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A League of Its Own
AUSTIN MURPHY
October 13, 2008
No conference is getting better play at quarterback than the Big 12, whose wide-open offenses are piling up yards and lighting up scoreboards
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October 13, 2008

A League Of Its Own

No conference is getting better play at quarterback than the Big 12, whose wide-open offenses are piling up yards and lighting up scoreboards

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Oklahoma fans got over that by the end of the 2000 season, when southpaw QB Josh Heupel—plucked by Leach from Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah—passed the Sooners to their first national title in 15 years.

Fast-forward to last winter. Having failed to return to that mountaintop, Stoops instructed Kevin Wilson, his offensive coordinator, to have a no-huddle scheme ready for '08. Sam Bradford says his biggest challenge was finding the fine line between "playing at a fast tempo but not letting that tempo affect my thinking as I go through my progression." Learning to remain calm, in other words, while obeying Wilson's mandate to hurry the hell up. Bradford's seamless transition to the no-huddle has not surprised Stoops, who says, "Put it this way: The guy's been here five semesters and he's got one B."

Bradford led the country in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman in '07, and his 36 touchdown passes set an NCAA record for a first-year player. He has already thrown for 18 TDs this season.

As Bradford noted himself not long ago, this is not his father's offense. Literally. As a tackle on the Sooners' 1977 and '78 squads, Kent Bradford opened holes for the likes of Billy Sims and Elvis Peacock. Three decades later the Crimson and Cream is creaming opponents in a radically different way.

Or is it? "What we did at Oklahoma," Leach says, "was much more in line with the program's identity than people realized. Oklahoma ran the wishbone before anybody else, and ran it to perfection. The wishbone is the ultimate distribution offense. You line up with relatively wide splits to spread out the defense, then try to overload 'em and mismatch 'em. You put the ball in everybody's hands and attack from sideline to sideline. That's exactly what we do."

Switzer concurs: "I didn't care whose hands the ball ended up in. I could beat you with my fullback; I could beat you with my halfbacks or my quarterback." Yes, he agrees, it is fair to describe the wishbone as a precursor to the spread. "The difference, obviously, being that they're throwing it, where we handed it off or pitched it.

"Either way, it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch."

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