Tuesday, January 27, 2009
January 19, 2009
By David Fox
The path to this season's national championship game began almost as soon as Florida and Oklahoma closed their 2007 seasons with embarrassing bowl losses.
Oklahoma came within nine points of the school scoring record with freshman quarterback Sam Bradford in 2007, but Bob Stoops wanted more out of the offense. He tasked coordinator Kevin Wilson with reviving the no-huddle offense he ran in a previous stop at Northwestern.
DeMarco Murray was one of two 1,000-yard rushers for Kevin Wilson's offense in 2008.
At Florida, coordinator Charlie Strong didn't need to tweak any schemes. His young defense was torched for 524 yards by Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, and Strong's task was to repair the confidence of his defense and prepare it to keep up with the Gators' high-powered offense.
Though Strong would come out on top in Florida's 24-14 win for the BCS title, both coordinators succeeded wildly during the 2008 season, earning Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Year honors.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR OF THE YEAR: Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma
Barry Switzer used to brag about hanging half a hundred on opposing defenses. Wilson isn't as boastful, but his offense had no problem reaching that plateau.
In the Big 12, the best offensive league in the country, the Sooners stood above the pack. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma's fifth Heisman winner, helped the Sooners score 716 points - the most in college football's modern era. The Sooners were the first team to score at least 60 points in five consecutive games and were the first team to have a 4,000-yard passer (Bradford) and two 1,000-yard rushers (Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray).
Oklahoma returned the makings of a potent offense. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman. Despite losing senior Allen Patrick, Brown and Murray would make up a deep backfield. Three of the top four receivers returned, including standout tight end Jermaine Gresham. The offensive line would be one of the most experienced in the nation. Still, Stoops wanted an additional edge. He wanted the offense to push the tempo of the game.
An assistant to the late Randy Walker at Miami University and Northwestern, Wilson had experience with the no-huddle offense. The Sooners had tinkered with it in past seasons, but it never stuck. This season, with nine returning starters, Oklahoma's offense was ready for the tweaking.
"With returning players it gave us a comfort level," Wilson said. "We were taught this when we first did this – kids learn what you could teach. If you can teach it, they can learn it."
Wilson and his staff taught it well.
The Sooners led the nation with 79 offensive plays per game, averaging nearly 10 more than they did in 2007. Despite the eye-popping numbers – the Sooners led the nation with 51.1 points per game and were third with 547.9 yards – Oklahoma protected the football and protected the quarterback.
The Sooners gave up only 11 turnovers, tied for the fewest in the nation with Baylor, which played two fewer games than Oklahoma.
Oklahoma also was third in the nation with just 0.93 sacks allowed per game. The teams ahead of the Sooners were Air Force and Navy – two option-based teams.
"We're more proud of the fact that we played sound and clean," Wilson said. "We didn't talk about style points with these guys. These guys were having fun and heaving success, and it kept snowballing."
Past offensive coordinators of the year
2007: Dave Christensen, Missouri
2006: Gus Malzahn, Arkansas
2005: Al Borges, Auburn