Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is one of football's most innovative offensive game planners and playcallers. And I love watching how he tweaks his offense to cater to his quarterback.
Yes, he had Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray from 2015 to '18 -- they won back-to-back Heisman trophies and both went No. 1 overall in the NFL draft -- but when you watch the OU tape, you see how Riley helped Murray and Mayfield. Scheming up open-window throws to wide receivers. Using play-action to rip off chunk plays. Moving the pocket to use their athleticism.
Now, with Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts taking over at quarterback, Riley has to tweak his offense to a QB with different strengths. Hurts struggled throwing downfield for the Crimson Tide, even if his numbers looked good on paper. He's a better runner between the tackles than Mayfield and Murray.
So how can the Sooners get the best of Hurts in 2019? I picked out five ways Riley can use the principles of his offense to put Hurts in the best position to succeed. And maybe get OU to another College Football Playoff -- and Hurts drafted in the NFL:
Expand the quarterback run game
Turn on the 2018 tape and you'll see that Riley knows how to get his quarterback on the move to test defenses. Riley's designed QB run packages put Murray on zone reads, lead draws and counters to rip off big gains. Check out this 55-yard touchdown run against West Virginia.
Murray finished the season with 1,001 rushing yards and 12 scores, and the No. 1 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals had 22 runs of 15 or more yards as he helped the Sooners win the Big 12 and make the College Football Playoff.
Hurts has a different skill set and running style, however. Not worse than Murray's, who has electric speed, but different. Riley can expand this package even more because of Hurts' 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame. Think of downhill schemes or runs that hit inside the tackle box in addition to the calls Riley has already put on tape.
Remember, in 2017 -- Hurts' last season as the full-time starter at Bama -- he rushed for 855 yards and eight touchdowns. What's more impressive, though, are the 249 yards after first contact that Hurts racked up. He has some pop in his pads, and he'll push through tackles on the power read, QB power and GT pull. You didn't see Murray run much between the tackles last season, but Hurts' size can be a vital tool in Riley's game plan when the Sooners have the ball in the red zone.
Here's an example of Hurts running the power read scheme to pick up a touchdown versus Ole Miss. It's an inside run with the guard pulling to the playside off the read from Hurts. And we can see the finishing ability here:
Jalen Hurts breaks away from a tackler for the score
Jalen Hurts accounts for his third touchdown with a 10-yard score.
With an Oklahoma offensive line replacing four starters, using the QB run game gives the Sooners an extra man for which the defense has to account. And featuring Hurts as a runner to complement lead backs Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon will help make the Sooners' ground game tough to prepare against.