LOS ANGELES ― After a disappointing first season at Georgia, Jim Chaney knew he had to “freshen up” his offense, so he went off to pick the brain of some other college football minds. That included a trip to, of all places as it turns out, Norman, Okla.
“They just came in to visit, and talked a little football,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Cale Gundy said Friday. “They told us they didn’t know how good their season was going to be this year.”
“We’ve all been kind of giggling about that,” he added.
Now here the two teams are, preparing to meet in the Rose Bowl with a shot at the national championship on the line. And while Georgia still mainly uses its run-first, physical brand of football, it has employed elements of the run-pass option attack that works so well for Oklahoma.
But Chaney downplayed how much they used RPOs, saying it was “four or five a game, six, seven, something like that.”
“You can’t look at our success and say, ‘Oh it’s because Chaney went to the RPOs,’ ” Chaney said, then laughed. “I wish it was that easy!”
He apologized to a writer for ruining the thesis of his story, but added: “You can do it anyway, there’s some merit to it.”
Oklahoma and Georgia had never played each other and had no plans to play. But Gundy acknowledged that they still guard certain secrets, so it’s not like Chaney and company left Norman with all of the Sooners’ plays.
“A lot of times you’re just touching on the background and the roots of it. But you don’t go into detail,” Gundy said. “There’s nothing that they know, signals, verbal or anything that would affect anything we’re doing.”
The meeting apparently occurred prior to Bob Stoops stepping down as Oklahoma’s coach. Lincoln Riley, who replaced Stoops, was the offensive coordinator at the time, and it was his first time meeting Chaney. But Chaney and Gundy had known each other awhile.
So Georgia borrowed a bit from the playbook, or at least the concepts, that have propelled Oklahoma to have the nation’s No. 1 offense.
“At the end of the day I think RPOs are a good part of football that I’ve had to learn a lot about in the last year or two. I’m tickled that we’re doing them,” Chaney said. “Is it the savior to everything? Not really.”
That’s because, Chaney said, in the SEC teams play so much man-free press and stack the box to stop the run.
“What we’ve been able to do is say, ‘All right we can [run],’ and we’re going to go try that anyway, and we’ve had success with that,” Chaney said. “We have a little bully-bully identity, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.”