riley taking over as the Head Coach. To that point, Riley’s first two seasons have been legendary as he went 11–1 through regular season play, won the BIG 12 Championship and made it to the College Football Playoffs both years.
While many Sooner fans are a bit torn about coming so close two years in a row the fact remains the Riley is achieving some historic accomplishments. Further, Sooner fans should be encouraged to see that Riley is not staying satisfied with the status quo. It is no secret that while the Sooners had an immensely powerful offense, the defense seemed to go in the opposite direction. And as successful as the Sooners have been, it’s been a frustration to fans wondering what might have been had the defense has been more adequate. It doesn’t seem that Sooner fans will have to ask that question again in 2019.
During the off-season, Riley hired Alex Grinch, the celebrated Co-Defensive Coordinator from the 13–1 Ohio State Buckeyes. Riley is quoted as saying, “Alex has an outstanding track record as a defensive coach and a defensive coordinator, He’s been one of the most sought-after guys in the country here the last couple of years, especially for the work that he did at Washington State. Taking that defense where he did in a short amount of time is one of the best coaching jobs in the country over the last several years.”
Much like the duo of Murray and Kingsbury, the addition of Grinch to the Sooner coaching staff is cause for a highly anticipated season, and the defense should be fun to watch this year. But how do you build on offense after two Heisman Trophy-winning Quarterbacks two years in a row? You do it by making history.
Jalen Hurts had a 26–2 record as a starter at Alabama. Through a series of events, he lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa, the eventual Heisman runner up to Murray in 2018. Hurts is an immensely talented quarterback and rather than spend his senior year at Alabama he has transferred to OU, and something historic seems to be in the making.
Someone of Hurts’s talent being replaced as a starter is virtually unheard of. But what a great fortune for the Sooners, because it gave, Hurts a top tier program where he could go and get full use of his talents. Replacing a string of Heisman winners sounds impossible, but it is happening for the Sooners. So after two legendary years, could there be a chance for the OU Sooners to do it again? Is there a chance they could do more?
Sooner fans can’t wait to find out.
Author, Business Development
Lee Brennan has worked across a broad spectrum in his career ranging from journalism, culinary arts, ministry and living the life of an entrepreneur. Currently residing in Tulsa, OK where he is raising his beloved daughter, and enjoying life with his friends and family, Lee is driven by a love for people and a passion for telling great stories.
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