Thursday, August 9, 2012
Preseason Countdown: #4 Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Sooners under head coach Bob Stoops are a perennial contender for the Big XII title as well as the BCS title. Big Game Bob has taken Oklahoma to the BCS title game in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2008 though he has only won the title once in 2000. Oklahoma was doing well last year until an unexpected losses to Texas Tech and Baylor knocked them out of the BCS Title hunt. After big play wide receiver Ryan Broyles tore his ACL against Texas A&M, the Oklahoma offense did not look like it's usual dominant self. This year Oklahoma looks to rally behind returning quarterback Landry Jones and a new and improved defense under Mike Stoops. The talent is there for the Sooners to have a big year, but they will have to overcome some early injuries to reach their potential.
Oklahoma returns 6 starers on an offense that ranked 5th in total offense, 50th in rushing offense, and 5th in passing offense. Landry Jones has a chance to to cement his legacy at Oklahoma if he can lead the Sooners to a BCS title. Jones threw the ball for 4,463 yards on 355 of 562 passing attempts with 15 interceptions and 29 touchdowns. He is the career passing leader at Oklahoma and has the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th greatest passing seasons in Oklahoma history as well as having seven of the top ten passing games in Oklahoma history. Jones only lacks a Heisman trophy and a BCS title. He will be handing the ball off occasionally to returning starting running back Dominique Whaley. Whaley rushed for 627 yards on 113 carries and 9 touchdowns last year in the 7 games he played before he broke his ankle. Whaley has looked impressive so far in camp and should be ready to resume his starting role. If Whaley goes down again, Roy Finch will be there to replace him like he did last year. Finch ran for 261 yards in the four games he started for Whaley. The Sooners will still need to find a big play receiver this year and have several candidates. Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds return as starters this year and freshmen Trey Metoyer starred in the Oklahoma spring game this year. Stills had 61 receptions for 849 yards and 8 touchdowns last season while Reynolds had 41 receptions for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. Metoyer had 6 receptions for 72 yards in the spring game. The Penn State wide receiver Justin Brown is also transferring to Oklahoma this year and could be the big play threat they need. The Sooners will start Brannon Green at tight end. Green is a JUCO transfer and looks to be a big play tight end. The Oklahoma Sooners looked to have a solid offensive line coming into the 2012 season but after center Ben Habern decided to call it quits after having lingering neck issues after having two vertebrae fused and right guard Tyler Evans tearing his ACL, the Sooners only have two returning starters on their offensive line. The left side of the line will have both Gabe Ikard back at guard and Lane Johnson back at tackle. Bronson Irwin looks to be the new right guard and true freshman Ty Darlington looks to be the new center. Daryl Williams looks to be the starting right tackle at the moment. If this offensive line can come together to protect Landry Jones and Trey Metoyer becomes a big play receiver like Ryan Broyles, this offense could put up amazing numbers.
The Oklahoma defense was not as good as they are used to in Norman last year. The team finished ranked 55th in total defense, 43rd in rushing defense, and 79th in passing defense. These numbers will need to improve if they wish to compete in the Big XII. Luckily, Mike Stoops is back in mix as defensive coordinator and brings his intensity to Norman. The Sooners will return 7 starters on defense. The defensive line returns 2 starters with tackles Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland. Walker had 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 sack last year while McFarland had 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and half a sack last year. The defensive ends will see new starters David King and R.J. Washington. King had 31 tackles last year, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and a fumble return for a touchdown. Washington had 16 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks last year. The linebacking corps returns two starters with Will linebacker Corey Nelson and Mike linebacker Tom Wort. Nelson had 59 tackles last year along with 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Wort had 71 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble returned for a touchdown. The Sam linebacker will be played by Joseph Ibiloye who recorded 18 tackles and 1 tackle for loss last year. The secondary will feature 3 returning starters in corner backs Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst and free safety Tony Jefferson. Colvin led the team in tackles last year with 84 and also added 4.5 tackles for loss and half a sack. Hurst had 55 tackles 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 11 pass broken up, and 2 fumble recoveries with one returned for a touchdown. Jefferson led the team in interceptions last year with 4 and also had 74 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. Strong safety Javon Harris will be the new starter in the group and he registered 47 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 3 interceptions last year. The Sooners have the pieces to make a very good defense this year and with Mike Stoops putting them together, they can be vastly improved from last year.
The Sooners schedule this year has several difficult games on it. The Sooners open up the season at UTEP before a bye week. Then the Sooners play Kansas State on September 22 before having another bye week. The Sooners then engage in 9 straight games starting at Texas Tech October 6th. The Red River Rivalry takes place on October 13th before the Sooners return home for back to back games against Kansas and Notre Dame. The Sooners then go to Iowa State on November 3rd before coming home to play Baylor. The Big XII game of the year will occur on November 17th when Oklahoma goes to West Virginia. The Sooners then return home to play Oklahoma State before finally finishing the season on December 1st at TCU. Looking at the schedule you can see at least 5 losable games in Texas, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and TCU. But I think the Sooners will lose only one game and that will be either too Texas or West Virginia. I think the Sooners will be 11-1 and primed to move into one of the two BCS slots should the SEC Champion or Pac 12 Champion have a late season loss. I think the Sooners will return to form this year and be in contention for the BCS Title.