Oklahoma Sooners 2013 College Football Preview
2012 Record 10-3, (8-1)
Norman, OK (Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium)
Odds to win the Big 12: 15-4 See the Latest Odds
Head Coach: Bob Stoops (149-37)
Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports
2012 Record – 10-3, 8-1 Conf.
Last Bowl Appearance: 2013 Cotton Bowl, 41-13 L to Texas A&M
9/7 West Virginia
9/21 OPEN DATE
9/28 at Notre Dame
10/12 Texas (in Dallas)
10/19 at Kansas
10/26 Texas Tech
11/2 OPEN DATE
11/9 at Baylor
11/16 Iowa State
11/23 at Kansas State
11/30 OPEN DATE
12/7 at Oklahoma State
2012 Review: The Sooners were once again in the thick of things last season in the Big 12, splitting the conference title with Kansas State, who handed OU its only conference loss. But the 30-13 non-conference bust at Notre Dame essentially ensured that the Sooners would once again end a promising campaign in disappointment. If it seems like OU has been at or near the top of the polls since the inception of the BCS, it’s because they have. In 13 seasons, Stoops and the Sooners have won eight Big 12 titles, ten games or more in six of the last seven seasons, ranked in the top ten for six consecutive seasons, and won a National Championship back in 2000. Stoops is now just nine wins shy of overtaking Barry Switzer to become OU’s winningest head coach. But somewhere along the line, the Sooners seem to have lost their edge and becoming one of the nation’s most consistent elite programs has given way to an annual late season fizzle. That notion was cemented by a dismal Cotton Bowl performance against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, where they surrendered a whopping 633 total yards and an FBS bowl record 227 yards and 2 TDs rushing to Manziel alone.
Player Ready To Shine: This designation has to go to QB Blake Bell. The 6-6, 263 lb junior has NFL size and an NFL arm to match, but with the departure of Landry Jones to the NFL, it’s Bell’s mobility that’s being talked about. He’s on the larger side of the scale, but after Landry, who usually seemed fixed to the ground, Blake’s 4.7 40 time should have Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel salivating.
Backfield: The Sooners look to be in good shape here, with all but one RB, Dominique Whaley, returning. Senior Damien Williams (6-0, 208), who led the team in rushing last season with 946 yards and 11 TDs, should be the workhorse for the Sooners again this year. Williams took a little while to get churning in 2012, but gave a glimpse of his home-run potential against Texas with a scintillating 95-yard gallop. Senior Roy Finch (5-7 167) is a smaller, quicker option who didn’t see much playing time last season, but should see his touches increase in 2013. Senior FB Trey Millard (6-2, 256) is, by all appearances, a next level talent and should play a bigger role this season after rushing for 198 yards on 33 carries and catching 30 passes for 337 yards and 4 TDs in 2012.
Receivers/TE: The receiving corps lost Justin Brown and Kenny Stills to the NFL, but the cupboard has never been bare for Stoops and OU at the wideout position. Especially after a particularly loaded class of Freshmen and transfers in 2013. Senior WR Jalen Saunders (5-9, 160) will be OU’s biggest vertical threat. Saunders, who caught 62 balls for 829 yards and 3 TDs last season, has 4.4 speed and next level route running ability. Sophomore Sterling Shepard (5-10, 188), who had 45 Rec for 621 yards and 3 TDs could also emerge as a go-to target. The TE question, however, won’t be answered until the Sooners take the field. The position was an unknown last season, with Junior Brannon Green (6-2, 264) catching the only three passes by a TE for 45 yards and 1 TD. FB Trey Millard could also see some action at the position.
Offensive Line: The O-Line lost just one starter from last year’s unit, albeit their best, in T Lane Johnson who was drafted 4th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. But the unit has already lost Senior G Tyler Evans to a torn ACL in spring practice so the depth chart is still uncertain at this point. Sophomore LT Daryl Williams (6-6, 315), Junior LG Adam Shead (6-4, 311), Senior C Gabe Ikard (6-3 298), Senior RG Bronson Irwin (6-5, 310) and Junior RT Tyrus Thompson (6-5, 316) lead the O-line depth chart heading into the season.
Defensive Line: The D-Line might be just as much in question as the O-Line entering 2013. Junior DE Chuka Ndulue (6-3, 262) might be the only clear standout. Ndulue had 43 tackles and five sacks in 2012 and will need to emerge as a pass rushing threat from the interior. He’s got the speed and athleticism of a DE and should be a real runstopper inside. Sophomore T Jordan Phillips (6-6, 324) is another massive presence inside, but remains an unknown with just 12 tackles last season in a backup role. Junior DE Geneo Grissom (6-4, 254) and Sophomore DE Mike Onuoha(6-5, 235) will need to become serious threats to disrupt opposing QBs after both had largely unproductive 2012 seasons.
Linebackers: This is a tricky position to be in against the explosive spread offenses of the Big 12. Last season, Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops didn’t seem to know how to solve the spread and even experimented with diminishing the linebacker’s role against it. Stoops ultimately decided to stick with a four man front and more traditional 4-3 set so the LBs will play more of an integral role this season. Senior LB Corey Nelson (6-1, 215) had a breakout 2011, with 58 tackles, but followed with a much more subdued 2012, recording 49. Nelson will need numbers resembling those from his Sophomore year for this unit to have a chance against the spread. Sophomore Frank Shannon (6-1, 230), a former safety coming out of high school, is expected to be a bigger part of the defense this year after recording 38 tackles and two sacks as a freshman. Junior Aaron Franklin (6-1, 217) also looks to be an important part of this unit.
Secondary: This unit is young and if how they performed in OU’s spring game is any indication, they need some work. Particularly at the corners, where the lack of overall depth is glaring. Gone from last season are three-year starter Demontre Hurst and Sophomore Gary Simon, who was dismissed from the team in February. At the corners for the spring game, the Sooners started Sophomore Cortez Johnson (6-2, 198) and Redshirt Freshman Zack Sanchez (5-11, 170). All Big 12 CB Senior Aaron Colvin (6-0, 181) did not see any action in the game, but will start on the outside after beginning his collegiate career as a safety. Senior S Gabe Lynn (6-0, 199) could be a breakout star this season after moving from CB, where he was one of the nation’s top prospects a few years back. Lynn has the speed and athleticism of an NFL-caliber player. While questions abound with this secondary, there’s enough raw athleticism and talent for Stoops to mix and match and figure this thing out by the start of the season.
Final Thoughts: The Sooners could be the best program in the nation with the most questions to answer. There are holes everywhere you look. But Bob Stoops is still Bob Stoops, no matter the personnel on either side of the ball. Conventional wisdom aside, though, ten or more wins looks unlikely in 2013 . Games against Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas, not to mention the non-conference showdown at Notre Dame, could all easily end up losses and leave Stoops at the doorstep of Switzer’s mark. One thing is certain, though, OU will be in the Big 12 discussion, even if that discussion ends with the Red River Rivalry in October.
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