2008 CFN Oklahoma Preview |
2008 Oklahoma Depth
2007 CFN Oklahoma Preview |
2006 CFN Oklahoma
What you need to know: Consistency will be the key,
especially on the road, but all the parts are there. The offense
has the talent to be unstoppable, but there are a few question
marks. Starting with the positives, Sam Bradford should once
again be among the nation's most effective and efficient
quarterbacks and the line might be the best in America by a wide
margin with all five starters returning, along with impressive
depth. However, the top two returning running backs, DeMarco
Murray and Chris Brown, are coming off knee injuries, and the
receiving corps will be looking for immediate help with Malcolm
Kelly moving on early to the NFL. Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel
Johnson are great targets, but can they be more than just
complementary receivers? Can the new superstar running back and
receiver recruits shine right away? Again, though, with a line
like OU has, everyone will get time to jell.
Passing: Sam Bradford
237-341, 3,121 yds, 36 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: DeMarco Murray
127 carries, 764 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Juaquin Iglesias
68 catches, 907 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Sam Bradford
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior WR
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Trent Williams
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Phil Loadholt
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Loadholt, 2) OG George
Robinson, 3) Bradford
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, quarterback,
Weakness of the offense:
Running back health, proven receiver depth
Projected Starter: The one major question mark in 2007 for OU
was the quarterback situation. This was considered a good enough
team to win the Big 12 title, and possibly the national
championship, if Paul Thompson could be replaced and if the
Sooners could just find someone steady to take over. All
sophomore Sam Bradford did was lead the nation in
passing efficiency while completing 70% of his throws for 3,121
yards and 36 touchdowns with eight interceptions, and while he
wasn't really in the Heisman race, a case could be made that he
was as much of an MVP as anyone in the country. The 6-4,
214-pounder showed maturity beyond his years and scary-good
decision-making ability. While he's a good athlete, he's not a
runner and he needs protection.
Playing behind one of the nation's best offensive lines, he had
plenty of time to operate and picked everyone apart when he got
a chance, but he struggled when he was pressured. As good as he
was throwing five touchdown passes in the destruction of Miami
and five in the blowout against Texas A&M, but he hasn't come
through in the clutch. That's not to say he's not good in tight
games, he was brilliant in the 28-21 win over Texas, but he
struggled under the pressure in the loss to Colorado and wasn't
a major factor, despite throwing for 242 yards, in the loss to
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Joey Halzle
doesn't have a ton of talent compared to the other OU
quarterbacks and he might not do any one thing all that well,
but Oklahoma has won championships with passers like him.
Experienced, coming from the JUCO ranks, athletic, and with
enough all-around skill to do a little of everything well, he
can step in and shine if needed, like he did in the Texas Tech
game when he took over for an injured Sam Bradford and, after a
slow start, finished by completing 21 of 42 passes for 291 yards
and two touchdowns with an interception.
Sophomore Keith Nichol
was a huge recruit two years ago and was almost ready to go to Michigan State
to be the immediate starter, but changed his mind at the last possible moment and
chose OU. At 6-2 and 204 pounds with tremendous speed, he's a
great athlete with a cannon for an arm, throwing for 76
touchdowns in his school and running for 58 more. The coaching
staff blew it by playing him in a few mop-up moments and blowing
his redshirt season, and now, with Bradford firmly entrenched as
the starter, he has decided to transfer to Michigan State.
OU landed a future star in Landry Jones, one of the
nation's top ranked prep quarterbacks. The 6-4, 210-pounder from
New Mexico is an accurate bomber with good running skills, but
he doesn't figure to be within ten miles of the starting
quarterback mix until 2011.
Watch Out For ... the ongoing battle for the No. 2
job. While the team can probably win right now with Halzle,
Jones is the national title-caliber talent who could eventaully make
the offense explode if something happened to Bradford. One
thing about OU, everyone will get their shot to play.
Strength: Flat-out talent. Bradford, Halze, and
even Jones have NFL potential. OU hasn't exactly been a
factory for NFL quarterbacks (quick, name the last Sooner passer
who has done anything in the big league ... and no, Troy
Aikman doesn't count), this is the most talented stable of
signal-callers Bob Stoops has ever had.
Weakness: Running. Bradford isn't a
stick-in-the-mud and Halzle can move, but defensive
coordinators aren't going to worry about the new Vince Young.
Outlook: On pure talent, Oklahoma has some of the
best quarterbacks in the country with all three
options, Bradford, Halzle and Jones able to
start and shine. It helps to have a good line to play behind, a
brilliant running game to count on, and an elite receiving corps
to throw to, but Bradford isn't just a cog in the system; he's a
big-time player who makes it all go.
Projected Starters: Is DeMarco Murray going to be healthy
enough to continue to emerge as the star he was becoming before
getting hurt? The now-sophomore made a scary-good debut with
five touchdowns against North Texas and ran for 764 yards and 13
scores, caught 14 passes for 60 yards, and averaged 29.3 yards
per kickoff return with two scores. He ran for 94 yards against
Texas Tech, and then he dislocated his kneecap on an onside kick
late in the loss for Red Raiders and was done for the year and
missed spring ball. A phenomenal athlete with 4.43 speed and a
41-inch vertical in a 6-0, 191-pound frame, he has all the
skills to be a next-level back, but he hasn't been a workhorse.
Even so, he's a proven prime-time player with 128 yards and a score against
When the Sooners used a fullback, it'll be junior Matt Clapp, a 6-2,
244-pound true fullback who redshirted last year and hasn't been
able to do much so far due to injuries. He's a physical player
who'll likely only be a blocker when he gets on the field.
Projected Top Reserves: The third man in the mix
throughout last year, Chris Brown has been the ultimate
fill-in taking the ball when needed rushing for 611 yards and
nine touchdowns. The junior killed Missouri with five touchdowns
in the two games and proved he could step in and produce as part
of rotation, but he suffered a knee injury against West Virginia
and is questionable to be back to form early on. In a perfect
world, he continues to be a dependable No. 2 back who's
automatic on third and short situations. While he isn't nearly
as fast as Murray, he has speed and is a quick, darting back who
keeps the chains moving.
Considering Murray and Brown are coming off big injuries, it
might up to be sophomore Mossis Madu to become a major
factor early on. Mostly a special teamer so far, he saw a little
bit of work running for 232 yards and a 5.8 average highlighted
by a 55-yard dash against North Texas. Like all OU backs, he's
quick and can cut on a dime, and he's also a decent receiver who
could find himself in a bit of a third down role if he becomes
the No. 3 man in the running mix.
OU is never afraid to throw a young player to the wolves, and
top-recruit Jermie Calhoun could see immediate action if
the injured backs aren't ready right away. The 6-0, 210-pounder
from Texas ran for 1,601 yards and 20 touchdowns as a high
school senior and has the skills to be a dangerous option in the
rotation, if nothing else, along with fellow true freshman
Justin Johnson, 6-1, 210-pound speedster who provides a bit
more power than Calhoun.
Backing up Clapp will be tight end Brody
Eldridge in sort of an H-Back role. The 6-5,
258-pound junior has seven career catches for 55 yards, but his
real worth is as a big-time blocker earning All-Big 12 honors
for opening up holes for the ground game. He'll also be the
team's backup tight end.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. Murray and
Brown are the team's established backs who the running
game will revolve around, but they might not be quite the same
coming off knee injuries. At the very least, they're question
marks and the team has to prepare for them to not quite be the
same, while hoping they're back to form. That means
Calhoun and Johnson will get every shot at seeing time.
Strength: Interchangeability. Murray is the
special back with the talent to be an All-America star, but it's
not like others can't step in and produce. Thanks to a great O
line and an efficient passing game, OU is always able to plug
and chug backs. Remember, the team was actually more productive
two years ago when Adrian Peterson was out.
Weakness: The coaching staff ... and it's been the
weakness for the last few years. OU wears down its backs with
Bob Stoops never afraid to give a runner the ball until he
drops. The staff did a better job of rotating the runners last
year, but Sooner backs always seem to get hurt. Peterson's
collarbone injury two years ago 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 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. Two years ago, Allen
Patrick got 102 carries in three games and got hurt. Peterson
got 168 carries in six games and got hurt. Murray was put on the
onside kick coverage team against Texas Tech and was lost for
the year. Brown suffered a knee injury against West Virginia.
It's a bad pattern.
Outlook: The potential is there for the Sooners to
have a devastating rotation of runners if Brown and Murray are back from their knee injuries, but this is OU;
there are always more backs waiting in the wings. Madu
and true freshmen Calhoun and Johnson can keep the
offense moving, but it'll take Murray being healthy for the ground game
to be special. The rating is assuming it'll take a bit for
Murray and Brown to be back to form.
Projected Starters: Shhhhh. While Malcolm Kelly is considered by
some to be the best wide receiver in the 2008 NFL Draft, he
wasn't Oklahoma's best receiver last year. Senior Juaquin
Iglesias followed up a solid sophomore season by leading the
team with 68 catches for 907 yards and five touchdowns. With 4.4
speed he's always been known as a home-run threat, but last year
he became consistent short, middle and long. While not the
scorer Kelly was, that could quickly change now that he's the
true No. 1 target, but that also means he has to deal with all
the attention. Along with being the top receiver, he's also an
elite kick returner averaging 28.5 yards per try.
In Kelly's place will likely be senior Quentin Chaney, an
interesting blend of tight end size with deep speed. At 6-4 and
213 pounds, he's physical enough to outmuscle most defensive
backs, and with sub-4.5 speed, he has the wheels to blow by them
... potentially. It hasn't come together for him yet with 15
career catches for 263 yards and four touchdowns, but he made a
45-yard scoring grab against West Virginia and averaged 23.1
yards per catch last season.
In three-wide sets, which OU usually runs, 5-11, 177-pound
junior Manuel Johnson will once again get the call after
finishing fourth on the team with 31 catches for 448 yards and
four touchdowns. A speedster with experience, he's been a steady
cog in the system and an occasional home run hitter, but he
started to become more involved in the offense as last year went
on with a two-game stretch of eight catches for 222 yards and
four touchdowns against Baylor and Texas Tech.
OU always gets production out of its tight ends, and last year
it found its breakout star in junior Jermaine Gresham,
who led the team with 11 touchdown catches. At 6-5 and 263
pounds, he's a big target with the quickness to always find an
opening. A matchup nightmare, he was third on the team with 37
catches for 518 yards and 11 touchdowns, but after making four
scoring grabs against Texas A&M he managed just one touchdown
catch in the final five games.
Projected Top Reserves: How quickly can sophomore
Adron Tennell get back in the mix? Expected to grow into
one of the new stars of the passing game after coming up with
five catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, he suffered a knee
injury against Texas Tech and will need a while before he's back
in the rotation. A next-level speedster with 6-4, 184-pound
size, he has all the tools to eventually be one of the team's
Also coming off an injury is Brandon Caleb, a physical
sophomore who got another year of eligibility after hurting his
knee. On the plus side, the injury came early enough in the year
to give him time to recover in time to be ready to roll this
year where he should be one of the team's most athletic
receivers. He was a three-time Virginia state championship long
jumper and also won titles in the high hurdles.
5-11, 175-pound redshirt freshman Ryan Broyles isn't all
that big, and he can be pushed around, but he has playmaker
written all over him. One of the stars of spring ball, he showed
that he's going to be a future home-run hitter before suffering
a broken collarbone.
While OU already has decent receivers ready to roll, the real
excitement comes from a whopper of a recruiting class with true
freshmen Joshua Jarboe, Jameel Owens, and
Dejuan Miller all expected to see time early on. Jarboe is a
6-3, 195-pounder who escaped Georgia's clutches and should be a
No. 1 target sooner than later. Owens has an NFL look at 6-3 and
200 pounds and was considered by most services as the top high
school prospect in Oklahoma after catching 167 career passes for
3,444 yards and 45 touchdowns. Miller could be the most
interesting prospect of the group at 6-5 and 200 pounds with the
moves of a tailback. He was also a star safety for Metuchen High
in New Jersey and was the state 200-meter champion.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. Jarboe,Owens, and Miller would be the instant starting trio for
about 100 other schools, and they could be at OU, too. These
three have the potential to make everyone forget about Malcolm
Kelly's early departure to the big league.
Strength: Athleticism. Can the Sooners get a
receiver who isn't 6-something tall and a former high school
track champion? Everyone is big, everyone can run, and everyone
has the potential to hit the home run.
Weakness: Proven production. Iglesias is a
sure-thing, but there's no one to count on to take the heat off.
That's not to say there isn't going to be a ton of instant help
from the recruiting class or a jump in production from someone
like Chaney, but there isn't a proven commodity.
Outlook: While the group looks the part, there are
plenty of questions. Can Iglesias make the move from
Robin to Batman and be the guy? Is there a No. 2 receiver
ready to take over and shine, and is Johnson capable of
making the jump? Are the star recruits going to be ready right
away? This could be the Big 12's best receiving corps if
everyone plays up to the immense expectations, but it could take
a little while. That's not to say this group won't produce. Grisham should be one of the nation's best receiving
tight ends, and the law of numbers says that at least one of the
prospects will turn into something special from day one.
Projected Starters: The line was going to be good no matter
what, and then it was assured of being special (again) with the decision
the left side of the line to return for another year. 6-8, 352-pound
Phil Loadholt would've been a top 50 draft pick, but he's back at
left tackle where he was strong in his first season from the JUCO ranks,
but he could be better. The team's best run blocker for stretches, he
now has to show he can handle all the speed rushers. If he gets his long
arms on a defender, it's over, and with a little more work and a little
more consistency, he could be the first tackle taken next year as he
invites comparisons to former Miami Hurricane and current Minnesota
Viking Bryant McKinnie.
Also with a tough decision to make was senior Duke Robinson at
left guard after an All-America season. A starter for the last two
years, he's a huge blocker who has kept his weight in check after
starting out his career at 360 pounds, and now at a strong 6-5 and 330
pounds he's been better on the move and just as effective against the
run. After keeping his weight down over the last few years, he could be
moved to tackle if needed even though he's going to soon be a
millionaire on the inside.
Back at his spot in the middle is 6-2, 285-pound senior center Jon
Cooper, all he has done is overcome a broken ankle in his freshman
season to become the rock of the OU line with 29 straight starts with
All-Big 12 honors last year. A strong quarterback for a veteran,
talented line, he might not be the team's best all-around blocker, but
he doesn't make mistakes and is the unquestioned leader. More than
anything else, he's always there as the ironman of the line.
There will be a bit of a rotation again at right tackle with 6-6,
312-pound senior Branndon Braxton likely to get the nod after
starting seven times last year. He was the main man as a sophomore
before breaking his leg, but he came back with a good year showing off
the same athleticism and strength he had before the injury. Even so,
he'll have to battle to keep the job.
Also returning is senior Brandon Walker at right guard, who
didn't get the accolades some of the other starters received, but was
considered by the coaches to be the team's most consistent and best
blocker throughout the year. At 6-3 and 306 pounds, the second team
All-Big 12 selection came in from Coffeyville CC and showed off
fantastic speed and toughness from day one. With all the top returning
players, he'll once again fly under the radar, but the NFL scouts are
certain to notice.
Projected Top Reserves: The right tackle job will
be be open all season long with Branndon Braxton once again battling
with Trent Williams, who started in six games and has been a
fixture in the rotation since his true freshman season. At 6-5 and 321
pounds, he's a big body who can be a load for the running game, but he's
not a top-shelf athlete, by OU linemen standards, even though he holds
Backing up Robinson at left guardis 6-4, 293-pound junior
Brian Simmons as he prepares to be one of the team's key linemen in
2009. One of the team's most versatile linemen with the athleticism to
move out to tackle if absolutely needed, he got starts at left and right
guard last year and was fantastic at times. The former defensive lineman
never quite got into the swing of things two years ago after hurting
himself in a weightlifting accident, but he proved last season that he
could be a starter without a problem.
About to be a part of the fun on the
talented line is sophomore Cory Brandon, a 6-7, 295-pound
sophomore who'll be one of the team's best pass protectors ... next
year. He would've stepped in and started at left tackle without a
problem if Loadholt had left early for the NFL, but he'll have to be a
strong backup for another season. It might not be a bad thing since he's
still bulking up and getting stronger after coming to campus at around
Watch Out For ... more battles for playing time than
you might think. Considering all five starters return to one of the
nation's best lines, you'd think everything would be set. That's not
necessarily the way OU does things. Watch out for Simmons, Williams and Brandon to battle for more playing time.
Strength: You name it. There are five possible
all-stars among the starting five and ready-made depth waiting in the
wings. This group was so strong in pass protection that any time there
was any pressure it was magnified disproportionally.
Weakness: Domination game-in-and-game out. For
about ten games, this starting five, in whatever configuration it'll be,
will destroy opposing defensive lines, but for those two games when
there are problems, and you don't know when those games will come, like
against Colorado last year, the machine breaks down. For all the
returning talent, this line has to bring it every week.
Outlook: This might not just be the nation's best
line; it might be the nation's best line by a wide margin. There
are two sure-thing NFL starters in Loadholt and Robinson on
the left side, a fringe NFL starter at right guard in Brandon Walker,
and an all-star center in Jon Cooper to anchor everything. There's depth
to burn, more help on the way from the recruiting class, and talent,
talent, talent. Now the expectations will be through the roof for this
group to be unbelievable every week, and the potential is to meet them.