Lincoln Riley Spring Preview

Lincoln Riley Spring Preview

PREMIUM: Why Mike Woods chose Oklahoma, and why Lincoln Riley chose Mike Woods

Sooners coach said he was starting with a clean slate at WR, so as spring practice winds down, he's upgraded the group with a transfer from Arkansas
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When news that Mike Woods was thinking about leaving Arkansas surfaced, I honestly didn’t think much of it.

When rumors began to circulate that he was considering transferring to Oklahoma, I wasn’t stirred to think he was really coming.

The reason for my lack of conviction: Oklahoma’s receiver room is loaded? Why would they want to take on a transfer from Arkansas, of all places, in the middle of spring football practice — and a guy who caught just 32 passes for the Razorbacks last season?

Then the news actually happened today — Woods just announced on Twitter that he’s transferring to OU — and it hit me. Finally.

Lincoln Riley is welcoming Wood because the Sooners’ head coach continues to be underwhelmed by that “loaded” receiver room.

Mike Woods

Mike Woods

Remember, Riley opened this spring with a press conference in which he simply called out the Sooners’ receiver corps. There’s no other way to say it. Euphemisms and PR spin don’t apply here. This was straightforward and blunt.

“Although we had some great moments,” Riley said on March 18, “that was a position that we weren't real thrilled about the way we played last year, and know that we can that we can play better there.”

Riley at the time expressed his motives for making wholesale changes to the group.

“We told the guys from Day One when we came back that, ‘We’re wiping everything that any of you guys have ever done and we are starting with a clean, blank slate.’ ”

So on Friday, Riley added Woods’ name to that slate.

The 5-star trio from 2019 — Trejan Bridges, Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease — has been inconsistent at best and a massive letdown at worst. Bridges sat out almost all of last year serving an NCAA suspension. Haselwood missed almost all of 2020 with a knee injury. Both flashed as true freshmen in 2019, but then 2020 happened. And Wease got off to a slow start in 2019 as well and last season emerged as the co-team leader in receptions and one of Spencer Rattler’s most reliable targets on third down. But even Wease’s solid sophomore season came with a caveat: he dropped too many passes, including potential touchdowns.

All that allowed true freshman Marvin Mims to emerge as Rattler’s go-to guy last season. Mims dropped a touchdown, too, but was the Sooners’ best receiver in 2020.

The rest of the OU receiver corps is either young (SI All-American Mario Williams and CeeDee Lamb protégée Cody Jackson are freshmen) or walk-ons (there are currently eight or nine, depending on who’s at practice) or named Drake Stoops.

Riley has realized that Haselwood’s knee injury may be still holding him back (remember he sat out of the Cotton Bowl last year for “personal reasons”) and that Bridges might not be rejoining the team (he was suspended last week after police implicated him as a suspect in an alleged robbery and assault near campus).

He’s also realized, after 14 spring practices, that “Operation Clean Slate” might not have produced the intended results this spring, and that the rest of the group continues to lack consistent production.

Mike Woods

Mike Woods

And then there's the departures: Charleston Rambo, Theo Howard and Obi Obialo all left. OU currently has 16 names listed at wideout (including walk-ons), but the overall numbers are down now. And as Riley looks around the room, he certainly doesn't see enough playmakers.

And that’s why Riley welcomed Woods with open arms.

Woods has just over three months to ingrain himself into Riley’s offense. He’ll be drinking through a firehose, so to speak, but if he can pick things up and open August with a foundational knowledge of what’s expected of him from his new coaching staff, he’ll have a chance to elevate himself onto a two-deep that is trying to get better, but just, for a multitude of reasons, has not reached the OU standard.

Woods has shown he can be athletic and consistent and productive and reliable in an offense that ranked 52nd in the nation in passing yards per game. Maybe he can do the same in an offense that is perennially among the leaders in college football.

Because apparently that’s been missing in Norman.

“A lot of our offseason with those guys,” Riley said in March, “has been kind of dedicated to challenging them in the areas that we weren’t as good as we needed to be, and really finding guys that are going to attack those areas and turn those maybe what were weaknesses into strengths. And those are gonna be the guys that we play with.”


COMMENTARY 


When news that Mike Woods was thinking about leaving Arkansas surfaced, I honestly didn’t think much of it.

When rumors began to circulate that he was considering transferring to Oklahoma, I wasn’t stirred to think he was really coming.

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