John Hoover

Ask Hoover: Where are OU’s freshmen? Sooners’ second half? Playoff chances? Where’d the defense go? And Rudolph v. Garrett

Ask Hoover: Where are OU’s freshmen? Sooners’ second half? Playoff chances? Where’d the defense go? And Rudolph v. Garrett

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) hits Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) with a helmet during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

From an Oklahoma win that felt like a loss to Myles Garrett assaulting Mason Rudolph last night in Thursday Night Football, this week’s Ask Hoover has it all.

No. 10-ranked OU faces a big game tomorrow night in Waco against No. 13 Baylor, but I honestly don’t think this will affect the Sooners’ postseason ambitions win or lose. The best this team can do at this point is win a Big 12 championship and go to the Sugar Bowl, and both of those can be accomplished no matter who walks out of McLane Stadium with a victory. That’s how big a hit OU’s playoff hopes took when they blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead and nearly lost at home to Iowa State last week.

But hey, beat Baylor and this Sooner squad can still do something that’s been done only one other time in program history: win 13 games.

Oklahoma State hosts Les Miles on Saturday afternoon. That should be fun.

And Tulsa has the week off after taking down UCF last week.

Be sure and check out The Franchise “Inside OU” podcast with me, Rufus Alexander and Brady Trantham, and if you prefer OU football and basketball in a daily, bite-sized podcast, take a listen to my “Locked On Sooner” podcast every Monday-Friday. Both are available wherever you get your podcasts.

It’s a big blog today, so let’s get to the questions.


First, as’s Bob Przybylo pointed out on Twitter this week, Oklahoma now has lost five WRs/DBs from that 2018 class, most into the transfer portal. They left because they weren’t playing, simple as that. And if they weren’t playing, they must not have been good enough to play.

Which reflects on the coaches and talent evaluators who recruited them. That’s a whole class of DBs that never helped the team.

Second, if Woodi Washington and Jeremiah Criddell and other freshmen showed in practice they were good enough to deliver in games, then I’m certain they would be getting some playing time. Grinch says they’re not ready yet.


It’s getting close. Ask me again on Saturday night.


I didn’t frame-by-frame it, but everything looked above board.


Did that on Twitter, on my blog and on my podcast this week.


Looked to me like Oklahoma got conservative if not complacent with a few play calls, which you’d expect with a 21-point lead. OU should be able to move the ball up and down the field against Iowa State with conservative and even predictable play-calling.

I can’t say for sure, but there was a lot of talk about the stadium losing energy when the team went up by 21 and the fans emptied out. I mean, why would you play hard or not play hard based on whether the stadium is loud?

Also, Iowa State went into catch-up mode on offense. For some reason I don’t think OU expected it quite that soon. Which is also kind of baffling.


Yeah, I addressed this above. He’s listed as a co-starter on the weekly depth chart – he “OR” Brendan Radley-Hiles will start at nickelback — but Criddell has played only three games this year and hasn’t been on the field in the last two games, which is kind of when he might have been needed.


They don’t.


The line has its issues, for sure. Couple that with Hurts’ lack of trust — either in them, in his receivers, or in his own arm — and the receivers don’t get a lot of action compared to years past. Nine games in and I really think Lincoln Riley is trying to figure out what Hurts can do well and what he needs to stay away from.


Yeah, it could get silly. If Spencer Sanders doesn’t turn the ball over, Oklahoma is not stopping Oklahoma State. And I’m pretty confident that no matter what plays Lincoln Riley calls, Oklahoma State won’t stop Oklahoma.


You hit on the two guys who have pretty much disappeared in these last two games. That’s the surprising part, is that they were both named midseason All-American, and then the last two weeks they’ve had little to no impact. It’s a mystery.

After last week, I agree that a fifth straight Big 12 title is about as good as this team can do in 2019.


Addressed it above. He and Alex Grinch say Criddell and other freshmen are doing fine, but just aren’t ready to play yet.

“I think we’ve got a number of guys that are right on the edge right now,” Riley said Monday. “… We’ve worked hard behind the scenes to develop those guys. A lot of those guys are doing some things that really get you excited. For them, it’s a matter now of getting the opportunity and being ready to jump in and seize it.”


No, Kenneth Mann is not a candidate for medical redshirt.

One, he’s played in six games this year. That exceeds the NCAA limit of 30 percent of a team’s games to claim a medical hardship.

Also, he already took a redshirt without injury during his freshman year, so he’s not able to appeal for a sixth year of eligibility. You’re able to get that only if you lose parts of two seasons to injury.


I don’t. If it was Oklahoma at 9-0 and Baylor at 8-1, I’m 100 percent certain that Oklahoma would be in the top four and Baylor would be about 20th in the rankings.


I’ll tell you exactly what I said on The Franchise Morning Show just a few hours before kickoff at Kansas State: This Oklahoma team looks like a legit national title contender. Like, OU’s first real contender since the 2011 team started out unanimous No. 1 and then faded.

That all changed, of course, when they crumbled in the second and third quarters in Manhattan, and did so again in the fourth quarter last week in Norman.

But the first seven games of the season, Oklahoma was playing unstoppable offense and adequate defense. That’s no longer the case. But, to answer your question: if they could somehow get back to that level, I would like their chances against anybody but LSU and Ohio State.

That 2011 team, Week 3, was the Sooners’ last time atop the polls, by the way.


You make a good point. It’s a free country.

But at the same time, I’d argue that fans do bear the responsibility of supporting their team. If a team doesn’t feel the love — just look at Kansas, or closer to home, Tulsa — then I wouldn’t think the fans should hold them to a high standard. If fans don’t feel the need to stay loud and stay late, then I don’t think fans should be upset when their team underachieves.

At the top of the college football food chain, loud fans, rich fans and a successful team go hand in hand.


Yes, I pointed out that various strength-of-schedule metrics are essentially all over the place, and yet the CFP committee clings to that kind of data when it supports their results.

I do love a good contradiction.


Of that three, it’s Clemson. Trevor Lawrence has been the third-best of those quarterbacks this season, meaning he’s been pretty loose with the football, although I think Travis Etienne would feast on this OU defense.

Clemson does have the No. 2 overall offense in the country (partially because their competition has been so bad) and the No. 4 overall defense in the country (partially because … well, you know).

I don’t think either one is a good matchup for Oklahoma. But right now, these Sooners wouldn’t stay on the field very long with Ohio State or LSU.


Not before 2025. Seriously.


No, I think that’s a fair observation. Hurts has been kind of a one-man show because I think Riley is giving him the green light, because I’m not entirely sure Riley has confidence in his quarterback this year.

To be fair to Hurts, he’s only been in this offense for less than 10 months. Baker and Kyler grew up in it. So when you see Riley on the sideline talking to Hurts, I think he is coaching him up at the fundamental level.


Oklahoma finishing the season by beating two (or three) ranked teams is good, yes. But Oklahoma finishing the season by beating two teams ranked below it does nothing to move them up into the top four.

You can’t move up a ladder if you keep stepping down a rung.


I was honestly just throwing this question out there: does the CFP respect the Big 12?

My thinking is yes, but only to a degree: they have five Big 12 teams ranked this week. But really, who cares? The CFP exists for one purpose: to find the four best teams. If no Big 12 team finishes in the top four, how much do they really respect the league?


Thanks. We have fun and try to keep it light, but we also hit the hard topics.

That’ll be a question for the postseason, for sure. He’s always done it one way, but his game management seems to drop off sometimes, especially in close games. Maybe just being a head coach and hiring a talented OC would be better.

The other side of the coin, however, suggests that Lincoln is such a talented play-caller that his worst days are still better than most everyone else’s best days.

It’s something to think about.


I think you just did. Good job.


I expected more action out of him, but it looked like he got rolled up on his one carry. Lincoln basially said Monday that “all those other guys” are day-to-day, and I presume he was including Stevenson.


I think “delusional” is the word you’re looking for, though I guess “convinced” isn’t technically incorrect.


I’ve had a lot of coffee, so I got that going for me, which is nice.


I discussed extensively on yesterday’s “Locked On Sooner” podcast. Erik Swenson is one of my Sooners to watch. If he struggles with Lynch (everybody struggles with Lynch), then Oklahoma’s offense will have a bad day. If I’m Lincoln Riley, I’m sending Swenson as much help as possible in the form of tight ends, fullbacks and H-backs.


This isn’t quite the space an overly detailed breakdown, but I’ve been on record before saying it’s a win-win for both coaches and players.

The thing is, it’s not foolproof. It doesn’t provide all the relief players think it does. But it does allow them to explore options, which is good for everyone.

The only real drawback is it can seriously complicate how coaches build their recruiting classes. You know, five offensive linemen, three linebackers, four DBs, one quarterback, two running backs — whatever their preference is.

Well, in Oklahoma’s case, five guys have now left from one recruiting class: WR Jaylon Robinson (portal), WR Kundarrius Taylor (juco), DB Miguel Edwards (portal), DB Starrland Baldwin (portal), and now WR/DB Jaquayln Crawford (portal).

That’s a big hit at two positions, and that means they have to backfill from future classes, which means they may have to offer players they wouldn’t normally offer, which means some guys might never become good enough to see the field, which means more players entering the transfer portal.

Sometimes a player’s best option is to show grit and stick it out and overcome adversity and win the job. But sometimes it’s to cut bait and look for playing time elsewhere if that’s what he wants. Recruiting can be just guesswork sometimes. Not all big-time high school recruits can play big-time college football.


Got me on this one. I’m going to guess it was sometime in the 1970s.


Myles Garrett hit Mason Rudolph unnecessarily late and then forcefully dragged him down and then rolled on him and smushed him into the ground. Rudolph grabbed Garrett’s helmet and facemask and kicked him to get off. Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet. Rudolph rage-charged Garrett. Garrett used the helmet a weapon and tried to severely injure Rudolph.

That’s what happened. Those are the facts, and they are indisputable.

Now, who was to blame? One act instigated the next. The game was basically over. The Browns had won. Garrett didn’t have to hit Rudolph and try to punish him like that. So Garrett started it, without question. But Rudolph isn’t blameless. He didn’t have to overreact like he did. He was mad about losing and about throwing four interceptions (he said all the late hits and targeting calls didn’t influence the final sequence, although I’m not sure I believe him).

They’re both to blame.

But who’s facing an indefinite suspension? Who’s facing potential criminal charges, according to Rudolph’s lawyer? It’s Garrett. Before his helmet swing, it was just a fight. His final act will haunt him the rest of his career.

(Here’s another thought: if Mason’s offensive linemen had reacted to Garrett’s initial cheap hit rather than just standing there watching their quarterback get rolled over, maybe Rudolph wouldn’t have felt the need to overreact like he did. It was a bang-bang play, yes, but there’s a photo of one blocker standing over them with his arms out, like he’s asking for a penalty, while Garrett is continuing to drive Mason into the ground. Offensive linemen are supposed to be a quarterback’s bodyguards, not his civil rights activists.)


My first thought was that Mason Rudolph would draw a fine for his helmet grab, his kick and/or his charge at Garrett. That wasn’t among the punishments the NFL announced early Friday, although the league said “additional discipline for other players will be forthcoming.”


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, and his personal page at

John Hoover

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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