Rant Sports 100 in 100 College Football Previews: No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners
We’re getting close to the top of our rankings in the Rant Sports 100 in 100 College Football Previews and today at No. 6 where we take a look at the Oklahoma Sooners.
2011 SEASON REVIEW
2011 was a season of disappointment for Bob Stoops and the Sooners. Oklahoma won its first six games, all by double figures, and started 3-0 in Big 12 conference play. During that streak the Sooners beat rival Texas 55-17 and quarterback Landry Jones was looking like a sure Heisman candidate. But as OU has experienced in years past, a surprising loss wound up derailing their national championship hopes as they lost to Texas Tech 41-38 in late October in Norman.
Following losses came to Baylor and in-state rival Oklahoma State over their final three games and ultimately cost the Sooners the Big 12 title. OU beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl and finished the season 10-3. Once again Stoops and the Sooners failed to live up to their lofty expectations.
Despite losing a fair amount of key players from last year’s squad, most notably record-breaking WR Ryan Broyles, the Sooners come into the 2012 campaign heavily relying on their senior quarterback Landry Jones.
Jones completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 4,463 yards, 29 TDs and 15 interceptions in ’11, and he’ll have junior WR Kenny Stills (61 receptions, 840 yards, 8 tds) back to throw to down the field. Other wideouts to keep an eye on include junior Courtney Gardner and high-touted freshman Trey Metoyer.
An experienced offensive line should provide Jones with some stability in the pocket and give him time to spread the ball around the field.
The backfield returns senior Dominique Whaley and junior Roy Finch. The two combined for 1,232 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago and expect to have an even better year this season. The running game will also feature 6-foot-6, 245-pound backup QB Blake Bell, who scored 13 times on the ground last season in short yardage situations.
Whaley is recovering from a broken ankle he suffered last year and Stoops will not rush him back if he isn’t ready.
After an eight-year stint in the desert as the head coach at Arizona, Mike Stoops, the brother of head coach Bob, is back to run the defense for the Sooners. Mike ran Oklahoma’s defense from 1999-2003 where his units gave up an average of 15.5 ppg during that span. Since his departure, OU has allowed 20.1 ppg, and are coming off a year where they allowed 22.1 ppg.
The Sooners will try and duplicate their success upfront in the trenches from a year ago and come close to the 40 sacks the unit posted a year ago. Senior defensive tackles Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland will lead a group that although has a lot of experience, doesn’t have one guy capable of getting to the quarterback on nearly every snap.
Junior linebacker Tom Wort (71 tackles, 2 interceptions) will be the center of the OU defense and leads a group that lacks identifiable star power. The Sooners always find a way to plug in guys and get quality play from them.
The secondary had several issues in 2011. The “Sharks” as they call themselves, gave up 241.5 yards per game and allowed 18 touchdowns through the air. Seniors Deontre Hurst and Javon Harris along with juniors Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson are back to lead the way. Colvin tied for the team lead in tackles in ’11 with 84, and Jefferson intercepted four passes to go with 74 tackles.
The Sooners get a pair of warm-up games against UTEP and Florida A&M, but week three will be a different story. Kansas State comes to Norman and will be ready for OU. They have to travel to Lubbock where they’ll be looking for revenge against Texas Tech. After that, three home games against rival Texas, Kansas and Notre Dame. Iowa State and Baylor won’t be easy and then they have to travel to Morgantown to take on new member West Virginia and their pass happy attack. The schedule rounds out with two brutal tests against Oklahoma State and TCU.
Will Wilson is a writer for Rant Sports covering College Football and the Big Ten Conference.