Is Oklahoma’s offense going to be just as good with Jalen Hurts at quarterback? Lincoln Riley sure thinks so.
The Sooners have won the Big 12 in each of the last four seasons and are the preseason favorites to win again in 2019. But there’s a lot to replace on offense. In addition to Hurts taking over for 2018 Heisman winner Kyler Murray and first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown now in the NFL, Oklahoma has to replace four of its five starting offensive linemen from 2018.
Riley doesn’t expect any drop off. And he anticipates the defense will be a lot better than it was a year ago.
“We don't plan on the offense dipping,” Riley said Monday at Big 12 media days. “The second part of that, we definitely expect our defense to be better. I don't think there is any doubt. That's why we have recruited as hard as we have. That's why we made the changes on the coaching staff that we've made.”
“As we feel like there is going to be positive results behind that. What we have been able to see behind the scenes up to this point get you encouraged and excited that both those things will happen. The expectations are very high on both sides of the ball and we feel like we've got the right people in place to meet those expectations.”
Oklahoma’s offense became the first in FBS history to have a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers in 2018. A repeat of that seems unlikely, no matter how optimistic Riley is.
That record-setting offense powered by Murray, the no. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff in spite of a defense that gave up over six yards per play and 33 yards per game.
Ruffin McNeill replaced Mike Stoops as the team’s defensive coordinator when Stoops was fired in August. And now Alex Grinch, the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2018, takes over as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator in 2019. If Oklahoma’s offense does take a step back in the upcoming season, it’s not going to take much defensive improvement to make up for it.
“We haven't played our best defensively consistently through the years but in a lot of big games, including the last one [at AT&T Stadium in Arlington], we've played pretty darn good,” Riley said. “We've got to do that more consistently to make ourselves a better team and we feel like we've taken the steps to do that.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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