When coaching matters…

As a pretty good player that became a pretty decent coach, I can tell you from experience that coaching matters…I love baseball and/or softball where smarts matter. Out coaching the other guy can be very gratifying.

The OU baseball/softball tandem of coaches perfectly illuminates the importance of coaching in these sports. As I noted in an earlier blog, OU baseball coach Pete Hughes led with his heart by playing part time player and automatic out Kyler Murray against Texas.

That loss sent the Sooners into a tail spin that has produced ten losses in the last 12 games. The baseball team went from a #9 ranking and a regional host to being a bottom feeder team in the Big 12 Conference.

The antithesis of Pete Hughes is OU softball coach Patti Gasso. Gasso always does what is best for her team, regardless of how her moves can upset a player or a parent. She never shows favorites. Players either perform or they are shown the door.

Last season, the Missouri and Oklahoma players of the year failed to get ‘er done as Paige Parker’s backup and both are now pitching in the B league.

Taking their place is the other Paige (Lowery) who will now get more innings as she develops into a solid backup for Parker. Never resting on her laurels, Patti Gasso has pitchers committed far into the future. She has pitchers still pitching in junior high lined up to become future Sooners.

While I love the speed of the softball game, I also love college baseball and would love to see OU good again. At this point, I am not sure Pete Hughes is the answer.

Thankfully for Sooner fans, as baseball remains in limbo, Patti Gasso continues to fire out College World Series contenders. After a slow start the Sooners have won 18 of 19 and are poised for another run at the series. Can you imagine Patti Gasso jeopardizing this momentumm by playing favorites? Not likely.

The good news is that Patti Gasso’s office is right down the hall from Pete Hughes. Possibly, she can stop by some day and give Pete a quick tutorial on how to win championships.

Boomer Sooner…

Changing the OU Culture…

As a disclaimer to this blog, I must make a confession.   By religiously following recruiting I sometimes fall prey to overestimating Sooner talent.

I was certainly guilty of this fact last year. I felt comfortable that OU’s name players could play with Ohio State.   As we know the Sooners got schooled by the Buckeyes in that one and yes, I overestimated OU’s talent.

As a result of this confession, I will understand if you want to dismiss my opinion on the 2017 Sooners.

If not, here we go…

I really like this OU team…I believe the football culture has changed in Norman and as a result, I believe this OU team has a chance to be really good.

Several things have happened to make this happen. First and foremost, Bob Stoops jettisoned his albatross Josh Heupel.   Heupel was holding back not only the football program; he was killing Bob’s chance of taking his place alongside Bud and Barry.

Top-flight prospects hated Josh and the ones he convinced to come to OU hated him even more once they arrived in Norman.

Secondly, Bob rebooted the program by retooling his coaching staff.  Not only have the Sooners struck gold in terms of the new coaches, the program has hit paydirt in terms of recruits and the development of those recruits into quality players.

To underscore this point, we had a solid group of recruits in 2016 and a top ten class in 2017…It appears that OU is on the verge of another top ten class in 2018. Many of the 2017 recruits went through spring practice and are now competing for positions.

It traditionally takes a staff three years to turn things around and yes, you guessed it this will be this staff’s third year.

The final reason for my confidence is the fact that the OU administration’s financial support of the program is finally paying off.   The facility upgrades appear to be a hit with more and more top flight recruits.

National Championship banners only impress recruits when they are underscored by 21st century facilities that can produce a banner for the new guys.

As a former school administrator I can personally attest to the value of an organization’s culture. Organizations are either moving forward or backward, there is no such thing as staying put. This OU program is moving forward, hopefully at warp speed.

Call me crazy, but I really like the makeup of this team…while the early Ohio State date bothers me, I really believe the Sooners will match up against the Buckeyes much better than last year. Play the Buckeyes close and the rest of the Big 12 season will take care of itself…

Call me a homer, but please call me an educated homer…The 2017 Sooner team has a chance to be really special…

Boomer Sooner…

Pick a lane…

Kyler Murray is a better than average baseball player. He is an excellent football player. I just wish he had picked a lane before this weekend.

Having a part time baseball player, particularly one as raw as Murray on a college baseball team seldom turns out well. I wish coach Pete Hughes had figured this out before the Texas series.

It appears that coach Pete Hughes felt compelled to pencil Murray into the lead off position on Friday night. After all, he had to justify having Murray flown special deliver to Austin for the game and then back to Norman the next day for the Spring Game.

Murray responded by being an automatic out for the pivotal 1st game of the series. The Friday night loss led to another one on Saturday.   The Sooners eked out a win on Sunday, but the damage was done.

The ton of momentum that the Sooner baseball team had built over the past two months was effectively snuffed out. In the wink of an eye the Sooners who had been projected as a regional host at the beginning of the week became a team fighting to remain relevant in the Big 12 race.

Making matters worse is that that same Kyler Murray flew back to Norman Saturday morning where he starred on the football field. This kid can be a special football player for the Sooners. He just needs to pick a sport and dedicate himself to that sport…

Kyler Murray and the Sooner Nation would be better served with Murray using his 4.4 speed on the football field instead of sprinting to catch flights for baseball games.

I wish he had picked a lane before the Texas baseball series…

Boomer Sooner…

 

Final Four…

With the Sooners taking a sabbatical from this year’s basketball season and with my bracket ripped to shreds, I had to search long and hard for reason to watch this year’s final four.

I found that I could scratch that itch by watching Oregon’s Payton Pritchard in this year’s final four. Yes, I know the five star athlete jilted us last year as he de-committed from OU to choose the other OU in Eugene, but that is life.   In the end, he chose a girl friend over Lon Kruger, which I can live with, especially after we got Trey Young…

Payton’s dad is the ex-Moore High School and OU football player, Terry Pritchard.   Dr. Tamage remembers Terry as the best football physical specimen to ever don a Moore High School football uniform. I remember Terry as the guy that saved an American Legion baseball season.

As a 6’5” 220 pound sophomore this guy was a monster on the mound. With the “Wild Thing” throwing aspirins for fastballs, hitters would duck for cover.  I knew down deep that his real sports were football and basketball, but I also knew that that kind of raw talent does not come along every day in any sport.     As a team we rode Terry Pritchard’s arm to state that year.

While, Terry’s son Payton and his Ducks will not make it to the final two this year, he looks like a chip off the old block.

As teachers and coaches we live vicariously through former students and players or in this case their children. 

This is the upside of being older than dirt.

 

The way too early football predictions for 2017

After the basketball season from hell, it is time for OU fans to focus our attention on football.

Yes, OU lost some difference makers on offense, but that is why OU recruits nationally every year. With Baker at the helm and the entire offensive line and Lincoln Riley returning, I expect the offense to be churning by the Texas game.

Prior to that game the Sooners will have to rely more on the defense, which as we know has sucked of late. Don’t expect a miracle in Columbus, but by the Texas game I expect the defense to be much improved.

Someone finally clued in Mike Stoops to the realization that a 3-4 alignment could not create a pass rush.   By recruiting able-bodied defensive linemen, the defense can now return to the defensive look that made us famous.   I also believe that we will see more of Caleb Kelly this year, which will be a very good thing.

According to ESPN, OU and OSU will battle it out for the Big 12 championship and Alabama, Florida State, USC and the Big Ten winner will make up the playoffs teams. On paper, I would agree with their findings, but thankfully the game is not played on paper.

The key for OU is to not get blown out in Columbus and take care of its Big 12 business. The Big 12 championship game will be same weekend, as the Big Ten game so if OU can impress the committee on that weekend OU will have a legitimate shot at the final four.

OSU will be good again as T. Boone has financed the latest set of triplets to return to Stillwater. Here is the thing however. The past few years OSU has lived the Life of Riley with no injuries. It is no secret that a big part of reason has been its powder-puff schedule.

This could change in 2017, as the Cowboys will fact a tough Tulsa team in its home opener and then go on the road for two games. One of those games will be played against a physical Pittsburgh team.

If the Cowgirls can avoid injuries in all three of those games and beat an improved Texas team in Austin, I will give them their due. Regardless of this fact, in order for the Ags to win the Big 12 and make it to the final four, OSU must beat the Sooners twice in one season. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I don’t see that ever happening.

Below I have listed The ESPN “way too early” Big 12 and national rankings…

1…..OU (#8)

2…..OSU (#10)

3…..Kansas State (#17)

4…..West Virginia (#22)

5…..Texas (#23)

The ESPN “way too early” Top 25…

1…..Alabama

2…..Florida State

3…..USC

4…..Ohio State

5…..Penn State

6…..Clemson

7…..LSU

8……OU

9..…Washington

10….OSU

11…Auburn

12…Wisconsin

13…Clemson

13…Georgia

14…Michigan

15…Stanford

16…Miami

17….Kansas State

18…Louisville

19…Colorado

20…USF

21…Washington State

22….West Virginia

23….Texas

24…BYU

25…Virginia Tech

 

 

 

 

Stunner in Stillwater…

About the time I think we are through with basketball for this year, OSU lays an egg and gives me another plot line.

The best basketball coach to hit Stillwater since Eddie Sutton has decided to move on…. More importantly, for OU fans the guy who single-handedly turned the tables on OU in one season is leaving. What the heck happened?

Could it be that recruiting players to the middle of nowhere was harder than expected? Or, possibly, Underwood decided at age 55 that he did not want to spend his twilight years playing 2nd banana to Mike Gundy?  Or could it be that T. Boone was not getting enough T.V. time and became disenchanted with basketball?

Regardless of the reason/s, Underwood is off to coach the Fighting Illini and in my opinion, good riddance. This guy can flat out coach…He coached a rag-tag Sam Houston State team to the sweet sixteen last year and got OSU into the tournament for the first time in a decade.

As soon as Travis Ford was fired last year, I knew Brad Underwood would be the next OSU coach and unfortunately I was right.   The good news is that his stay on the Swine Farm was short lived.

While I know T. Boone has a bottomless pit of money, I also know he has an ego that has to be constantly stroked by his coaches.  He expects everyone in Stillwater to kiss his ring and if a head coach hesitates the least bit they are done.

Underwood’s asking price of $3 million dollars combined with Travis Ford’s $2 million dollar yearly buyout may have been more than T. Boone was willing to pay without Brad Underwood’s undying affection.

When you sell your soul to the devil, you serve at the devil’s pleasure.  OSU sold their soul to T. Boone and as a result the move just caught them a really good coach.

In any case, OU fans will take it…we have Lon Kruger who is his own man and we are okay with that.   More importantly, OU basketball will be alive and well next season while OSU breaks in another new coach.

That is why the call them Aggies…

Boomer Sooner…

 

 

 

 

From 4th to 163rd

OU has gone from 4th to 163rd http://www.teamrankings.com in the span of one year. The Sooner basketball train wreck actually started last year as the Sooners suffered a record 44 point loss to Villanova in the final four. Not to be outdone this Sooner bunch lost a record twenty (20) times this year.

Mercifully the season came to an end with a twenty-point loss to lowly TCU. The Lon Kruger that we have come to adore is currently mired in one of the worst streaks in college basketball history.

The excuse used by many OU fans is that this team is incredibly young.   That may be true, but the guy making $2 million dollars a year must own this one.   He knew the team would be young last year and did little to rectify the matter. Transfers and juco players have to be recruited to fix issues created by youth.

Making matters worse is the fact that T. Boone saw the Sooner meltdown coming and pulled the plug on Travis Ford. He replaced OU’s best friend with a real basketball coach.   Going into this season OU owned OSU. That mindset has evaporated in just one season.

The saving grace for Sooner fans comes in the form of the most unlikely of candidates. Five-star recruit Trae Young spurned both OSU and Kansas to play for the Sooners. Chalk this one up to Sooner Magic.

Ironically, Trae Young’s signing with a downtrodden OU team reminds me of some to blue chip players that signed with John Blake’s sinking ship. It was crazy then and to be perfectly honest it was crazy for us to get Trae Young. The difference of course is that Lon Kruger has a clue and John Blake did not.

With the entire team back next year along with a much needed triggerman in Young, possibly the Sooners will make a 180-degree turn and make history in the other direction.

That would certainly make March a lot more fun…

Boomer Sooner