Lincoln Riley knows a thing or two about offense. Setting school, and conference, records with Heisman winning quarterbacks has been his thing since taking the helm of the Oklahoma Football program. His 2018 offense led the nation in both scoring (48.4 points per game) and yards (570.3 yards per game), setting the bar pretty high in terms of expectations for 2019.
However, Riley is facing something with his 2019 offensive that he’s yet to deal with as Oklahoma’s head coach. The Sooners are looking at a near total offensive line rebuild this fall and their progression to becoming a cohesive unit will most likely be the key to success on that side of the ball.
That one little nugget isn’t affecting Riley’s confidence though. “We don’t plan on the offense dipping,” Riley said when asked specifically about that at Big 12 Media Day on Monday.
The Sooners return one of the best receiver/tight end duos in the country in CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra. They’ll also have one of the most experienced and explosive running back duos in the nation as well with Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. To top it off, the most prestigious transfer quarterback in the history of college football will be barking out the signals. What’s not to love about the potential of this offense?
Yet there’s still the question marks about four new offensive linemen. “I’d rather just be replacing three or two,” Riley said on Monday. “It’s four good ones, too.”
Of course during Oklahoma’s four-year run as Kings of the Conference churning out NFL talent on the offensive line has been a constant. The Sooners just haven’t done it four at a time like they did this last spring.
Replacing one NFL caliber lineman with another has made Bill Bedenbaugh a legend in Norman and a nightmare to go head-to-head with on the recruiting trail. Still though, 2019 will be the truest test of his offensive line depth since he took over coaching that unit in 2013.
“Individually there’s no question in my mind that we have plenty of good enough players to play offensive line this year,” Riley said. “Now the key is getting them all to come together and play as one, and that’s the hardest thing. That’s why we don’t see that many great offensive lines year in and year out. It’s such a challenge.”
One guy who is stepping up to that challenge is Preseason All-Conference center Creed Humphrey, who is the only returning starter from last year’s line. He knows what the expectations are at Oklahoma and says that everyone else is fully aware as well.
“You don’t come to the University of Oklahoma and not be ready to accept that challenge,” Humphrey said. “We’ve always put out great offensive lines and great offensive linemen and they are expected to do the exact same thing.”