OU football: Will Sooner run game improve?
Bob Stoops is high on his offensive line. Which is a very good sign. Stoops generally has a good feel for his blockers, months before the season opener. Stoops was not overly optimistic about the 2009 line, despite Trent Williams anchoring the unit, but was generally positive going into the 2010 season, when the Sooners indeed were better up front.
“Again I think the improvement in our offensive line overall … has been very noticeable,” Stoops said following the Red-White Game. “Our ability and just being sounder in running the football is something I’ve seen through the entire spring. In particular, I guess in the last half of spring, it’s really improved.”
But have Stoops’ standards slipped. I ran the numbers for the last four seasons on the best stat to measure a running game: Running backs’ average yards per carry. That eliminates quarterback yardage, pro and con, which is tied completely to the passing game. That also eliminates receiver reverses, which is more trickery than machoism.
And OU’s running game the last two seasons has slipped, regardless of how Stoops felt and feels about how his line played.
In 2007 and 2008, when OU had Sam Bradford at quarterback, the Sooner running backs averaged 5.2 yards per carry. In 2009 and 2010, when OU had (mostly) Landry Jones quarterbacking, the Sooner running backs averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
That’s right. OU’s run game really was no better in 2010 than in 2009, despite Stoops’ avowed preference for the play of the 2010 line.
How to explain such numbers? I’ve got two theories.
1. Opposing coaches in 2007 quickly figured out Bradford’s ability and absolutely were clued in to it in 2008. Run, run, run the ball, Sooners, if that mean Slingin’ Sammy B. wouldn’t throw.
2. Opposing coaches didn’t/don’t have the same opinion of Jones. Make Landry Jones beat us, seems to be their strategy. Which Jones mostly didn’t do in 2009 and mostly did do in 2010, witness the well-documented Bedlam and Fiesta Bowl games, when Jones passed OSU and Connecticut silly.
There are other ways to judge offensive lines – namely pass protection, which was vastly better in 2010 than in 2009 for OU. But from a run game perspective, clearly the Sooners the last two years have been about the same.
But with Jones appearing to come into his own, might OU revert back to the 2007 and 2008 levels? Average 5.2 yards per rush is a huge step up from 4.3.
“I’m pleased with the backs, the way we’re running the line, the way we’re blocking people and their technique in what they’re doing,” Stoops said.
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