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Josh Heupel's adaptability is his biggest strength and, perhaps, biggest weakness

What can we learn about new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel from his time at Oklahoma?

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Barry Odom has brought on longtime Oklahoma Sooner Josh Heupel to become his offensive coordinator. Donnie Hazlewood of our sister blog Crimson and Cream Machine took time out of a busy Christmas week to answer some questions about Mizzou's new coach.

Oscar Gamble: I'll start by asking what's your experience with Josh Heupel, both as the national championship winning QB and the offensive coordinator for the Sooners from 2010-2014?

Donnie Hazlewoord: I think most Sooner fans would say their experience with Heupel was basically a love/hate relationship. I'm not sure if any fanbase appreciates their current OC, and they always believe that they could call a better game. The highlight of Heupel's time in Norman as OC was the Sugar Bowl win against Bama, where seemingly everything he called was perfect and the fanbase was beyond excited to have the Trevor Knight/Heupel combo for 2014. Well we all know how that turned out.

OG: We can look at the statistics and see that, with Heupel as OC, Oklahoma ranked in the Off. S&P+ top 15. I'm curious how much of that was Heupel's play-calling and how much of that was Oklahoma's athletic talent?

DH: I think it's both. The Sooners have had undeniable talent over Bob Stoops tenure in Norman. Heupel coached Landry Jones, who was a REALLY good college QB. I also think it helps when they get to play both Kansas, Iowa State, and as of late Texas (yes I know this year happened). However, I also think it's crazy to think that Heupel had nothing to do with it.

OG: What can we expect from Josh Heupel, offensive coordinator, if he has total control over the offensive side of the ball? What are the hallmarks of his style and what are some things that will stand out immediately?

DH: I think Heupel's biggest strength (ability to adapt to his personnel) can also also be a weakness (as I think most successful OCs recruit and develop players to fit their system). I do think he will help Mizzou's QBs develop (as his biggest strength was developing QBs). If I were to guess, Mizzou's offense will resemble the Sooners offense in 2014 (dedication to run game, but with QB play that will hopefully be much much better than what the Sooners got in Trevor Knight).

OG: In reading comments from Sooner fans, they seem to praise Heupel's ability to groom quarterbacks. He had a hand in Sam Bradford's 2008 Heisman and helped Landry Jones win the Sammy Baugh trophy in 2010. Is "Heupel" Oklahoman for "QB Whisperer"? and can he help Drew Lock win the Heisman in 2016?

Utah State 2015 Advanced Stats Profile

Utah State 2015 Advanced Stats Profile

DH: I think Heupel is above average to great at developing QBs, but his biggest issue while in Norman was recruiting. He would usually wait and evaluate quarterbacks longer than most coaches before offering. The Sooners would then get in late on certain prospects and then have to settle for their 2nd-3rd choice.

OG: In reading those same comments from Sooner fans, they seem to question Heupel's play-calling. Some argue that Bob Stoops fired Heupel after the 2014 season because of an inability to adapt his play-calling to personnel or because Stoops needed a "scapegoat" for the disappointing 8-5 season. Is there truth to any of those claims?

DH: Heupel definitely gets some of the blame for 2014, as Trevor Knight looked lost, confused, and downright bad at times. However, that being said if OU makes an XP against KSU and doesn't re-punt to OSU, the Sooners win 10 games last year and I think Heupel is still in Norman.

If I were a Mizzou fan I would be cautiously optimistic about Heupel. I think if he can recruit at a much higher level, then I believe the Mizzou offense can not only compete in the SEC, but be really successful.


I'd like to thank Donnie Hazlewood for taking the time to answer our questions.

Looking at some advanced stats about Utah State's offense, via Football Outsiders' FEI rankings and comparing them to Mizzou's 2015 rankings is dangerous and don't say I didn't warn you.

Rk Team Rec OFEI OE Rk OFD Rk OAY Rk OEx Rk OMe Rk OVa Rk
46 Washington State 8-3 .16 .63 28 .832 4 .556 14 .107 90 .198 8 .500 14
47 Georgia Southern 7-4 .14 .53 40 .709 69 .516 27 .218 14 .155 40 .467 25
48 San Diego State 9-3 .13 .56 36 .740 47 .489 41 .115 83 .137 59 .387 59
49 Arizona State 5-6 .12 .24 52 .781 18 .475 53 .159 44 .132 67 .406 51
50 Tulsa 6-6 .11 .46 44 .738 49 .492 40 .156 47 .163 33 .411 49
51 Utah State 5-6 .11 .22 57 .719 64 .480 48 .182 28 .124 81 .433 38
113 Missouri 4-7 -.69 -.91 121 .574 124 .301 123 .049 126 .148 46 .245 118


OFD: First Down Rate, the percentage of offensive drives that result in at least one first down or touchdown.

OAY: Available Yards Percentage, the total number of yards earned on offensive drives as a percentage of the total number of yards available based on starting field position.

OEx: Explosive Drive Rate, the percentage of offensive drives that earn at least 10 yards per play.

OMe: Methodical Drive Rate, the percentage of offensive drives that last at least 10 plays.

OVa: Value Drive Rate, the percentage of offensive drives that begin at least 50 yards from the end zone and reach the opponent's 30-yard line.

I also took the time to create a playlist of the games Josh Heupel has been involved with as an offensive coordinator both at Utah State and Oklahoma. I should note that this list is not comprehensive, just what is available on YouTube.