2011 Oklahoma Preview – Offense
Oklahoma C Ben Habern
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Oklahoma Sooner Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell have a loaded group of veterans to deal with, and it all starts with QB Landry Jones and a passing game that should finish among the five best in America. Ryan Broyles is an all-timer of a wide receiver talent who'll be flanked by Kenny Stills and a slew of extremely talented targets. The backfield loses do-it-all runner DeMarco Murray, but there should be more of a running back-by-committee approach with several good sophomores and a top recruit in Brandon Williams who could be another Murray as a receiver as well as a runner. The line gets back four starters, but doesn't have any sure-thing all-stars to work everything around. Consistency will be the key for an attack that should be able to blow up for 500 yards game in and game out on the passing game along. Watch out for Jones to go from very good to Heisman-worthy.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Landry Jones
Passing: Landry Jones
405-617, 4,718 yds, 38 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Roy Finch
85 carries, 398 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Ryan Broyles
131 catches, 1,622 yds, 14 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman OT Daryl Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Gabe Ikard
Best pro prospect: Jones
Top three all-star candidates: 1) WR Ryan Broyles, 2) Jones, 3) WR Kenny Stills
Strength of the offense: Receiving Corps, Passing Game
Weakness of the offense: Run Blocking, Right Tackle
State of the Unit: The passing game was terrific. Everything clicked, the yards were there every game, and the quarterback play was stellar as the Sooners finished third in the nation in passing averaging 343 yards per game and 25th in efficiency. OU has become a quarterback factory under Bob Stoops, and while the situation is sound, developing some of the backups and getting more work for everyone will be a must.
It's time to start putting Landry Jones in the discussion for the Heisman and for All-America honors, and it's time to start giving him his due for what he's been able to accomplish. He'll always be known as the guy who stepped in for Sam Bradford, and the weird facial hair got more attention early on than his passing ability, but he came up with a brilliant 2010 completing 65% of his passes for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, and he ran for a score. More importantly, he led the way to a Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl win, coming up with the big games at the big times throwing for 468 yards and four scores against Oklahoma State and bombing away on Nebraska for 342 yards and a score. Even in the loss to Missouri he threw for 303 yards and three scores. However, interceptions were an issue.
Yes, he threw 12 picks, but two came against Utah State, two came against Missouri, and three came against Oklahoma State. In 11 games he didn't throw more than a pick, and considering he put up 617 throws and with as many plays as he made down the field, the errors weren't that egregious.
No, he's not going to be a No. 1 overall pick like Bradford, but at 6-4, 230-pounds with a live arm and great poise, he's moving up the draft charts into a first round talent whenever he's ready to come out. While he's not an elite athlete and he won't blow up the Combine like a Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, he has pure pro passing tools and the résumé to make him someone's franchise leader at some point.
There's no question who the main man is for the passing game, but OU has to be ready in case a Bradford-vs.-BYU disaster strikes. 6-5, 236-pound sophomore Drew Allen got to school early last year and earned the backup spot, getting a little work in completing 9-of-14 throws for 89 yards. He's very big, very strong, has a huge arm, and brings a little more mobility than Jones. While he needs to prove he can be consistently accurate, he has everything in place to be the next great OU passer. Third in the mix will be 6-6, 241-pound redshirt freshman Blake Bell, a big, talented pro-style passer who has been great at times in practices.
Watch Out For … Jones to finally get the credit he deserved last year. He got a little bit of All-Big 12 recognition, but he was still overlooked despite being one of the nation's leaders in total offense. He now owns seven school records and he's putting up the jaw-dropping stats that should put him among the greats.
Strength: The offense. Oklahoma is such a factory at this point that it doesn't really matter who's under center. If you're playing quarterback for OU, you're an elite talent with NFL skills, size, and ability. There are more great players waiting in the wings behind Jones, but …
Weakness: Proven depth. Jones hasn't gotten enough credit for stepping in cold for Bradford two years ago and saving the season, but could Allen and Bell fill in to do the same thing if needed? Probably, but they don't have any appreciable experience.
Outlook: Jones is going to be on the Heisman short list as the season goes on as the leader of a national title-level team, and he's going to be talked about as a possible top ten overall pick. Can he throw for over 4,500 yards again? Maybe not without a Big 12 title game to add more yards to the mix, but he'll be one of the nation's leaders in yards per game. As long as the backups get a little more time, the situation is terrific.
Unit Rating: 9
State of the Unit: The running game wasn't always along for the ride, but it didn't explode like the passing game did averaging a pathetic 3.3 yards per carry with just 1,932 yards. DeMarco Murray was the ground attack running for 1,214 yards and 15 scores, but his worth was as a do-it-all playmaker who added 71 catches and kick returns to the equation. OU doesn't have any one back who can do everything Murray did, and there's no Adrian Peterson, but there could be more of a running back-by-committee approach than the offense usually employs.
True sophomore Roy Finch looked terrific when he got his chances. At 5-8 and 173 pounds, he's a smallish, quick back who brings surprising power and provided and shot in the arm at times looking great against Missouri with nine carries for 59 yards and rolling up 92 yards in garbage time against Iowa State. Despite not starting over the first five games, and not seeing time in the Fiesta Bowl thanks to a broken foot, he finished second on the team with 398 yards and two scores while catching ten passes for 49 yards. OU got him away from Florida in the recruiting fight, and now he's going to show off the speed and skills on a regular basis that would've made him a perfect fit for the Gators this year. However, he has to be 100% healthy.
5-11, 185-pound sophomore Brennan Clay got a little bit of work in as a true freshman running for 127 yards, but he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. A star recruit last year out of San Diego, he can hit the home run, can catch, and has the smarts to not make a slew of big mistakes. Versatile, he was the first player in California history to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 1,000 yards worth of passes. He'll battle with sophomore Jonathan Miller, a 5-11, 197-pounder who ran for 130 yards as a true freshman before suffering a knee injury and missing all of last year. After getting more than a year to recover, he should be ready to show off the slippery moves and cutback ability that made him so promising.
While OU has a slew of good, talented backs, there's a good chance that true freshman Brandon Williams steps in and takes over the running game immediately. At 5-11 and 189 pounds he has decent size, and Scout.com's No. 3 ranked back should produce from the moment he steps on the field. A home run hitter every time he touches the ball, he's a slasher who came up with 2,438 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior and can do a little of everything in a DeMarco Murray sort of way.
Once in a while the Sooners use a fullback, and 6-2, 230-pound sophomore Marshall Musil should be able to handle the work after seeing time in six games. He got two carries for 11 yards, but he's purely a blocker even though he has tremendous speed for his size; he was a top Kansas high school sprinter.
Watch Out For … Williams. It's always tempting to assume that the five-star true freshman is better than anyone else on the roster, but Williams might really be the best back of the crowded lot early on. He has the hands and the speed to do it all.
Strength: Talented options. Williams was a top-five ranked running back and Finch, Clay, and Miller were all top recruits and are all tremendous talents who can crank out good numbers whenever they get the chance. How deep is the backfield? Jermie Calhoun was arguably the No. 1 back in the nation in 2008, but he'll have a tough time seeing the field.
Weakness: Yards per carry. For all the talent and all the ability, where's the big production? Oklahoma should never, ever, average fewer than four yards per carry, and averaging 3.3 is pathetic. Stats-wise, sacks can't be blamed as the line did a decent job of keeping Landry Jones upright.
Outlook: The passing attack will be the main mode of transportation, but the Sooners have a slew of talented backs to add more to the ground attack. The offensive line has to be better and has to open up holes, but the great runners have to do more when they get their chances.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: Remember, for a long, LONG time, Oklahoma receivers were nothing more than accessories. The whole high-octane passing thing is a relatively recent phenomenon, so with that in mind, it's not an overstatement to suggest that this might be the best receiving corps in the history of the long and storied program. While the running backs, particularly DeMarco Murray, played a big role in the passing game, the top three wide receivers are back along with experience among the backups and tight end.
It just so happened that senior Ryan Broyles came up with a Biletnikoff-worthy season in the same year that Justin Blackmon went ballistic for Oklahoma State. The greatest receiver in OU history, the 5-11, 197-pound veteran blew off the NFL draft for a senior year to add to his tremendous statists. A steady producer, he has 266 career catches for 3,429 yards and 35 scores, while coming up with a phenomenal 131-catch, 1,622-yard, 14 score 2010 with six double-digit catch games highlighted by a 15-catch, 182-yard, one score day against Iowa State and a 13-catch, 170-yard, one score Fiesta Bowl. Slippery, fast, and ultra-reliable as a quick route runner, he's always open and he always makes plays. Now that he bulked up a bit, after starting out his career as a wispy 175-pounder, he should be able to take more of a pounding and he should be able to handle the more physical corners who'll try to shove him around.
If it wasn't for Broyles' tremendous year, the talk of the OU passing game would be around sophomore Kenny Stills, who came up with an outstanding true freshman season finishing third on the team with 61 catches for 786 yards and five scores averaging 12.9 yards per catch. He took advantage of all the attention paid to Broyles to be a steady producer with just two games with fewer than three catches. The 6-0, 181-pounder didn't have any blow up performances, but he always seemed to come through with big catches at key times.
5-10, 184-pound sophomore Trey Franks came up with a few big plays as a true freshman finishing with 19 catches for 263 yards and a score, while running four times for 19 yards and being used a little bit as a kick returner. A reserve early on, he started the final four games and started to show off his 4.4 speed late in the year. He might not be a special player, but he should be deadly as a No. 3 target. He'll work in combination of sophomore Jaz Reynolds, a 6-2, 182-pound veteran who caught 13 passes for 256 yards as a true freshman, but sat out last year making his biggest impact with an unfortunate tweet before the Texas game. Now he's back in the mix.
Senior Dejuan Miller grew into a dangerous target over the 2009 season finishing with 36 catches, and he was on his way to a nice 2010 with 15 catches for 199 yards before suffering a knee injury. The former New Jersey state sprinting champion is back and will use his speed and 6-4, 216-pound size to work behind Stills. 5-11, 166-pound sophomore Joe Powell was a top recruit last year, and he burned a year of eligibility with time in four games but with no catches. He's a thin target, but he's physical for his size.
When will Trey Metoyer be ready? Being academically eligible is an issue, but if he's able to play, he could be the team's most talented receiver right away, with all due respect to Broyles. Arguably the greatest receiver recruit in the history of the program, he's 6-2, 185 pounds, and can fly. Scout.com's No. 1 receiver, he's big, strong, runs great routes and has tremendous hands, and has all the tools to be special. First he has to get everything squared away.
Cameron Kenney was a nice receiving tight end who made 33 catches for 544 yards and four touchdowns, but OU always has great tight ends ready to come in. Senior James Hanna started nine times including the Fiesta Bowl and finished with 18 catches for 292 yards and seven scores, and showed off his field-stretching ability with a 76-yard scoring play against Oklahoma State. He's not huge at 6-4 and 237 pounds, but he's strong and he can move. He'll be backed up by the combination of senior Trent Ratterree, a veteran who made 21 catches over the last two years, and sophomore Austin Haywood, a 6-2, 239-pound special teamer who's more of a physical target than a big receiver.
Watch Out For … Stills. He was steadily good last year, but now with a year under his belt, he could be explosively great with all the attention paid to Broyles. It's going to take most of the secondary to focus on Broyles, and Stills will see plenty of single coverage.
Strength: Talent. Broyles is putting up epic numbers, and it'll be a stunning upset if he doesn't finish with at least 100 catches. Stills, Miller, and Franks are all good enough to stretch the field and come up with big play after big play, and more talent is on the way.
Weakness: Too much of a reliance on Broyles? It's nitpicking for such a strong corps, but when 131 of your catches come from one guy, there will obviously be a huge drop-off if something happens to the All-American. Stills and Franks can play, but is either one ready to be the No. 1 guy right away?
Outlook: The OU receivers are going to be phenomenal. Helped by the continued emergence of QB Landry Jones, the passing game will be among the five best in the game, and everyone will benefit. Broyles is a true No. 1, but it's not like the rest of the Sooners starters are going to struggle for catches, and that includes Hanna, who'll be a dangerous field stretcher.
Unit Rating: 10
State of the Unit: The line was excellent in pass protection, which was a must considering the relatively immobile Landry Jones needed to be kept upright, but it struggled to generate a push for the ground game that averaged a sad 3.3 yards per carry. Unlike 2009, when the line had to deal with several different combinations, the lineup was relatively steady throughout 2010, and now the payoff needs to come with four returning starters and plenty of experience.
The one big question mark is at right tackle where Erik Mensik went from being a big tight end to an athletic tackle who stated all 14 games. 6-6, 308-pound senior Jarvis Jones was all set to be the starter with his great size and good quickness, but he suffered a knee injury in spring ball and will likely miss the first part of the season, if not the first half. That means former tight end and defensive end Lane Johnson might get a long look, with 6-6, 267-pound size and the ability to be another Mensik, or 6-4, 304-pound redshirt freshman Daryl Williams could step into the job bringing more size. Williams will also be a key backup at left tackle with the skills to become an anchor.
The Sooners have concerns on the right side, but they're set on the left with 6-5, 303-pound senior Donald Stephenson,, a good veteran who started ten times last year before giving way late to Jarvis Jones. He bulked up over the last few years and was one of the team's top run blockers, but he needs to be consistent at it. For now, it's not Williams as the key backup, 6-4, 322-pound sophomore Josh Aladenoye will work into the rotation after spending last year as a backup and special teamer. Smart and strong, he'll be a starter at one of the tackle jobs next year.
Junior Ben Habern stepped in and became a starter for the entire year at center, doing a nice job in place of Jon Cooper. The 6-2, 291-pounder had an ankle problem over his first few seasons, but he was durable throughout last year and led the line with the most time logged in. A fringe all-star, he's a good talent who's still growing into the job. 6-4, 305-pound sophomore Austin Woods worked as a special teamer and a deep snapper, and with his size he brings more bulk to the position than Habern. One of last year's top recruits, he has the ability to play almost anywhere on the line even though he was Scout.com's fifth-ranked center.
Sophomore Gabe Ikard might have started the season as a backup left guard, but the 6-2, 290-pounder quickly took over the job and started the final 12 games. Built a bit like a tackle, he's quick and moves extremely well for the position with great athleticism. Considered by many to be a top tight end prospect, he easily made the transition. Extremely smart, he's an all-star in the classroom and was a CFN Freshman All-American after growing into the job on the field as the season went on. He'll be backed up by 6-4, 293-pound senior Stephen Good, who started the first two games at left guard, but ended up being a key backup. While he'll be a reliable backup, it'll be a disappointment if he doesn't do more after coming to OU as one of the nation's top-ranked offensive line prospects.
6-4, 326-pound junior Tyler Evans started 12 times last year and has locked down the right guard job. The team's biggest blocker, he doesn't move all that well with an ankle problem keeping him down a bit early in his career, but he's ridiculously strong and can move the pile as well as any Sooner lineman. Smart, he earned academic all-star honors. 6-4, 308-pound sophomore Bronson Irwin is a reliable veteran backup who was a four-star recruit, and now should play a bigger role in the rotation at both guard spots.
Watch Out For … the right tackle job. The Jones injury was devastating, and while the hope is that he'll be back by October, the former LSU Tiger will need time to heal. Is Johnson really going to move over from the defensive side? Is Williams going to get a chance at the job? It'll be the big question mark up front going into the fall.
Strength: Experience and pass protection. The Sooners welcome back four starters, and Good can step in and start at either guard job without a problem. Considering OU threw the ball 633 times, giving up a mere 21 sacks was impressive.
Weakness: Run blocking. It's not that the OU ground game was a disaster – DeMarco Murray ran for over 1,200 yards – but it wasn't consistent enough. The line isn't going to be Wisconsin when it comes to blasting away, but it needs to pave the way for more than 3.3 yards per run.
Outlook: The whole might be better than the sum. The Sooners have loaded up on top recruits for years, and while there isn't a sure-thing all-star anywhere on the line, the starting five should be excellent once the right tackle job gets figured out. It would be nice if Stephenson became a killer, and Ikard will earn All-Big 12 honors at some point, but as long as the veteran line keeps the quarterbacks clean, all the other issues will be glossed over.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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2011 Oklahoma Defense |
2011 Oklahoma Depth Chart
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