On paper Oklahoma might be the best team in all the land but before anybody hands the Sooners the National Championship they’ll have to prove it on the field as injuries, poor play and distractions can make any team ordinary and ripe for the picking. The off season death of linebacker Austin Box is one such issue and how it effects the team mentally is of course an unknown. Head coach Bob Stoops has assembled NC talent and if he can survive the injuries that are bound to occur and the players can overcome the mental aspect than this team has all the tools. However, there might be more than a few teams waiting for that opportunity in a lifetime to knock off OU and that’s exactly why they play the games.
The Sooners don’t have to worry about rebuilding or even reloading on offense with nine starters back led by quarterback Landry Jones who followed in the footsteps of Heisman winner Sam Bradford. That’s a tough act to follow but Jones did in fact put up comparable numbers to those of Bradford during his Heisman year. His issues are seeing the entire field in the passing game as opposed to relying too much on his first or second options which in part led to too many picks at inopportune times. Look for the return of wide receiver Ryan Broyles to make an already solid group even better. Broyles has over 3,400 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns in three years and is on pace to be one of the best to don an Oklahoma uniform when all is said and done. There should be plenty of options for Jones to play catch with and when the team chooses he has a few quality choices to hand the ball to in the rushing attack. However, all the ability at the skill positions won’t be as productive without a first rate offensive line which won’t be a worry with four lineman back.
Oklahoma has a wealth of players back on the defensive side of the ball as well with eight returning There are some question marks with the defensive line excelling at pressuring the quarterback but unable to stop the run consistently allowing nearly 150 yards per game. Defensive end Frank Alexander recorded eight sacks and 13 TFL in eight starts and will be expected to surpass those numbers. The Sooners have enough depth to run an eight man rotation so keeping the front four fresh can only help the run defense. The line backing crew will obviously miss Box but 2 nd Team All Big 12 selection Travis Lewis is a jack of all trades being able to stop the run, rush the passer and eight career interceptions saying he can be a factor in pass coverage. The star of the secondary is corner Jamell Fleming who earned All Big 12 honors and was thought to be off the roster with academic issues but rejoined the team the second week of July. Both starting safeties are gone but the Sooners have the athletes back that played in those spots so there is experience.
Jimmy Stevens is back to handles placekicking duties and was deadly accurate going 19 of 23 in 2010.The problem he faces is that he has questionable range that doesn’t go much further than 40 yards. The punt game was fifth in net average with Tress Way and his 44 yards per boot leading the way. Ryan Broyles will handle the punt return chores while Roy Finch and Brennan Clay bring back kicks.
I can’t make any argument as to why Oklahoma won’t challenge for the National Championship except to say anything can happen during a long season with several tough games on the schedule. At the very least the Sooners will easily be a top ten squad and a candidate to start the season as number one. I think the offense will put up tons of points with the run defense and smallish linebackers being a concern. I’m not going to say OU is the best in the country but they certainly are one of the best.