Oklahoma Football’s 5 Most Intriguing Players Heading into 2014
Oklahoma Football: 5 Intriguing Players to Watch this Season
The end of the 2013 season had Oklahoma Sooners fans feeling pretty good about themselves. First, the underdog Sooners limped into Stillwater and beat the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys, denying its hated in-state rival the Big 12 championship. Less than a month later, Oklahoma shocked the college football world by beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. A strong recruiting season brought in the nation’s No. 15 class according to Rivals.com.
2013 did not quite play out as Sooners fans hoped. Blake Bell never developed into the passing threat everyone expected. This led to a quarterback carousel where Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson all saw time under center. Inconsistent quarterback play reared its ugly head against the Texas Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry game. Bell was ineffective, completing 12 of 26 passes and two interceptions. He was completely out-played by Texas’ backup quarterback, Case McCoy.
The Baylor Bears game was effectively the last for Bell as Oklahoma’s signal caller. A dismal passing performance versus the Bears led to Knight getting the start versus the Iowa State Cyclones. This marked the beginning of the Knight era. Knight bounced back from a poor outing against Oklahoma State to lead the Sooners past a shell-shocked Alabama team.
Looking ahead to 2014 the Sooners will need to replace several important pieces on both sides of the ball. Jalen Saunders, Brennan Clay, Roy Finch, Damien Williams, Trey Millard, Aaron Colvin, Gabe Lynn and Gabe Ikard have graduated. Oklahoma will need to use spring practice to find replacements.
Finding replacements will not be a challenge. Oklahoma’s roster is young but talented. Fans are excited to see what these players can do. The spring game cannot get here soon enough.
Here are five players Oklahoma fans will want to keep an eye on this season.
5. Blake Bell
Bell looks most comfortable when he is hitting someone. Who can forget his four-touchdown performance against Texas in 2012 when he imposed his will on a beleaguered Longhorn defense? The “Belldozer” did his best work running the ball. This season. Bell will line up at tight end. This is a smart move because it will make better use of his athleticism. He can use his 6-foot-6, 252-pound frame to clear the way for the running backs, or cause a mismatch on safeties trying to cover him in the flat. Oklahoma fans may grow to like this version of the Belldozer the most.
4. Eric Striker
The last two seasons ,Eric Striker played like he was shot out of a cannon. Striker would line up on the outside edge and blow past a tackle or tight end assigned to block him. Running backs were no match for his speed and strength, either. It will be interesting to see how the coaches use him this season with a young secondary lined up behind him. The pressure he applies on opposing quarterbacks should minimize the heat on the secondary.
3. Derrick Woods
Saunders and Sterling Shepard made the most of the inconsistent quarterback play last season. Saunders hauled in 61 passes while Shepard had 51. Shepard will assume the role of the No. 1 WR. Who will fill the void at No. 2?
Derrick Woods is an appealing choice. The 6-foot-1 redshirt sophomore is a former four-star recruit who saw time on special teams last season. He has good height and is not afraid to go up in the air for the ball. Watch for Woods to emerge this spring and take pressure off of Shepard.
2. Jordan Phillips
Jordan Phillips looked to be on his way to making a name for himself before a back injury sidelined him for most of the 2013 season. 2014 could be the year for the former No. 1 recruit out of Kansas. Phillips is a mountain of a man. At 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds, he is a run-stuffing machine. If Phillips can occupy multiple blockers, it will free up other players to get pressure on the quarterback. This will benefit a young secondary trying to learn on the job.
1. Alex Ross
Oklahoma lost its top three running backs from last season. The cupboard is not empty, however. Keith Ford has all the talent in the world to handle the bulk of the carries. The problem is Ford had trouble hanging onto the ball. This limited his playing time. Enter Alex Ross. Ross is a bruiser at 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds. He is also fast. Ross was the Oklahoma 6A state champion in the 200-meter dash in 2011. Watch Ross this spring, and do not be surprised if the redshirt sophomore opens some eyes.