(Photo Credentials: Sports Illustrated)
When various videos of the Sooners would surface in the Summer or during Spring workouts, many of them had a clear message written on their shirts: “ATL.” The goal of the season was to go to Atlanta and grab that eighth National Title. The season started strong, punishing opponents as the norm, but the vaunted Ohio State Buckeyes would truly be the test for the Sooners during the season– how much better had Oklahoma become over one off-season? Lincoln Riley comes out of the Horseshoe victorious and then the Sooners subsequently sleepwalk through much of their schedule until the loss to Iowa State, including close calls vs Texas and Baylor.
Lincoln Riley took his men to Manhattan, KS, get down big and early to the Wildcats; At this point, many thought “this might be it,” as far as Oklahoma’s Big XII Title chances, let alone a CFP Berth. Oklahoma still had opponents such as OSU in Stillwater and TCU in Norman. However, Oklahoma weathered the storm and persevered through some very exciting and nauseating games.
The national narrative was given to OU during the pre-season by Lee Corso: “Pretenders.” Lincoln Riley proved the critics wrong in that aspect, and for a moment, silenced the critics when the Sooners momentarily took a 17-point lead in the Rose Bowl. Of course, Sooner fans know the rest— but it’s to be shown what work has been happening for the Sooners.
Because of Lincoln Riley and this infusion of new blood, and new blood to come, in terms of recruiting, staff, and philosophical approach— Oklahoma could be coming into a new era of success that was seen in Bobby Stoops’ early years upon the Iron Throne in Norman. Yes, Oklahoma loses its team captains: Baker Mayfield, Orlando Brown, Dimitri Flowers, Steven Parker, and Obo Okoronkwo, but they also have been stockpiling talent in the last two years, and including the current recruiting class that’s incoming for 2018.
After the exit of Jerry Schmidt, the Strength and Conditioning Coach, there is truly only a piece or two left from the “Old Stoops Regime.” Lincoln Riley will make the staff as he sees fit, which may trend in the direction of further demolishing the previous regime.
Next season, the Sooners will be fast and explosive on offense…. again. The defense will see many familiar faces, and they should be improved due to depth…. but will the face leading them also be familiar? Regardless, with Riley at the helm, this seems like something special to keep an eye on for years to come.