In this week's Take Two, we examine which new coordinator will make the biggest impact in his first year in the Big 12.
Take 1: Brandon Chatmon -- Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley
Riley will have a huge impact on Oklahoma. Recent years at Oklahoma State (2010) and TCU (2014) have shown the immediate impact Air Raid-style offenses can make on a program.
Dana Holgorsen brought his version to the Cowboys and coordinated an offense that finished in the top 10 nationally in points (44.2, third), yards (518.8, fourth) and yards per play (6.86, ninth) as OSU went 11-2 in 2010. At TCU, Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie brought their version to Fort Worth, Texas, and managed an offense that finished top five in points (46.5, second) and yards (533, tied for fifth) during a 12-1 season.
Riley can have a similar impact at OU. The Sooners offense let them down a year ago, despite leading the Big 12 in rushing with 261.15 rushing yards per game in 2014. The passing game was not a threat, with a lack of balance allowing teams to focus on slowing the running game.
Riley should change the one-dimensional nature of OU’s recent offensive attack. Samaje Perine should remain a huge part of the offense but the nature of Riley’s Air-Raid style offense should bring balance and make OU much harder to beat in 2015. Even though uncertainty reigns at the quarterback position, Riley will find a way to make the offense more balanced and productive in 2015 than it has been during the past two seasons.
If the Sooners' personnel -- from top to bottom -- adjust quickly to Riley’s system and return to the explosiveness that became the norm during the Sooners’ dominant stretch of Big 12 titles in the late 2000s, OU could return to double-digit wins in the fall.
Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Texas Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs
Riley could very well give the Oklahoma offense a major boost with his Air Raid attack that was so prolific at East Carolina.
Except, Oklahoma’s offense wasn’t so bad last year. The Sooners actually finished third in the conference in scoring, trailing only the offensive juggernauts of TCU and Baylor, which ranked first and second nationally in points per game. In three of their losses, the Sooners scored 33, 30 and 35 points. Though the staff changes ultimately came on the offensive side, defense -- specifically defending the pass -- was the team’s biggest issue.
There’s no getting around Texas Tech’s biggest issue last year. Sure, the penalties and turnovers were killers. But Tech also fielded one of the worst defenses in Big 12 history. In fact, dating back to 2002, only the 2011 Jayhawks gave up more points per game than the 2014 Red Raiders. The argument could be made that Tech’s run defense, which allowed a whopping 260 yards per game, was the worst the Big 12 had ever seen. Some of that was lack of talent. Much of it was due to the turmoil on that staff, which included coordinator Matt Wallerstedt resigning in September.
Coming off a disastrous 4-8 season, Kliff Kingsbury had to get a proven play-caller who could stabilize the defensive side of the ball. He landed just that in Gibbs, whose confident calmness has already been a boon to the program this offseason.
The Red Raiders aren’t going to turn into the ’85 Bears overnight. But if his track record is any indication, Gibbs will have his players in the right gaps and in the right coverages. They’ll force turnovers and limit big plays. And if they do nothing else, they’ll be much improved from last year.
Riley could -- and probably will -- make a huge splash in Norman. But no coordinator stands to make a bigger impact for his team than Gibbs.