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2007 Oklahoma Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 17, 2007


Preview 2007 Oklahoma Sooner Offense

Oklahoma Sooners

Preview 2007


- 2007 Oklahoma Preview | 2007 OU Defense Preview
-
2007 OU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Oklahoma Preview 

What you need to know:
If a quarterback comes through and shines, this could be the nation's most effective offense. If the offensive line isn't the best in college football, it's number two, the running backs are very fast and very talented, and the receiving corps, led by top pro prospect Malcolm Kelly, is very big and very fast. It all comes down to redshirt freshman Sam Bradford, who won the quarterback battle over junior Joey Halzle. If he can be steady in the plum gig, the attack is loaded enough to win a national title.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Joey Halzle
1-2, 15 yds
Rushing: Allen Patrick
169 carries, 761 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Malcolm Kelly
62 catches, 993 yds, 10 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Malcolm Kelly
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman QB Sam Bradford
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Phil Loadholt
Best pro prospect: Kelly
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kelly, 2) OG George Robinson, 3) C Jon Cooper
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, running back, receiver
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
Joey Halzle is the safe, solid option. 6-5, 197-pound redshirt freshman Sam Bradford is the shot for the stars. A scout team star last season, he seems to have the offense down and looked the part of a starter this spring. He's not as fast as Halzle, but he can move and has the potential to grow into a pro prospect with the arm, size and athleticism to take the job by the horns for the next four years.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Joey Halzle might be the least talented of the three quarterback options, but he's a veteran from the JUCO ranks who has good 6-3, 198-pound size, fantastic speed, good strength, and enough all-around talent to keep the offense going, and the mistakes to a minimum. He fits the OU mold of solid, unspectacular passers who produce, but he might have to show a bit more to see starting time.

True freshman Keith Nichol was almost ready to go to Michigan State and be the likely starter, but changed his mind at the last possible moment and chose OU. A high school cornerback as well as a quarterback, he's 6-2, 180 pounds, athletic, and has a cannon for an arm. He threw for 76 touchdowns and ran for 58 more in his high school career. While he'll likely redshirt, he's being given a shot to start.
 
Watch Out For ... Bradford. He was the better quarterback at times in spring ball, but it'll be hard to not go with the veteran, Halzle, and bring along the star prospect a little slowly and develop him for some time later in the year or for next season.
Strength: Athleticism. All three quarterbacks run extremely well and can be used in designed running plays. They'll all get plenty of time to work behind a tremendous line, but they can get out of trouble.
Weakness: Experience. Halzle completed one of two passes for 15 yards last year. That's it as far as D-I playing time.
Outlook: If OU can win the Big 12 title with Paul Thompson at quarterback, it can win with any of the three options taking over. All have talent, all can run, and all can throw (with Nichol able to throw the ball through a wall), but in the end, it's up to Bradford to grow into the job. If he lives up to his potential right away, OU is a true national title contender. 
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters
:
For the moment, 6-0, 191-pound senior Allen Patrick will be the starter after filling in for an injured Adrian Peterson and all but carrying the Sooners over the second half of the regular season. Not only did the rushing production not fall off with Patrick in, it picked up at times with 440 yards over a critical midseason three-game stretch and 163 more at Oklahoma State. Whenever he carried the ball 20 times or more, he ran for 100 yards, finishing with 761 yards and four scores. The former defensive back is a workhorse who's able to pound it between the tackles and show off a good burst of speed when he gets through the line.

When the Sooners used a fullback, it'll be 6-1, 237-pound senior Dan Zaslaw who'll step in as a blocker. The former linebacker is physical, but didn't get any carries last year and caught just six passes for 68 yards.

Projected Top Reserves: It's just a question of time before it's the DeMarco Murray show. The coaching staff resisted the urge to play their superstar recruit when injuries struck the backs, and now it'll pay off as the redshirt freshman with 6-0, 191-pound size, 4.37 speed and 41-inch vertical apparently ready to be the next great Sooner back. He was phenomenal in spring ball showing off an unbelievable burst in the spring game with 103 yards on just four carries.

The third man in the mix, but almost certain to see time, will be 5-10, 190-pound sophomore Chris Brown, who stepped in when Peterson and Patrick were hurt and ran for 84 yards and two scores against Texas Tech, 169 yards and a score against Baylor, and 74 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State to help seal the South title. While he isn't as fast as Murray, he's has excellent speed and is more of a quick, darting back compared to the straight ahead style of Patrick.
 
Watch Out For ... Murray. He wasn't the otherworldly recruit Peterson was coming out of high school but he wasn't too far off. With the speed, flash and talent shown off this spring, he's too good to not become a regular past of the offense.
Strength: Speed. Patrick can move, while Murray and Brown can fly. Whoever is running the ball will come up with a ton of yards and plenty of big plays.
Weakness: The coaching staff. OU wears down its backs. Peterson's collarbone injury was a fluke, but he got dinged up from time to time after his freshman year partly because the coaching staff steadfastly refused to come up with a rotation to decrease the workload. The law of averages, when it comes to running backs, means that backs who carry the ball a ton will eventually get a bad roll, and strange twist, or something that'll knock them out. Patrick got 102 carries in three games, and got hurt. Peterson got 168 carries in six games, and got hurt. Fortunately ...
Outlook: ... OU has three backs who could be First Team All-Big 12 performers with the full-time workload. Patrick, Allen and Murray were all superstar recruits, and they run like it. There's an embarrassment of riches in the backfield in what should be one of the nation's most effective ground games. Call if a perfect convergence of fast, talented backs working behind a tremendous line. 
Rating: 9

Receivers

Projected Starters
:
The receiving corps is big, fast, and really good. The biggest and best of the bunch is 6-4, 217-pound junior Malcolm Kelly, who might be the first receiver taken in the 2008 NFL Draft if he leaves early and if he has someone getting him the ball on a consistent basis. The big unknown is a knee injury that he suffered early in the Fiesta Bowl that kept him out of spring ball, but assuming all is fine, the sky's the limit. He caught 62 passes for 993 yards and ten touchdowns, highlighted by an 11-catch, 153-yard, one touchdown day against Texas Tech, and a ten-catch, 142-yard, two touchdown day against Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship. How important is he? In his six worst games of the year, OU had to battle to beat UAB, lost to Oregon, lost to Texas, beat Texas A&M by one point, struggled to get by Oklahoma State, and lost to Boise State.

The main man on the other side of Kelly will be 6-1, 201-pound junior Juaquin Iglesias, a speedster who stepped up big time when Kelly went down against Boise State, having his best game of the season with six catches for 120 yards. He finished second on the team with 41 grabs for 514 yards and two scores. Considering he's mainly considered to be a home-run threat and needs some polish on his overall game, he should be a steady number two.

In three-wide sets, which OU usually runs, 5-11, 177-pound junior Manuel Johnson will get the call after finishing third on the team with 36 catches for 378 yards and three scores. While he disappeared for stretches and didn't come close to tapping into his jaw-dropping speed, he wasn't bad and will be as dangerous a third receiver as any in the Big 12. If he puts it all together and starts running crisper routes, he could be the X factor in the passing game.

Back at tight end after starting every game is senior Joe Jon Finley, a 6-6, 260-pounder who can catch a little bit with 19 grabs for 378 yards and three touchdowns. Extremely athletic, he's like an oversized wide receiver who creates a variety of matchup problems.

Projected Top Reserves: It'll be hard to crack into the receiver rotation, but junior Fred Strong is a good prospect with 6-1, 197-pound size, excellent speed, and decent hangs. He only made nine catches for 73 yards and was out of the mix for most of the second half of the year, but now he'll play a big role in the rotation behind Iglesias.

6-4, 184-pound Adron Tennell saw time as a true freshman with two catches for 26 yards. Out of all the big, fast OU receivers, Tennell has the best combination of good size and otherworldly speed, and once he gets a chance to see meaningful playing time, he'll be terrific.

While Finley is the main man at tight end, 6-6, 250-pound sophomore Jermaine Gresham and 6-5, 258-pound sophomore Brody Eldridge will both see time. Gresham is more of a receiver, catching eight passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Eldridge, who caught three passes for 18 yards, is more of a blocker.
 
Watch Out For ... Kelly to become a nationally known star. The buzz is starting to generate that he could be a top 15 overall pick if there aren't any lingering effects from his knee injury and if he starts to play up to his size. He's not physical enough, but he's tough when he has to be.
Strength: Size and speed. Outside of USC, no one has a receiving corps with the combination of size and wheels that this one has. Everyone is big, and everyone can fly.
Weakness: Consistency. Blame it on erratic quarterback play (at times) and blame it on an offense that ran the ball on everyone. Kelly was always on when the offense revolved around him, but Iglesias and Johnson, considering they were second and third on the team in receiving, have to be stronger game in and game out.
Outlook: The top six receivers (not counting Adrian Peterson) are back. Kelly might be the best OU receiver ever (with 95 catches for 1,484 yards and 12 touchdowns in two years, he's already among the greats) and Iglesias and Johnson have the speed and potential to blow up on every play. Throw in the great trio of tight ends, and OU is loaded.
Rating: 9

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
There are tremendous battles for starting jobs at three spots across the front, but two jobs are set. Junior Jon Cooper is a rising star at center, and junior George Robinson is a rising superstar at left guard.

At 6-5 and 330 pounds, Robinson is a big blocker in the interior who can move linemen around without much of a problem. He's not as bulky anymore after starting his career at well over 360 pounds, and he could play tackle if needed. While "Duke" could still used some more seasoning in pass protection, he's coming into his own as an All-America caliber run blocker.

The 6-2, 285-pound Cooper is a true anchor in the middle, starting all but on game over the last two seasons. Versatile enough to move to guard in a pinch, he's a tough run blocker who's a year removed from an ankle injury that curtailed his freshman year. He's been a producer since the moment he set foot on campus.

Everything else is up in the air, but for now, the biggest move of the off-season was the addition of 6-8, 360-pound junior Phil Loadholt at left tackle. The massive JUCO transfer was a two-time All-American at Garden City CC in Kansas showing unreal athleticism for a player of his size. He might not be Chris Messner right away, the star he's replacing, but he has the potential to be fantastic.

6-6, 312-pound junior Branndon Braxton would likely get the starting right tackle job if the season started today. That might change in a hurry. He started the first seven games of last season before breaking his leg, and now he's in a fight to get his job back. With excellent speed for such a big player, he's great on the move. At least he was. He'll have to show this fall that he can be his old self.

The other big battle is at right guard, where 6-4, 293-pound sophomore Brian Simmons will be a key part of the rotation if he doesn't get the job. Able to play either guard position, he's more than athletic enough to also move to tackle if needed. The former defensive lineman missed the first part of last year after getting injured lifting weights, never quite got into the swing of things, and now is back.

Projected Top Reserves: Don't get too comfortable with Braxton and Simmons as starters. 6-3, 306-pound junior Brandon Walker held down the starting right guard job all of last year after coming to OU following a tremendous JUCO career. Even though Walker isn't as athletic as Simmons, he's a bruiser who'll be tough to finally kick out of a starting job.

Pushing for the right tackle job will be 6-5, 321-pound sophomore Trent Williams, who stepped in when Braxton broke his leg and was fantastic over the final seven games of the year. While not a top-shelf athlete, he can move well and is a killer in the running game. Big enough to move inside, he'll first be a key blocker somewhere at tackle again.
 
Watch Out For ... Loadholt. Trent Williams will be an All-Big 12 performer at some point in his career, and Branndon Braxton, when he gets healthy, will also be in the hunt for all-star honors. It took a special type of player to step in and take over the left tackle job right off the bat, and Loadholt is that type of performer.
Strength: Everything. Size, depth, athleticism, NFL skill, options, rising prospect, reliable veterans, this group has it all.
Weakness: The only possible problem could be if Braxton's leg isn't quite right, Loadholt needs a little time to get adjusted (considering Miami comes to town in week two), something happens to Robinson. The overall depth is there, but this won't be the same line if something happens to Duke or Cooper.
Outlook: A major concern going into last year eventually turned into a phenomenal strength. Even with injuries and a little bit of shuffling, the line was killing defenses over the second half of last year. Now it's even better with what might be the best line in the Bob Stoops era. Obviously, he's had some decent ones over the years.
Rating: 10

 

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2007 Oklahoma Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007
2007 Oklahoma Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007
2007 Oklahoma Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 17, 2007








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