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2013 Oklahoma Preview - Offense
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CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 7, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Oklahoma Sooner Offense


Oklahoma Sooners

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Oklahoma Preview | 2013 Oklahoma Offense
- 2013 Oklahoma Defense | 2013 Oklahoma Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The offense finished in the top 15 nationally in both total offense and scoring offense, and it was fifth in passing, but the consistency wasn’t there and there weren’t enough clutch plays in key moments. Blowing up Texas was nice, and ripping apart West Virginia and Oklahoma State was fun, but the O went bye-bye in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M and couldn’t convert yards into points in losses to Notre Dame and Kansas State. This year, expect more from a running game that welcomes back a terrific group of running backs and a whale of a line that lacks the overall star power, but is loaded with experience and skill. The receiving corps will have no problems making up for the loss of top targets Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, but the focus and spotlight will be on the quarterback situation with Blake Bell the best of an interesting lot of options who’ll had more mobility to the position.

Returning Leaders 
Passing: Blake Bell
9-16, 107 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Damien Williams
176 carries, 946 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Jalen Saunders
62 catches, 829 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Damien Williams
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Blake Bell
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Sterling Shepard
Best pro prospect: Senior FB Trey Millard
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C Gabe Ikard, 2) Millard, 3) Williams
Strength of the offense: Running Back, Line
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Consistency

Quarterbacks

All Big 12 fans know about The Belldozer, but few are aware of just how great a prospect junior quarterback Blake Bell really is. The 6-6, 263-pound veteran is massive – maybe too big – with a huge arm and devastating power rushing skills, pounding away for 24 touchdowns in a season-and-a-half while seeing a little time as a passer completing 9-of-16 throws last season in blowouts. The pro-style passing skills are there to go along with the mobility. While he’ll never take off for huge yards, he’ll blast his way for first downs while also being able to sling the ball all over the field. The talent is there, but he needs time to grow into the starting role – if he stays the starter.

Knee deep in the hunt for the starting job is 6-1, 191-pound sophomore Kendal Thompson, who with his size doesn’t necessarily have the look of recent OU passers, but he’s a good, accurate decision-maker with incredibly quick feet. However, while he’s not quite the athlete or speedster his dad was, but he’s a much better passer than former Oklahoma starting quarterback Charles Thompson.

Also getting every opportunity to win the starting job is redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, a 6-1, 202-pound dual-threat option who might be the best pure runner of the bunch. While he doesn’t make mistakes with the passing game and has a live arm, he’ll be at his best when he gets to make plays on the move.

Watch Out For … Cody Thomas. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, the new recruit has the size of a normal Oklahoma quarterback, and he has the passing ability, too, chucking for over 7,000 yards with 83 touchdowns over the last two years of high school. He’s not the runner the current Sooner quarterbacks are, but he’ll adapt quickly to the system.
Strength: Mobile options. Compared to Landry Jones and Sam Bradford, OU has a track team among the quarterback options. Thompson and Knight are each able to make things happen on their own, and Bell can bury his way for yards at any time. There will be a new element to the quarterback mix.
Weakness: Experience. For all of Bell’s time logged in, he hasn’t done much as a passer. He needs seasoning, while Thompson and Knight each have to see the field and show they can produce.
Outlook: Jones was a record-setter and was very, very good, but he didn’t exactly move the needle – he didn’t lead the way to enough big things on a national scale. It could be a quarterback battle for a while to replace him, but Bell has the skills and the upside to be terrific once he logs a few more miles, and Thompson and Knight are exciting dual-threat options who bring something to the mix.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

The running game didn’t do enough last year and was wildly inconsistent, but it gets back almost all the key parts starting with senior Damien Williams, a 5-11, 214-pound former JUCO All-American who stepped in and starred from the opener with 103 yards and a score on just ten carries against UTEP, and he followed it up with 156 yards and four touchdowns on just ten carries against Florida A&M. And then came Texas, and 22 carries for 167 yards and a score later, he showed he speed, power and burst that should make him more of a workhorse. He produced well when fed the ball, but there were some strange games getting just three carries against Iowa State and seven against Oklahoma State, but when he’s on, he can be everything for the attack, including receiver, catching 34 passes for 320 yards and a score.

5-11, 197-pound senior Brennan Clay has been a nice part of the rotation throughout his career, and he turned into more and more of a factor over the second half of last season with 157 yards with a score on 24 carries against Iowa State and finished second on the team with 555 yards and six touchdowns averaging six yards per carry. The one-time superstar recruit out of San Diego is smart, fast and has great hands, but he hasn’t been able to take over and find his niche. Versatile, he was the first player in California history to rush for 1,000 yards and catch over 1,000 yards worth of passes in a season.

The Sooners have a good, tough group of tailbacks, but the best player in the backfield might be fullback Trey Millard, a do-it-all part of the offense with great blocking skills, decent rushing ability averaging six yards per carry, and with great hands catching 30 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. An all-star with great experience, he’s a top all-around player who has turned into a key part of the puzzle. He’ll be backed up by 6-1, 260-pound junior Aaron Ripkowski, who might not be the same sort of runner or receiver, but he’s a blaster of a hitter in short-yardage situations.

Watch Out For … how quickly top recruit Keith Ford can get into the mix? The 5-11, 208-pound five-star talent has all the tools and skills to be a superstar to build the offense around. Really, really tough, he runs hard and with a purpose in the interior, and when he gets a little bit of a hole he can zip through it in a hurry. While he won’t hit too many home runs, he’s a bulk-workload back who can consistently rip off yards in chunks.
Strength: Talent. Williams, Clay and Ford are good enough, but throw in Millard to the equation and the Sooners are loaded with some of the most talented running backs in college football. Until the passing game comes around, there won’t be any problems working the offense around the runners.
Weakness: Nasty run defenses. It was a problem a few years ago, and it was an issue last season coming up with just 15 yards on 24 carries against Notre Dame, was held to 87 yards by Kansas State.
Outlook: The offense mostly rolls with a high-octane passing attack, but the ground game should be nasty enough and good enough to balance things out a bit. There’s a fantastic rotation to work around with all the backs big, quick and versatile. This should be one of the team’s major positives.
Unit Rating: 9

Receivers

Leading receiver Kenny Stills took off early for the NFL, and second-leading target Justin Brown – a Penn State transfer – is gone, too. Now it’s time for sophomore Trey Metoyer to go from being a superior offseason star to a primetime performer. The one-time super-recruit caught 108 passes for 1,540 yards and 23 scores as a high school senior, and after putting in a year at the Hargrave Academy in Virginia, he destroyed the OU defense two springs ago and looked ready to be the next big thing, and then he came up with just 17 catches for 148 yards and a score. Arguably the greatest receiver recruit in Sooner football history, he’s 6-1, 184 pounds, fast and runs great routes. There’s no questioning the talent, but now it all has to shine through.

Senior Jalen Saunders started out his career at Fresno State, ripping up the WAC in 2011 averaging over 21 yards per catch making 50 grabs for 1,065 yards and 12 scores. Unhappy with the new coaching staff at FSU, he transferred to OU and was expected to have to sit out the year, but the NCAA declared him eligible early on and he stepped right away catching 62 passes for 829 yards and three touchdowns in just eight games. Dominant against Notre Dame, he caught 15 passes for 181 yards, and he rolled against Oklahoma State with ten catches for 162 yards and a score while also scoring off a punt return. He’s only 5-9 and 160 pounds, but he’s lightning quick and dangerous with the ball in his hands. He’ll be backed up by sophomore Durron Neal, a former top recruit out of Missouri with 5-11, 201-pound size and great open field skills as both a runner and a receiver.

5-10, 188-pound sophomore Sterling Shepard has a world of upside in the slot after shining right away as a true freshman catching 45 passes for 621 yards and three scores. Shining against Kansas State for seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, the best recruit out of Oklahoma last year showed the upside and talent to become a No. 1 target. While he’s the up-and-coming star, fellow slot receiver Jaz Reynolds will try to revamp his career after being suspended for last season for a violation of team rules. The 6-2, 198-pound senior finished third on the team in 2011 with 41 catches for 715 yards and five scores averaging a gamebreaking 17.4 yards per grab before suffering a kidney injury. When he’s right, he’s one of OU’s most dangerous big targets.

The tight end situation was a big issue going into last season, but Brannon Green turned into a nice option as a blocker. The former JUCO transfer is built like a big fullback at 6-2 and 264 pounds, and he hits like one. However, he wasn’t used much as a receiver with just three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. He’ll work in a rotation with 6-5, 253-pound redshirt freshman Taylor McNamara, a top recruit last year with the build and the size to be more of a receiver. He might not be a big hitter, but he’ll pose matchup problems.

Watch Out For … K.Y. Young and Austin Bennett. The Sooners came up big at receiver in this year’s recruiting class, and Young and Bennett are the best on the lot. The 6-0, 170-pound Bennett was a steady part of his high school offense but could explode in an offense that focuses more on the passing game. Young is a 6-1, 182-pounder out of California who caught 91 passes for 1,593 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and should be a home run hitter sooner than later.
Strength: The rotation. Losing the top two receivers who produced like Stills and Brown did would be crippling for most offenses, but OU reloads. Metoyer has All-America talent waiting to break out, while Saunders and Shepard are smallish big-play targets. Those three alone would be good enough, but the return of Reynolds takes things to another level.
Weakness: Tight end. OU doesn’t have the sure-thing receiving tight end like it’s used to. It was a key part missing in last year’s attack, and while Green will be fine for the ground game, he won’t catch 40 passes.
Outlook: Ryan Broyles is gone, and Stills and Brown step up. Stills and Brown are gone, and now it’ll be Saunders, Metoyer and Shepard. The quarterback situation is a bit of a concern without a steady passer like a Landry Jones or Sam Bradford to bomb away, but the receivers will make the passing game work. It would be nice to get more out of the tight ends, and the depth will be a wee bit of a concern early on, but overall the corps should be fantastic once again.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Offensive Line

The offensive line patched things together and came up with a strong season. Last year’s issues and concerns should help pave the way for this year’s strong group with all the top blockers returning. The star of the show is center Gabe Ikard, a 6-3, 298-pound center who started most of last season earning all-star honors as a smart, athletic and quick option for the interior. The former guard spent the year at center, and while he’s not a blaster of a run blocker, he’s technically sound and should be a sure-thing all-star.

6-6, 315-pound junior Daryl Williams spent last season as a backup with one start early on. A superstar recruit with the size, athleticism and strength to be an anchor, he’s a pass protector who should shine with a little more time. Initially expected to rock on the right side, he has the next-level skills for the left. However, don’t be shocked if he ends up on the other side and junior Tyler Thompson gets the start. The 6-5, 316-pounder will likely get the start on the right side after seeing a little bit of starting time at both positions and doing a nice job in pass protection. Bulked up a bit over the last year, he should be a more physical run blocker.

6-4, 311-pound junior Adam Shead did a nice job when thrown in at right guard a few years ago, and last season he took over and dominated at times at left guard. A big-time recruit, he’s a good swing guard with tremendous strength and leverage, and he’ll be the one the team works around for the hard yards. While he’ll be the team’s best guard, 6-5, 310-pound senior Bronson Irwin should once again be a steady option at right guard after starting every game. A very smart, very dependable all-around blocker, he’s not going to blow anyone off the ball, but he doesn’t make a slew of big mistakes. The talent is now combining with experience, and he should be one of the Big 12’s better interior blockers.

The starting five is set, but 6-4, 310-pound senior Austin Woods is a key backup for the interior along with serving as the team’s long snapper. The one-time superstar center recruit hasn’t quite panned out as expected, but he can play anywhere inside as one of the team’s most versatile backup blockers.

Watch Out For … the JUCO guys. The depth should be bolstered right away from a few new JUCO options. Dionte Savage is a massive 6-5, 345-pound guard who doesn’t move all that well, but can generate a big shove inside. 6-6, 305-pound tackle Josiah St. John is the best of the new options and a ready-made reserve on the outside. With good feet and a nice frame, he’s a solid pass protector who can work on either side.
Strength: Experience. Williams has a little bit of starting experience meaning that all five starters up front are strong veterans who should know what they’re doing. Considering he might turn out to be the best of the linemen, there’s a fantastic blend of veterans to work around.
Weakness: Quality depth. OU didn’t have a problem when a slew of injuries struck last season, but there isn’t a deep group behind the experienced starters. There might not be that great a rotation to start the season, and health will have to be a key part of the equation.
Outlook: This was considered to be big strength last year, and even with some injury problems it turned out to be a rock-solid unit in pass protection – now the line will be even better. The ground game will be dominant at times behind this group, but it has to be stronger and tougher against the better run defenses.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2013 Oklahoma Preview | 2013 Oklahoma Offense
- 2013 Oklahoma Defense | 2013 Oklahoma Depth Chart