Will the real Oklahoma please stand up? Trying to figure out what you’re going to get out of the Sooners in any given year is honestly significantly more difficult than Scooby and the gang ever have unmasking any of their “villains”. The Sooners are always loaded with talent, and usually a favorite to win some form of championship. They haven’t had much success living up to big expectations though, yet every time that expectation level drops some they look like gangbusters again. If that trend holds, then Oklahoma may actually be in line for a pretty big season.
One thing about the Sooners that isn’t a mystery is the stud sophomore at running back Samaje Perine. He is a beast of a running back, as evidenced by his 1,715-yard, 21 rushing touchdown freshman campaign, that also included a single game rushing record performance against Kansas. That record was broken a week later by Melvin Gordon though. Alex Ross is also a good complimentary back, and a home run threat in the return game. Ross pitched in nearly 600 yards and four touchdowns last season, and managed to have no fumbles in his 88 carries.
Based on recruiting numbers, you’d also be hard-pressed to find a more talented group of receivers than the bunch in Norman. Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal, Mark Andrews, Dede Westbrook, and Michiah Quick should all have their contributions in the passing game, and all were four-star recruits in high school. Shepard is the clear star on this team, and would have gone over the 1,000-yard plateau, had it not been for a nagging groin injury. That injury cost him three whole games, and caused him to leave early in four more. Neal is the second leading returning receiver behind Shepard and the only other receiver to top 500 yards receiving last season. Andrews is an intriguing prospect as a redshirt freshman.
Ok now back to the mysteries. Who’s going to start at quarterback for the Sooners? The post-spring depth chart says Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, but the incumbent is Katy Perry’s teenage dream boy Trevor Knight (actually not sure if Knight is still a teenager or not but just go with it). Both of these guys have demonstrated a combination of both talent and a tendency for turnovers. In fact, looking at the stat lines from their last seasons, the only major distinguishable difference is in completion percentage. Mayfield completed 64% of his passes compared to Knight’s 56.5%. The guy who ultimately wins the job will be the guy who shows in training camp that he can protect the football, ergo put his team in the best position to win on a consistent basis.
Another mystery, and perhaps the biggest, is how do the Sooners go about replacing three all-conference offensive lineman and a fourth starter? Ty Darlington is the only returning starter at center. Right guard Nila Kasitati also has some starting experience with twelve career starts.
Unlike the previous two previews from today, Oklahoma returns three starters at linebacker, including pass rusher extraordinaire Eric Striker. He not only has a cool name, but also has the production to go with it. Striker posted 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks last season. Don’t overlook Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans either. They are more run stoppers than pass rushers, but both had over 70 tackles and had 6 or more tackles for loss apiece. Devante Boyd should is listed as the starter at the “Jack” linebacker position (linejacker?) after recording 24 tackles and four for loss last year.
The line has to replace a fair amount though, especially in the middle with the loss of Jordan Phillips. Charles Tapper’s decision to return to school is a huge help. Tapper is the only defensive lineman to reach double-digit tackles last season, and he also pitched in 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Sophomores Charles Walker and Matthew Romar were listed as the other defensive line starters on the post-spring depth chart.
Cornerback Zack Sanchez did his best Richard Sherman impression last season with six interceptions and eight pass break-ups, and will likely need to do it again in 2015, with only one other starter in the secondary returning. Ahmad Thomas returns at safety after posting 61 tackles and an interception last year. Sophomore Jordan Thomas will start opposite Sanchez at the other corner position after playing in all 13 games as a freshman and breaking up five passes.
This is probably a little higher than most people have them, but I think they are actually a pretty decent bet to knock off either TCU or Baylor. I especially like them against TCU, considering they get TCU at home the week before the Horned Frogs host Baylor. We should know much more about what Oklahoma’s season will look like after their trip to Rocky Top on September 12th. Of course, nothing’s ever a safe bit with the Sooners though.