John Hoover

Ask Hoover: Mike Gundy’s meltdowns, the Jalen Hurts risk, Sam Ehlinger’s NFL hopes, future of the CFP, the transfer portal … and pizza?

Ask Hoover: Mike Gundy’s meltdowns, the Jalen Hurts risk, Sam Ehlinger’s NFL hopes, future of the CFP, the transfer portal … and pizza?

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) rolls out of the pocket vs South Dakota. (The Franchise/Aaron Davis)

Time again for Ask Hoover, my weekly Twitter mailbag where I answer your college football questions.

Amid all the posturing by the state of California legislature and the NCAA over student-athletes’ name, image and likeness — interesting question this morning about that very topic after Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith’s comments in USA Today — there are football games to be played.

Tulsa is off this weekend, but Oklahoma State hosts 3-0 Kansas State. The Cowboys are only a 4 ½-point favorite, and the way new coach Chris Klieman has this team playing, I’m starting to think that’s too much. How many carries does Chuba Hubbard get Saturday night? Forty?

In Norman, the Sooners start Big 12 play with Texas Tech Saturday morning. OU is a 27-point favorite, but that seems like too much for a conference opener. It’s clear new coach Matt Wells has some rebuilding to do; I’m sure he’d rather do it with a healthy Alan Bowman at quarterback. Too bad he’s out.

I’ll be at Tech-OU on Saturday , and in addition to the content here at TheFranchiseOK.com, I’ll have videos up throughout the weekend on my YouTube channel (YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover). Also look for my Franchise “Inside OU” podcast with Rufus Alexander and Brady Trantham, as well as my brand new daily OU podcast, “Locked On Sooners,” part of the Locked oN Podcast Network. And if you’re lucky, maybe you can find me on a guest appearance of the “Come After Me! I’m a Podcast!” with Madysson Morris.

Let’s get to the questions.

 

Just on junior-year speculation, it sounds as though NFL Draft people are liking Ehlinger’s progress. Ask that question two years ago and the answer is a resounding “No.” But Ehlinger has shown the kind of improvement that tells NFL types he’s capable of making tangible improvements to his game.

Ehlinger’s spiral has tightened up, his short throws arrive quicker, and his mechanics are better.

What the NFL will want to know next year is whether he can read a defense of any kind. Texas’ coaching staff has done a good job polishing up his form and his function, but they also do a lot of pre-snap thinking for him. NFL coaches, scouts and GMs will test him on the whiteboard for sure at the combine.

 

I’d say you might be onto something (Chris Klieman at Kansas State says social media is one of the cornerstones of his program — because of how it resonates with young people), but the reality is that Oklahoma State’s recruiting rankings, per Rivals.com, haven’t really changed that much.

Since 2010, the Cowboys’ incoming classes have ranked 31st, 28th, 32nd, 36th, 27th, 38th, 45th, 36th, 35th and 40th. The high-water mark was 27th in 2014. The first full class after winning their only Big 12 title and nearly making the BCS title game, OSU’s class ranked 36th.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

 

Jalen Hurts’ Heisman campaign definitely has the unique element of his history at Alabama. There are a lot of people (some of them Heisman voters, I assume) who hold him in extremely high regard because of what he’s done: win the job at Alabama as a true freshman, lose the job at halftime of the national championship game, transfer to Oklahoma and win the job there.

I do think some voters will have Sooner fatigue and won’t vote for Hurts because of it (it’s their ballot; they can do whatever they want), but I think there may be just as many who approach his candidacy with a sentimentality.

Oh, and let’s not forget, the numbers he’s putting up are absolutely ridiculous. Guy’s completing 80 percent of his passes and is really starting to like the deep ball.

I know he’s currently the “leader” according to straw polls of ESPN and The Athletic’s staffs, but I’m still skeptical. Not saying he doesn’t deserve it. I think maybe, as a Heisman traditionalist, I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around three straight Heisman Trophy winners from the same school.

 

Or John Blake. That would have made college football so much more fun.

 

This isn’t an Ask Hoover question per se, but if you’re an OSU fan, you need to listen to Madysson Morris’ OSU podcast, “Come After Me! I’m a Podcast!” Sure, I came up with the name, and I’ve been on the first two episodes (I covered the last two OSU games for The Franchise), but she’s the star of the show. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts.

 

This is probably the question of the week. I got the sense that Mike Gundy wanted no part of a quarterback sneak (or anything else that might be considered clever) near the goal line at Texas, while Sean Gleeson had the sneak ready to go. Maybe I misread that. Maybe it was Gleeson who called the dive to Chuba Hubbard over and over and over and Gundy just didn’t want to throw him under the bus in the press conference.

Bottom line: OSU’s chances of scoring would have gone up if Spencer Sanders had been allowed to execute a QB sneak on the goal line. I said so before the play, and I remain shocked that OSU instead went with Hubbard, who got 37 hard, physical carries only a week after getting 32 carries.

 

Can’t say I’m an expert on the Chiefs’ offense, though Andy Reid’s been coaching long enough that I don’t think his stuff is that really all that close to Lincoln Riley’s, although to be fair, he’s done a nice job evolving. (Aren’t Eric Bieniemy, and Matt Nagy before him, pretty much play-callers in Reid’s offense?)

Everybody steals from everybody in football, and especially in the NFL (you’ve heard it called a “copycat league), but as far as route concepts and getting receivers into open spaces, I think Sean McVay’s plays in Los Angeles are sometimes direct R&D (in the NFL, that’s ripoff and duplicate) of things that Riley has done.

I actually asked Bill Bedenbaugh about this at the Orange Bowl last year, in regards to a specific route that keeps popping OU receivers wide open. I said I saw the Rams use the same exact play. He basically said, “They got it from us.”

 

To answer the question, no, I don’t. I know the writer who asked. He’s been covering the league for years and has had a distinguished, respected career. He was introduced as representing the Austin American-Statesman, but he also does some freelance work for the Associated Press. I don’t think he was being purposely unprofessional. I do think his question was ill-timed.

But there’s another, more existential question about Monday’s mini-controversy on the Big 12 Conference call down below. Keep reading.

 

Rufus answered this question on Twitter by saying it’s mostly mental. No doubt at all, playing safety at OU is a mental challenge. There’s just a lot to know. Brent Venables used to say it was the hardest position on the field to process. There’s nothing that limits these guys at all physically. They have the skill. I think as they continue to get used to what Alex Grinch asks of them, they’ll become more comfortable mentally and it’ll come easier to them.

 

This is the question I referenced above regarding Mike Gundy’s blowup on the Big 12 teleconference this week.

You make a good point, that all the publicity stunts have actually opened Mike up to questions like this. Yes, it was a bad question, and coming the week after Boone Pickens’ death, it was poorly timed. But maybe the writer in this case thought he’d add some levity to an otherwise dull teleconference by asking about the “report” that originated from a satire website. Gundy has certainly been prone to yukking it up with reporters in the past, no?

I told him at a press conference just last week, after he made a reference to pitching pennies (an illustration of his competitiveness), that he’d stand no chance against me. I also asked him, after he said he lays in bed thinking about certain plays, if he tried Ambien, and he said he takes them every night during football season.

Gundy has an easy-going nature and he can be funny and engaging. Maybe the writer on Monday’s call thought this was the right time for it. (It wasn’t.)

 

Not necessarily. Not for OSU. I still think they’re in that 3-6 group.

I thought TCU was toward the top (3-4) of that group after winning at Purdue, but now I see them more toward the bottom (5-6) after losing to SMU.

The one team that’s definitely better than I thought is Kansas State. I had them finishing 8 or 9, but as of now, they look like a real contender for that middle group.

 

Good question.

You have to like Bridges’ willingness to do whatever gets him on the field. That’s an attitude that will take him far in life — well beyond OU football. Much respect.

But I’m of the belief that this is more a commentary on the performance so far of the Sooners’ safeties. Sounds like Alex Grinch is disappointed in not only the play of the starters, but in the practice performance of the backups. That should be a red flag for OU fans.

 

Right now, the thing this team needed was a proven playmaker on offense. To have the No. 1 offense and the Heisman winner and the No. 1 overall draft pick two years in a row, and then to take a step back with either a middling stop-gap QB or a true freshman QB future star with a big arm would have disrupted the feel-good momentum that Lincoln Riley built in his first two years. That might seem a bit out there, but I think it matters.

OU is good enough to win the Big 12 and make the playoff. This year. Right now. But to do that, and keep that momentum going, they needed a playmaker at QB. They needed a plug-and-play guy. Hurts provides that.

The fact that he’s out of the General George S. Patton School of Leadership is an added bonus. You’d like to have someone like that on your roster for four years, but Riley will take every minute of Hurts’ leadership in 2019.

Is that better than Spencer Rattler’s live arm? In 2019? Absolutely.

 

As much as ever.

This is a question in response to my Twitter announcement that I’ve added a daily OU podcast to my to-do list.

I’ll still be writing the usual fare for TheFranchiseOK.com — game coverage, press conference coverage, Ask Hoover and the occasional feature — and I’m still covering the Big 12 for Sporting News (some cool stuff coming up there, too). And I’ll still be contributing features and profiles on OU student-athletes and coaches for Sooner Spectator Magazine. And next summer (fingers crossed), I’ll still be writing about OU, OSU, Tulsa and the Big 12 once more for Lindy’s preseason magazines, as well as my usual TU preview for VYPE High School Sports Magazine — and whatever other opportunities come through the inbox.

 

Ah. Here we go. Finally, a question about the Sooners’ probable personnel losses.

Earlier this week, The Athletic reported that freshman linebacker Jonathan Perkins, out of San Bernardino, Calif., had entered his name into the transfer portal. Two days later, it was reported that cornerback Starrland Baldwin, from Houston, also had entered the portal.

To answer the question: No. I don’t think their departure hurts the depth. Not in 2019, anyway. These guys were not going to play this year. At all. Baldwin, you’ll recall, got some preseason mention last year but then tore his ACL in training camp and missed all of 2018. He was not listed on the roster when this season began.

But they could have absolutely helped in the future.

Unfortunately, the percentage of incoming freshmen who not only stick it out for four or five years but also make their way into the lineup as a starter or first-rotation player is surprisingly low.

 

Nicholas, thanks for reading, for following and for helping generate conversation.

There’s something to what you’re saying. I think there’s a bravado at play here, in that coaches want to see if their guys can go shoe-to-shoe and play big-boy football and get a yard when they need a yard. To that end, now Mike Gundy and Sean Gleeson know — they can’t. Not against teams like Texas. The Longhorns bullied OSU in the trenches on the goal line and in short yardage.

Now that they know their guys are not going to overpower anyone at the line of scrimmage, Gundy and Gleeson can earn their big paychecks and get creative and go back to work on finding ways to trick the other team for a yard.

 

I like this question. But the reality is that every season at OU since 2001 is looked at as a failure — because there was no national championship. That’s just the nature of the beast that Barry Switzer said must be fed.

Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the games along the way. Sooner Nation has had a ton of fun over the last 19 seasons, right?

To answer the question, yes, Jalen Hurts’ special skill set and personality are worth another Big 12 title and playoff loss — if that’s how it ends. I’m just not sure we can predict that scenario quite yet.

Spencer Rattler’s time will come.

 

It’s just the way offense has evolved in this league. Getting under center is no longer the norm. For some, it’s a rarity.

In regards to OSU, most of those short-yardage plays were under center. But there was no push. Instead, there was a slow-developing handoff.

(And let’s remember, it’s not second-guessing if you actually say before the play, “This is what they need to do.”)

 

A few of my favorites:

Mahogany Prime Steakhouse (bring your wallet), Andolini’s (pizza and calzone), Tally’s Good Food (breakfast).

 

 

You answered your own question. NDSU has made a habit out of embarrassing Big 12 teams. From 2010-2014, the Bison beat Kansas, K-State and Iowa State, as well as a handful of other FBS teams.

Those guarantee games aren’t just money guarantees. They’re supposed to be guaranteed wins, too. That’s a lot of money the “big boys” have paid just to get taken down by an FCS team.

 

That’s precisely the first thing I thought when I saw this, that maybe the Big 12 adding Arizona and Arizona State isn’t really all that far-fetched. It lines up with the expiration of the conferences’ TV contracts, too, so we’ll have to keep an eye on it.

I just had a conversation with a Big 12 athletic director and he assured me that the league was not only content but thriving with its current 10-team model. 

But if California lawmakers meddle with the NCAA rulebook and sign this into law, there’s no telling the long-term, far-reaching ramifications it could have. One of them could be another seismic round of realignment.

 

That Big 12 athletic director also assured me that, although evolution is the nature of all things and it could change in the future, everyone involved is pretty satisfied with the current CFP model of four teams.

So, how close? The contract is in place through 2025, and we won’t see any movement before 2022 or 2023.

The first expansion probably will be to six teams, with five conference champs and a wildcard (deserving conference runner-up or a Group of 5 team that meets some near-impossible threshold).

A more profitable model (many say more equitable; I prefer four teams just because it keeps fan interest at a crescendo for four months) would be to eight, with the standard five champs, two runners-up and one G5 flag-bearer.

The problem with that is the CFP has told us all along (uttering much the same company line the BCS used for so many years) that conference championships are merely a tiebreaker and don’t determine who gets in, there are no auto bids, the-four-best-teams-not-the-most-deserving, blah, blah, blah.

Moving to a model that awards conference champions expressly for being conference champions (like a 10-3 Stanford or a 9-4 Pitt) would pretty much render moot one of the CFP/BCS’s long-held tenets.

 

We’ve already seen two Sooners enter the portal this week (see above). It’s an almost impossible gamble to guess who’s next. And I won’t cast aspersions by suggesting one person or another might do it. If I were in their shoes and working my butt off to climb the depth chart or get a spot on special teams and impress the coaches because I love it at OU and I want to be a player in the future, I sure wouldn’t want some hack like me speculating that they’re about to quit.

But …

I think you can scan the two-deep or even the roster and determine who has played a little but probably won’t play much more this season, or who has played hardly at all even though he has great high school video and all the accolades, and come up with a pretty comprehensive list. (Some of those might have already graduated.) There’s probably about 15-20 guys who fit that bill. But I can’t attest to whether an individual player is unhappy or dissatisfied enough to want to leave.

______

Formerly co-host of “Further Review” and “The Franchise Drive,” columnist John E. Hoover is a college football insider on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover co-hosts The Franchise “Inside OU” Podcast with Brady Trantham and Rufus Alexander, and the Locked oN Sooners podcast on the Locked oN Podcast Network. He also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his YouTube channel at YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover, and his personal page at johnehoover.com.

John Hoover
@JohnEHoover

John Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he was co-host of "Further Review" and "The Franchise Drive." Now he's The Franchise college football insider: Oklahoma's state Heisman rep, a voter in the FWAA Super 16 poll, an FWAA media access liaison, and a Big 12 writer at Sporting News and Lindy's preseason magazine. In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist and won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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