Mark Mangino and 2014.
The Oklahoma football program is navigating through the most significant period of transition in Bob Stoops' tenure. What’s the endgame? In evaluating the Sooner shake-up – both in terms of what has already happened and what’s still to come – those are the two things that I keep coming back to: OU’s former offensive coordinator and the 2014 season.
Allow me to explain, and please bear in mind that I have zero inside information about the program.
First, let’s talk 2014. Check out this projected starting lineup:
QB: Blake Bell
RB: Alex Ross
WR: Sterling Shepard, Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal
TE: Taylor McNamara
C: Ty Darlington
OG: Nila Kasitati, Adam Shead
OT: Daryl Williams, Tyrus Thompson
DT: Jordan Phillips, Jordan Wade
DE: Geneo Grissom, Chuka Ndulue
LB: Frank Shannon, Aaron Franklin, Eric Striker
CB: Cortez Johnson, Gary Simon
S: Hatari Byrd, Julian Wilson
They may not be the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, but that would make for a pretty talented squad. More importantly, OU should have an overwhelming amount of returning experience. That projected 22-man lineup would potentially consist of 16 returning starters (eight on both sides of the ball, including the quarterback, the entire defensive line and four of five on the offensive line) and 21 players who had been the program for a minimum of three years (eight players in their fifth year of eligibility, four players in their fourth year, nine in their third).
The schedule sets up nicely in ‘14, too. Although dates aren’t set yet, 11 of the 12 opponents are already known. OU gets Tennessee, Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State at home. The Sooners travel to Tulsa, TCU, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State. Of course, there’s a trip to Dallas in October to play Texas and a TBA body bag game, too. Considering the playoff will be in effect then, it even gives OU the opportunity to possibly slip up once in the regular season and still have a shot at the national title.
If 2013 now looks like a season filled with growing pains in Norman, those struggles could pay off handsomely in ‘14.
And what about Mangino?
One of the themes running through the offseason has been Stoops’ reported persistence in lobbying to bring his good friend and Broyles Award winner back to Norman. According to multiple members of the media, Stoops wanted Mangino for the offensive line position that went Bill Bedenbaugh. Now, word has come from SoonerScoop.com’s Carey Murdock that Stoops is still pushing for Mangino to fill the tight ends coach spot vacated by Bruce Kittle.
Mangino’s ugly exit from Kansas presents a major downside to hiring him on at OU. College football coaches may lead insular lives, but even Stoops has to understand that Mangino is toxic on the recruiting trail.
On the other hand, no one doubts Mangino’s coaching acumen. He elevated Kansas’ program to a level that his predecessors haven’t even sniffed. He ran the offense on a team that won a national championship in his first stint OU.
Mangino may be a crony, but given their history together, Stoops knows what the big guy can do as a coach. Even if Mangino turned out to be a disaster on the recruiting trail, Stoops has a pretty good handle on how he could help build the squad up using the personnel already on campus. Furthermore, he already knows OU’s offense and could mentor Josh Heupel.
Mangino is still unemployed, but consider what that may say about Stoops’ state of mind. A guy in Mangino’s situation may not work as a long-term solution. In a short window – like, say, two years – he could pay big dividends as part of the staff.
Add it all up, and it starts to sound as though Stoops is pushing in his chips on '14. I could add a few more developments in support of the theory, but I’ll open the floor for comments. Thoughts?