Disclaimer : I am sure that I have something wrong with this preview. If something is incorrect, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email (doubletnation AT gmail DOT com) and I'll get things corrected either in the story or in the comments. The purpose of this preview is to help educate myself and Texas Tech fans about your team.
**One other important note. I understand that there have been additional injuries, namely OG Tyler Evans (link) and DE D.J. Ward and DE Michael Onuoha (link). It is incredibly tough to keep up during this time of year.**
I'm not sure what to think here. I keep reading from our good friends at Crimson and Cream Machine about how things might not be so rosy in Norman. Some turmoil in the coaching staff (turmoil is a bit strong, but definitely some change) and then this last week, the Media Big 12 Preseason team was released and only had two Sooners. That's not normal.
And now with the change in the defense, which I could almost swear went from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and is now a 4-2-5 base defense, or at least that's what I'm reading. Something doesn't seem right and I'm not close enough to the program to really be able to put my finger on it.
Offense | Run
I'm a little surprised that OU was only 60th in the nation in rushing offense last year, which was 7th in the Big 12. OU has options at running back, with Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and Trey Millard. I think that OU is going to start running over people this next year. I don't have any reason to believe that other than Bell not being the passer that Jones was, but there's just too many talented runners for Oklahoma not to take advantage of things here.
Not only that, but Millard is a real weapon offensively as he's a pretty good blocker, but he can also be more than adequate running the ball. He's the best fullback in the Big 12.
In watching some film of OU, I think we're going to see a lot more looks out of the Pistol formation. Normally, I wouldn't rate OU's rushing offense based on last year's performance, but I just feel like there's going to be a big switch coming on and the running backs are going to be the real beneficiaries of an increased emphasis on the running game. The rating of 8 has more to do with my expectation that past performance and I haven't really done that in these previews.
Offense | Pass
So I really don't know what to do here. I know that Blake Bell isn't going to throw a football like he's playing rugby and maybe my memory of Bell is one that really isn't accurate, but I just have this recollection of seeing Bell attempt a few passes that look incredibly poor. My memory is most likely playing awful tricks on me because I can't imagine a scenario where Oklahoma is going to start a quarterback that isn't competent at throwing the forward pass.
And even worst case scenario, Bell is a guy like Collin Klein. A guy that might shot-put a pass every once in a while and but because of what he can do running the ball, he can do that and a defense is left scratching their head as to how to prepare. And if you really want to know the truth, Bell was a pretty good passer in high school, passing for 3,200 yards as a junior and 2,700 as a senior. So he's probably not a terrible passer, but Bell is also probably not Sam Bradford either and I'm guessing that the coaching staff likes the versatility that he has with his legs and arm. Overall, I'm going to go with a 6 rating for passing because I definitely do not think that Bell is going to be a prolific passer (Oklahoma was #5 in passing offense last year) but he won't be awful. I think a solid 6 is about right here.
Still, I don't know how to rate Bell as a passer because he's only attempted 16 passes all of last year. I do know that he has some talented receivers. I just love what I think Trey Metoyer is probably going to be and the Sooners will return Jalen Saunders. It should be noted that the top two receivers, Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders do return.
Based on the depth chart from the TAMU bowl game, the only senior was LT Lane Johnson, so that means that just about everyone returns along the line. This also means that with the addition of Bell, there is a really good chance that Oklahoma will improve upon the sacks allowed, where the Sooners were only 17th in the nation last year.
Defense | Run
So earlier this summer I learned from Jordan Esco, who helps run Crimson and Cream Machine, that Oklahoma is not running the 3-4, but they are running a 4-2-5 this year. I am surprised that this is not bigger news. Mike Stoops is still the defensive coordinator, just like last year, but the Sooners are terming this as a switch to a base nickel defense. That's a strange way to get around saying, 4-2-5.
The front four was led by a handful of seniors, including DT Casey Walker, DT Jamarcus McFarland, and DE David King. The only returning starter along the line was DE Chuka Ndulue. So that's probably a bit problematic as OU also loses Stacy McGee, who was a top back-up. So to get to the defensive ends first, Rashod Favors flips from linebacker to defensive end (he was already 260 or so pounds) along with Geneo Grissom JUCO guy Chaz Nelson to go along with Ndulue.
On the defensive line, I think that you'll see Jordan Phillips along with Torrea Peterson, Jordan Wade and JUCO transfer Quincy Russell. So yes, the Sooners are relying on a ton of new guys up front and they are sorta breaking in a new scheme. As far as the linebackers go, there's only two to discuss, returning starter Corey Nelson and along side him, Frank Shannon.
Now the question remains if the rush defense is going to be better, and it wasn't good last year. OU was 90th in the nation in rush defense and gave up over 200 yards seven different times last year, including 207 to UTEP, 458 to West Virginia and 326 to Texas A&M.
Right now, I'm trying to figure out what's going to make that rush defense better and I'm struggling to figure that out. Any OU fans that want to help here, let me know.
Defense | Pass
From what I can tell, Oklahoma loses SS Javon Harris, FS Tony Jefferson and CB Demontre Hurst, which means that they are replacing three out of five starters in the secondary. Gabe Lynn returns at nickel back, along with Aaron Colvin at the other cornerback spot. So now, Oklahoma is replacing a lot of talent there, but I do really like Colvin. He's plenty good.
This feels like one of those things where they are going to figure this out some more along the way, in fall practice. So I think there's a pretty good chance that you see quite a bit of movement here, including Julian Wilson, Kass Everett (remember him?) Gary Simon, and Zach Sanchez competing for spots in the secondary.
So whatever Oklahoma yielded on the ground, they did a much better job against the pass defensively, giving up only 209 yards a game, which was good for 29th in the nation. Still, I'm thinking that most coaches would rather have this reversed a bit, but I'm not sure. Still, I think that losing three starters isn't going to make anything easier.
I think just about everyone returns from a special teams perspective, sans Justin Brown as the punt returner. Including P Tress Way, who averaged 45 yards a punt return, and K Michael Hunnicutt, who was 17 of 21 for field goals and 57 of 59 extra points. Oklahoma was second in the conference in kickoff returns, averaging almost 29 yards a return, so that means you'll see more Brennan Clay and Roy Finch doing more of the same this next year.
So I think I'm a bit discouraged after writing all of that. Maybe I shouldn't be. Maybe my thought should always be that Oklahoma doesn't worry about replacing, they just reload, but I think this is catching up with the Sooners.
I think the issues with the defense are going to be similar to what they were last year, especially running the ball. I really don't know what to think about the Stoops brothers running a 4-2-5 as the base defense without an assistant that would maybe bring some of this expertise. I am left thinking that this is a strange move.
Then add on that the issue of the offense, where it makes more sense for them to run the ball more, but that's a pretty drastic move from where they were last year, which was such a dominant team passing the ball. It is easy to forget about that, but they were so good passing the ball last year. I think the weapons for the receivers are there, I just don't know how to project Bell. Stoops has won a hell of a lot more games than he's lost and I can't expect that to change any time soon. That still doesn't mean that I can't be confused about this particular team.
So ultimately, I'm confused and Oklahoma is the biggest team question mark in the Big 12.
Rating the Sooners
|Offense - Run|
|Offense | Pass|
|Defense | Run|
|Defense | Pass|