With the release of Alex Lewis, the Ravens could potentially be starting four Oklahoma Sooners. Over the past two seasons the Ravens have drafted Orlando Brown Jr., Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Ben Powers. Each of these players were key starters for the Sooners offense under Lincoln Riley. There is no coincidence that the Ravens have targeted Oklahoma players, as their offense should mimic many aspects of Riley’s innovative offense.
Lincoln Riley has taken a stable and successful Oklahoma football program and transformed them into an offensive juggernaut. His expansive playbook is run entirely out of shotgun. Aside from shotgun, there are no limitations.
The foundation of Riley’s offense starts up front. Oklahoma has trotted out truly dominant offensive line combinations over the past few years. Orlando Brown Jr. was a consensus first team All-American. Dru Samia, Cody Ford, Ben Powers and Bobby Evans have all been selected in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft over the past two years. Creed Humphrey, a sophomore center, could be the best NFL prospect of them all. He will be drafted high in 2021-22.
Riley likes massive maulers up front and uses them to pull and attack defenders in space. Once this has been established, the option and other wrinkles are built off of these pulling lineman. A guard and tackle might pull (GT Counter is a staple play) which causes the front-seven to crash in the direction those lineman pulled. This frees up the backside, where the quarterback can pull the ball and find plenty of grass.
Above is the staple play. This has already made its way to the NFL in heavy dosage.
This Jet Motion GT Counter from Oklahoma is a thing of beauty!— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) May 24, 2018
- Weakside RB kicks out OLB
- Guard wraps for Mike LB
- Tackle wraps for Safety
If you play 2 high Safeties against 2 Backs and a TE, Oklahoma made you pay! pic.twitter.com/zIp1Ksfarc
The play can also just feature the QB as the runner, which puts two lead blockers ahead of them quickly. The QB can use ball fakes, pump fakes and other bells and whistles to make read defenders jump before taking off.
Oklahoma faking the Trips Swing Screen and running QB GT Counter. pic.twitter.com/13lS0LbeHH— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) January 2, 2018
This is essentially the foundation of Riley’s offense. He uses screens, RPO, options and unique route combinations to exploit defenders. Each play typically attacks one defender and forces them to make an impossible decision.
Playing against Lincoln Riley's offense must be frustrating pic.twitter.com/RAzcGRp6ju— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 13, 2018
Rewatching OK/Army from earlier this season and noticed this impressive wrinkle from Lincoln Riley’s offense.— Tyler Wombles (@TylerWombles) December 20, 2018
Watch the playside No. 2 receiver slow and stutter step to confuse the DB and LB. Makes them focus on what he might be doing. Helps free up the No. 1 on the fade. pic.twitter.com/42UxsV9ucE
These concepts create conflict for one defender, which allows the QB to make an easy “if, then” decision. If the safety plays the run, then throw it behind him. If the safety drops into his zone, then hand the ball off.
This simplifies the game for QBs who just have to locate the conflict defender pre-snap and take what they’re given. The Ravens have already started to incorporate some of these concepts into their game plan.
Nice play by FS Bates. It's a condensed area down in the tight redzone but still makes a good open field tackle on Jackson. Think this was a designed QB keep off counter GT action. pic.twitter.com/7woPOyf693— michael crawford (@abukari) November 19, 2018
This play put Jackson 1-on-1 with a safety. Bates made a nice play and brought Jackson down, but pinning him with safety to reach the endzone isn’t a bad idea.
The better idea, though, is to place Marquise Brown on the weak side and have him run an in-breaking route beyond Bates, so that Lamar can flick the ball over his head in the endzone. That would make Bates ‘the conflict defender’. That’s how Riley’s offense works.
Riley and Greg Roman both love to use motions to force a defense to show their hand. Roman loves to bring blockers in motion to create advantages that defenses can’t account for quickly enough.
Riley uses tons of wrinkles in the screen game and with motions to force defenders to think as opposed to react. The name of the game is to get key defenders flat footed. Take a look at this fake screen pop pass and watch how it created an easy throw for a first down.
A week later Lincoln Riley dials this up against Texas in the Big 12 title. A crucial play in the game. If Texas holds here, they force a FG, and give their offense an opportunity to get the football back down only 1 possession. pic.twitter.com/CEFeqOX1Jc— Jacob W. Havron (@Jay_Havs) December 4, 2018
Riley’s play designs just leave wide open receivers on a consistent basis. It’s no wonder that the Sooners have been atop FBS offensive efficiency and scoring ranks during his tenure at the helm.
Another lethal play action scheme drawn up by Lincoln Riley.— Brady Grayvold (@CoachGrayvold) January 10, 2019
Offense fakes boot to strength and wheels RB to clear backside corner. Backside TE runs clear route and frontside TE delay blocks the pass concept. Free release and throwback across the field for big gain.#All22Daily pic.twitter.com/hBRGkgsdjR
He has been an offensive genius. The following play is a read option where the RB takes the ball, then runs a speed option and pitches the ball back to the QB.
This is peak Lincoln Riley and one of my favorite plays I've seen so out of this Oklahoma offense in 2017.— Brady Grayvold (@CoachGrayvold) November 29, 2017
QB hands off IZ. RB bends and turns the play into Option back to the QB. Nobody accounting for QB leads to a big play. Creativity at its finest on display! #All22Daily pic.twitter.com/epApcC1XaX
This is pure creativity and inventiveness. Perhaps Riley stole these ideas from other play-callers at different levels, but no one has used them at such an advanced stage.
Drafting Brown, Brown, Powers and Andrews gives the Ravens players that are already familiar with these concepts. They will have a much smaller learning curve than other players, and they’ve already experienced success in this system. The former Sooner standouts will be ready to contribute almost immediately because of their precious experience with Riley’s offense.
The Ravens would be wise to continue dipping into the Sooner well to find talent. They would be even smarter to use his offensive concepts and apply them at the highest level.