The Oklahoma Sooners are going through a philosophy shift on offense heading into the 2013 season. They will be going away from their tradition attack of dropping back to pass the ball 40 times per game that they’ve been so successful with under Bob Stoops to a new, run-oriented offense to better utilize the athletic talents of junior quarterback Blake Bell. However, the change is also happening because Bell doesn’t have the same kind of arm that Oklahoma quarterbacks have tended to have. So for Bell and the Sooners to have success in 2013, the offense will need to keep things simple.
That means that the receiving tree will be pared down, reads will be simplified and passing plays will be set up with play-action much more often in order to take defenders out of coverage as much as possible. Bell is an exceptional athlete, as evidenced by his success in the “Bell-dozer” package in recent years, and by all accounts his passing has improved. However, he just isn’t to the point where he will be able to make all the throws needed to run the Oklahoma offense the way it has traditionally been run.
Instead, Oklahoma would do well to look into a scaled down playbook that emphasizes running a certain number of plays and running them exceptionally well. If they perfect the dive, the zone-read and the sweep plays, they open up the play-action off each of them and give Bell easy reads and throws in the middle of the field where the linebackers have vacated. In time, Bell could develop his passing game to incorporate more of the pro-style throws into his game and add those elements back into the Oklahoma playbook, but until then his confidence, and the Oklahoma offense, will be better served giving him easier looks.
That isn’t to say that a simpler offensive playbook means that the Sooners will be doing less on offense. Plenty of high-powered college football offenses have adopted slimmer playbooks and developed wrinkles off a few basic plays to maximize the talent of their roster. Under former head coach Chip Kelly, the Oregon Ducks did just that to near perfection. Kelly’s offenses would never overwhelm you with formations or route trees, he would simply give his athletes the best opportunity to succeed by paring down the number of plays they had to think about and letting them run loose in the open field.
Oklahoma has an excellent shot at returning to the top of the Big 12 in 2013 thanks to the talent they have returning, including Bell under center. However, the Sooners must avoid over-loading the plate of Bell and just allow him to be the athlete that he is under center. If they can do that, Oklahoma will be a major player down the stretch for the conference title.