NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma’s offense under Lincoln Riley is chugging right along even without Baker Mayfield, that much was apparent in a season-opening 63-14 win over Florida Atlantic.
UCLA’s offense, led by Chip Kelly, is very much a work in progress as Kelly works to implement his spread principles during his first season in Westwood.
Saturday, one of the current hotshots among offensive coaches faces off against a coach who innovated the up-tempo spread when the No. 6 Sooners host the Bruins.
Riley understands the growing pains Kelly is going through with his group, as he experienced similar challenges when he brought his Air Raid offense to East Carolina in 2010. The transition was a bit smoother when he brought his much more modified version of the system pioneered by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach to Oklahoma four years ago.
“Getting ’em to believe it,” Riley said when asked the biggest challenge of installing a completely new offense. “They figure out the scheme stuff, probably the small nuances of the scheme is part of it, but I think just building confidence.
“It takes some success to do that … I do think there’s a little bit of a breakthrough that’s got to happen mentally. He (Kelly) has done it more than me, so he would probably know more than me.”
Riley and Kelly have yet to meet, but his fingerprints are on not only the Sooners’ offense, but also in the way Oklahoma prepares.
Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said when his brother, Bob, was the head coach, that Oklahoma used some of Kelly’s late-week practice format. They’ve continued to do some of that under Riley.
Mike Stoops and Chip Kelly have coached against each other before, with Stoops only losing once to Kelly’s Oregon squads, both when Kelly was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator and when he moved to the head coaching role.
“He’s adapted as he’s moved the last two or three places,” Mike Stoops said. “I think you have to adapt to your players and your quarterback and do that they do.”
While most up-and-coming offensive-minded coaches have taken some ideas from Kelly’s offensive schemes, Kelly said he’s also paid plenty of attention to Riley’s quick ride from coordinator at East Carolina and then Oklahoma to head coach.
“We all have great respect for Lincoln and the job that he’s done,” Kelly said. “He’s a fun-to-watch coach.”
The Bruins were short in the season opener as six players were suspended for a violation of athletic department policies. They’ll get some back but others still have more suspension to go.
Defensive back Mo Osling and defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Moses Robinson-Carr will return after missing the opener while tailback Soso Jamabo, tight end Devin Asiasi and center Boss Tagaola will continue to serve their suspensions.
Losing those players figure to slow down the transition to Kelly’s offense.
“We’re not an excuse operation,” Kelly said when asked about his limited roster.
UCLA’s offense might be without one of its top playmakers on the offensive side after Wilton Speight left last week’s loss to Cincinnati with a back injury.
Kelly said Speight did some work Tuesday but didn’t elaborate much
If Speight isn’t able to play, freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson figured to be the starter there.
Thompson-Robinson was 15 of 25 for 117 yards against the Bearcats.
While there is no question who Oklahoma’s starter will be at quarterback, especially after Kyler Murray’s performance last week, Murray’s backup is up in the air after Austin Kendall suffered a leg injury during the second half of last week’s win.
Walk-on Tanner Schafer and freshman Tanner Mordecai would be the options, with Kendall likely sidelined this week.
A week ago, Schafer was the Sooners’ third quarterback, though both Schafer and Mordecai played extensively on the second half.
“It’s a little open-ended,” Riley said.