Trent Dilfer is not keen on Josh Heupel’s offense at Oklahoma. No, Dilfer thinks it’s “a joke” and “brutal.”
On the surface, Dilfer and Heupel share similarities. Neither put up gaudy statistics quarterbacking their teams, but each did enough to supplement the transcendent defenses playing on the opposite side of the ball. Both were championship winners as result.
Today, Heupel is the offensive coordinator for his alma mater. Dilfer is an ESPN analyst.
Now, ESPN programming is prone to hyperbole and phony outrage is the norm. But Dilfer seemed legitimately incited in his evaluation of the Oklahoma Sooners vis a vis quarterback Landry Jones. Oklahoma was the nation’s No. 15 scoring offense at 38.2 points per game. The Sooners were the fifth most prolific passing team at 4374 yards.
So why the vitriol for Heupel’s play calling?
Dilfer specifically cites Jones often being pulled in red zone situations. OU employed Blake Bell in packages along the goal line, much like Urban Meyer’s use of Tim Tebow with Chris Leak during the Florida Gators 2006 championship run. However, Leak wasn’t a one-time Heisman candidate nor an NFL-caliber quarterback like Jones.
The platoon system is a valid concern, though Dilfer’s assessment that the Oklahoma wide receivers are “brutal” is astounding. Kenny Stills never quite developed into the No. 1 target Ryan Broyles had been before his college career-ending injury in 2011, but Stills was good for 11 touchdowns in 2012.
Oklahoma also had to integrate Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders late in the season, the result of a delayed waiver for his eligibility. Saunders is the explosive play maker in space a spread offense requires.
The Sooners also dealt with an inconsistent running game the last two seasons. Walk-on Dom Whaley showed glimpses of becoming a steady feature back in 2011, but was slowed by injury. Damien Williams was inconsistent as the No. 1 option during the 2012 season.
Heupel stepped into a long shadow becoming Sooners offensive coordinator. His predecessor, Kevin Wilson, helped Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy and a No. 1 draft pick. Wilson’s offensive acumen is so great, he’s made the Indiana Hoosiers, of all teams, proficient.
Before Wilson was Kevin Sumlin. He hasn’t done too badly. In fact, with Sumlin coaching Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M last season, OU has had three offensive coordinators lead a Heisman-winning quarterback in some capacity over the last decade. Chuck Long was the first as coordinator of Jason White.
Heupel hasn’t met the lofty standards of his predecessors, but Dilfer’s assessment is over-the-top.