Oklahoma fires co-offensive coordinators Heupel, Norvell
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma fired co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell on Tuesday after one of the worst seasons during coach Bob Stoops’ 16-year run as head coach.
”By no means does this mean it’s their responsibility in the way the season went,” Stoops said. ”By no means are they scapegoats. The bottom line is I feel, moving forward, we need to move in a different direction.”
Stoops also promoted Jerry Montgomery from defensive line coach to co-defensive coordinator.
Oklahoma won the Sugar Bowl at the end of last season and entered this season with national championship hopes and a No. 4 ranking. The Sooners won five of their first six, but finished 8-5, ending the regular season with a stunning overtime loss to Oklahoma State, then losing to Clemson 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Stoops said he had a lot of sleepless nights this past season, and he’s anxious to get things turned around.
”I’m more determined than ever to get Oklahoma back in the position of competing for national championships like we have so many other times,” he said. ”My dedication or commitment has been questioned in the past few weeks, and I promise you, I’m as dedicated and committed as I ever have been since the day I walked in here.”
Heupel won a national championship and was a Heisman runner-up as a quarterback at Oklahoma in 2000 under Stoops. He became the school’s quarterbacks coach in 2005, then moved up to co-offensive coordinator in December 2010. He guided the career of Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2008, and coached Landry Jones, who holds numerous Oklahoma records.
The first two years with Heupel as a co-offensive coordinator were strong. The Sooners averaged 512.3 yards in 2011 and 497.8 in 2012. That dropped to 423.0 in 2013. It increased a bit, to 464.7, this past season, but Big 12 foes Baylor and TCU were even better – Baylor led the nation with 581.5 yards per game, and TCU was seventh with 533.0.
Oklahoma’s scoring averages the past two years also were lower than the previous two. Oklahoma averaged 36.4 points this past season, but that was well below Baylor’s nation-leading average of 48.2. In Heupel’s final game as play caller, the Sooners were held to 275 yards against Clemson and didn’t score until the fourth quarter.
Stoops said he has great memories of Heupel, both as a player and as a coach.
”A dedicated, hardworking guy,” Stoops said of Heupel. ”Loved working with him. Great character guy. Great family man. The personal side, early on, the great player he was. He came in here and changed everything for us – or was a major part of changing and jump-starting us in 1999 and 2000.”
Heupel said goodbye to Sooners fans via his Twitter account.
”It has been an honor to be a part of the University of Oklahoma for 14 years. Oklahomans and Sooner fans have embraced me as a coach and as a player, including that magical National Championship season,” the posting said. ”We will always cherish our time in Norman and look forward to new opportunities.”
Norvell joined the staff in 2008 as assistant offensive coordinator and receivers coach. He coached Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills and Juaquin Iglesias, three of the top four players on Oklahoma’s all-time receptions chart. Broyles became the NCAA’s all-time career receptions leader on Norvell’s watch.
This season, the receiving corps had no consistent options aside from Sterling Shepard, who was in and out of the lineup with a groin injury the second half of the season.
Montgomery had been Michigan’s defensive line coach before joining Oklahoma’s staff in February 2013. His first year, the Sooners led the Big 12 in total defense.
”He’s a guy that really has excellent experience from the places he’s been,” Stoops said. ”An excellent leader and great recruiter. Jerry’s a guy that I feel is a rising star in this profession.”
Stoops’ brother, Mike, is the team’s current defensive coordinator. Bob Stoops said removing Mike is not on the table.
”If I felt it would be best for us, I would,” he said. ”But I don’t think that would be best for what we’re doing.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP