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2009 Oklahoma Preview - Offense
Oklahoma OT Trent Williams
Oklahoma OT Trent Williams
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 7, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Oklahoma Sooner Offense

Oklahoma Sooners

Preview 200
9 - Offense


- 2009 CFN Oklahoma Preview | 2009 Oklahoma Offense
- 2009 Oklahoma Defense | 2009 Oklahoma Depth Chart
- 2008 OU Preview | 2007 OU Preview | 2006 OU Preview

What you need to know: The numbers were too good to be for real. Once the machine started to roll, it was unstoppable with four games with 600 yards or more of total offense, ten games with 500 or more, and five straight games with 60 points or more to close out the regular season. Lost in the national title loss to Florida, and the loss to Texas, was that the offense moved the ball well and the attack actually worked. There's not going to be a whole bunch of tinkering to the formula in Kevin Wilson's attack with Heisman winner Sam Bradford returning as the triggerman and with speed and talent to burn both in the backfield and the receiving corps. The return of tight end Jermaine Gresham gives Bradford a go-to guy, while the receivers will be more than fine with Ryan Broyles leading the way and with the expected emergence of Adron Tennell. The rushing tandem of Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray is among the best in the country, and they'll have a big line to work behind. Trent Williams is the only starter up front, but the line has decent potential. No, the numbers might not be as strong as they were last year, mainly because the line won't be as strong, but this should still be a statistical juggernaut.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Sam Bradford
328-483, 4,720 yds, 50 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Chris Brown
217 carries, 1,220 yds, 20 TD
Receiving: Jermaine Gresham
66 catches, 95- yds, 14 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Sam Bradford
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman C Ben Habern
Unsung star on the rise: Senior WR Adron Tennell
Best pro prospect: Bradford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bradford, 2) TE Jermaine Gresham, 3) OT Trent Williams
Strength of the offense: Bradford, Running Backs
Weakness of the offense: No. 2 QB, Line Experience

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
And to think, Rhett Bomar would've been the starter had he not been kicked off the team a few years ago. Junior Sam Bradford got jobbed in the 2007 Heisman voting and should've been a finalist after leading the nation in passing efficiency completing 70% of his throws for 3,121 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. And then the coaching staff changed things up a bit with a faster, up-tempo offense that Bradford struggled with in spring ball. Why were the coaches messing with what worked? Was Bradford going to have problems with the new attack and was he going to be less efficient? Uhhhhh, no.

Bradford had one of the greatest seasons in college football history on the way to the Heisman by completing 68% of his throws for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He showed a total command of the attack making all the right decisions and proving to be the perfect conductor for the record-setting offense that put up cartoonish numbers week after week. With 6-4, 223-pound size, a quick release, and enough mobility to finish with a net 93 yards and five touchdowns, he would've been in the hunt for the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft had he decided to come out early. Instead of becoming a Detroit Lion, he's back to try to improve his overall strength, boost up his arm a little more, and, in his mind, mature a little more to be ready for the big league. He also has to prove to he can be better in the clutch. The losses to Texas and Florida were hardly his fault, but he just happened to throw four of his eight picks in those games and struggled at times when under pressure. He's ready for the NFL, but he'll take one more year (at least) to put up huge numbers yet again. 

Projected Top Reserves: Drew Allen came to school early to push for the No. 2 job, and while he has all the tools, he needs time. He's not only 6-5 and 224 pounds, but he's fast with 4.7 speed and great rushing ability. While he's not the most accurate passer, he has the pro-style ability to grow into the job and become a sharper short-to-midrange thrower. He has it all with size, strength, mobility, and smarts, but it'll take some seasoning.

Redshirt freshman Landry Jones was one of the nation's top ranked prep quarterbacks last year, and he was able to take a year off with the quarterback situation already solid. The 6-4, 216-pound pro-style passer from New Mexico is an accurate bomber who runs well, but he sputtered when under pressure in spring ball and didn't appear to be ready for primetime.

 
Watch Out For ... the ongoing battle for the No. 2 job. Bradford got banged up two years ago, and while Joey Halzle was good, the Sooners lost to Texas Tech. This is a national title-caliber team that needs a more secure backup situation to make everyone in the program sleep a little better.
Strength: Sam Bradford. OU has had some fantastic quarterbacks with Josh Heupel and Jason White putting up great numbers in the system, and an elite talent in Rhett Bomar who never panned out, but Bradford has it all. He's the superstar, NFL-caliber player the offense hasn't had under Stoops, Bomar included, and he's good enough to make up for a lot of mistakes and some growing pains sure to be suffered by the rest of the offense.
Weakness: Backups. With the reliable Joey Halzle gone and with Keith Nichol transferring to Michigan State, the backup situation is sketchy. Jones and Allen didn't show anything this offseason to show they can step in and produce if something happens to The Franchise.
Outlook: The talent level is tremendous, but more has to be shown from the backups to make the quarterback situation rock-solid. As long as Bradford is under center, OU has a shot at the national title. However, he has to prove he can shine behind a lesser offensive line and with a new slew of receivers. He'll be more than fine. 
Rating: 9.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters
:
If DeMarco Murray was 100% healthy throughout his career, he'd be considered a lock for All-America honors and would be in the Heisman hunt. Instead, the 6-1, 214-pound junior is trying to get over a hamstring injury suffered on the opening kickoff in the Big 12 Championship game. He was able to overcome a dislocated kneecap suffered on an onside kick in the 2007 loss to Texas Tech, and now he appears to be 100% again after his latest problem. A phenomenal athlete with 4.43 speed and a 41-inch vertical, he has all the skills to be a next-level back. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry with 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and was a tremendous receiver with 31 catches for 395 yards and four scores. While he was also an elite kickoff returner, averaging 27.6 yards per try, his injury issues might keep him out of the role.

6-2, 246-pound senior Matt Clapp has been is a smart, tough blocker who doesn't get the ball must, rushing seven times for 21 yards, while serving as a solid goal line receiver catching three touchdown passes on his nine grabs. A physical player who was able to stay healthy for the first time in a few years, he'll be one of the Big 12's best fullbacks when the offense uses one.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Chris Brown has always been a bit of an afterthought in the offense, lacking the star power of other more heralded players, but all he did last year was run for 20 touchdowns and lead the team with 1,220 yards. He is a proven workhorse who ripped off four 100-yard games in the final five, with the one game under 100 a 98-yard effort in the win over Oklahoma State. While he's not lightning fast, and he's not the receiver that Murray is, the 5-10, 200-pounder can move and also provides a little bit of power and is great around the goal line and in short-yardage situations.

6-0, 218-pound redshirt freshman Jermie Calhoun has the skills to be the next great OU back. One of the team's top recruits last year, he was able to sit on the bench and take a redshirt after rushing for 1,910 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior quarterback for Van High in Texas. Considered the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation by many in 2008, he has speed, vision, and good receiving skills. 

Watch Out For ... Calhoun. OU is already set in the rotation with Murray and Calhoun, but Calhoun is good enough to rush for 500 yards and be a third-down specialist. Bob Stoops has never been afraid to overuse his backs, and it's not like he'll be saving Murray for anything special even with his injury history, but he'll likely put in Calhoun whenever possible.
Strength: Talent. There isn't an Adrian Peterson on the roster, but Murray and Brown are each 1,000-yard backs with the potential to be drafted on day one. Calhoun is an elite talent who'll soon make a big name for himself. How loaded is the backfield? Third leading rusher, Mossis Madu, was moved to wide receiver.
Weakness: The coaching staff. This has been the ongoing flaw in the Stoops philosophy of toughness. It's one thing to always put your best players out there, but it's another to keep the starters rolling when the game is well in hand. Sooner backs always seem to break down, and it's not always because of a typical rushing injury. 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, and Sooner runners resemble Spinal Tap drummers when it comes to strange ways to be banged up. Murray needs to be on a pitch count and is too good to be used whenever he's not needed, while Brown has had injury issues in the past. The emphasis on the passing game has helped, but the stars need to be on the bench whenever the games are in control.
Outlook: Lost in all the bells and whistles of what Sam Bradford did with the nation's third best passing game was a rushing attack that tore off 2,779 yards and 45 touchdowns averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Brown and Murray form an NFL-quality tandem, while Clapp is a tremendous fullback who'll pave the way when needed. Calhoun will soon be a great one.
Rating: 9.5


Receivers

Projected Starters
:
Sam Bradford choosing to return for another year was a shock, but tight end Jermaine Gresham choosing to return was truly a stunner. The 6-6, 258-pound senior would've gone in the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft and will almost certainly be the first tight end off the board next year with his phenomenal combination of size, speed, and hands. He caught 66 passes for 950 yards with a team-leading 14 touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-catch, 158-yard, two score day against Oklahoma State. Steadier than he was two years ago, he'll now be a sure-thing All-American and Bradford's No. 1 target. Blocking-wise, he's fine, but he's hardly special. His money will be made as a receiver. There was a slight incident revolving an arrest after an unpaid ticket for not wearing a safety belt, but that's cleared up.

5-11, 178-pound sophomore Ryan Broyles is a wisp of a player, but he's a whale of a receiver. He stormed on to the scene in his first year finishing third on the team with 46 catches for 687 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 14.9 yards per grab. He was a steady, key target who always seemed to come up with the big catch to help put the game out of reach, and now he'll take on an even bigger role as home run hitting flanker.

One of the team's biggest stars this offseason was Adron Tennell, a 6-4, 199-pound matchup nightmare who failed to do much over his first three seasons, catching just nine passes for 68 yards last year, but he stepped up in a big way with a chance to finally become a starter. A torn ACL against Texas Tech two years ago limited his 2008, but now he's healthy and he has his next-level speed back. It's all there with size, wheels, and the smarts to be a consistent playmaker, and after the way he has looked in practices, he could be the team's breakout star a few years after it was originally supposed to happen.

Projected Top Reserves: More of an H-Back and second tight end than a true fullback, senior Brody Eldridge is back to fill a variety of roles after making four catches for 24 yards with a touchdown. The 6-5, 265-pounder is a tremendous blocker earning All-Big 12 honors two years ago, but he suffered an ankle injury last year and was limited. He'll start out in two tight end sets and will also be used as a backup fullback behind Matt Clapp.

6-0, 200-pound junior Mossis Madu is a solid running back who finished third on the team with 475 yards and six touchdowns last season, highlighted by a 114-yard, three touchdown day against Missouri in the Big 12 Championship. He also caught 12 passes for 84 yards, and with the logjam of great backs already in place, he'll move to wide receiver to work behind Broyles. Extremely quick, he can cut on a dime and could be perfect for inside routes and will be terrific when he gets the ball in his hands on the move.

Used mostly on special teams so far, 6-1, 187-pound junior Brandon Caleb will finally get a chance to show what he can do as a receiver. A physical target who has two years of eligiblity left after hurting his knee in 2007, he has the athleticism and the toughness to be a dangerous No. 3 receiver and a key backup behind Tennell. He was a three-time Virginia state championship long jumper and also won titles in the high hurdles.

One of the biggest strengths of the 2008 recruiting class was receiver, and true sophomores Dejuan Miller and Jameel Owens were each able to get a chance to see immediate playing time. Miller, a 6-4, 224-pounder with the moves of a tailback, caught two passes for 14 yards in his limited action. Along with being a star high school receiver, he was an elite safety for Metuchen High in New Jersey and was the state 200-meter champion. Owens has the look of a potential NFL star with 6-3, 200-pound size and the speed to go along with it. He 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, and he showed off a little of his talent with four catches for 44 yards last season. 
 
Watch Out For ... Tennell. He has all the makings of a star with his tight end size and good deep speed. He was one of the biggest revelations this offseason and could emerge as the team's No. 1 receiver.
Strength: NFL skills. Helped by Gresham, who's considered one of the top 15 pro prospects in college football, the Sooners have a receiving corps right out of central casting. Everyone is big, everyone can run, and everyone has the measurables that make scout drool.
Weakness: Proven production. Gresham is a sure-thing and Broyles is a good one, but Tennell hasn't showed it yet and Madu is a running back. There's phenomenal potential across the board, but this is an area that could use a surprise or two.
Outlook: Who's going to be the No. 2 receiver? Can the prospects who look like Jane play like Tarzan? Sound familiar? These were some of the concerns going into last year, and everything worked out juuuuuuust fine. Tennell will get the job done, and if he doesn't, it'll be Caleb, and if he doesn't it'll be Owens, and if he doesn't ... and on, and on, and on. Gresham is a weapon who be the No. 1 guy opposing teams will want to stop, while Broyles should be in for a monster year. Having Bradford pitching the ball around will help ease the transition.
Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters
:
The line was the best in America last season, and Trent Williams was the best player on it. While the NFL scouts are conflicted on just how good the 6-5, 318-pound senior is, and are wondering if he's a next-level left tackle or will be tagged with the dreaded right-tackle-only label, all that matters is that he's back as one of the nation's top blockers. He's also the only returning starter up front and will have the spotlight on after moving from right tackle to the left to replace Phil Loadholt. The first-team All-Big 12 selection is a decent athlete for his status and is good in pass protection, but he's a superstar on running plays.

With Williams moving over it'll be Cory Brandon taking over at right tackle. Very tall and very long, the 6-7, 310-pound junior didn't see much time playing in just nine games as a reserve. Having the year off wasn't a bad thing as he bulked up to add more weight to his long frame. A strong pass blocking prospect, he's expected to be more than fine in the starting job and could've taken over last year if Phil Loadholt had left early for the NFL.

Losing Duke Robinson from left guard will hurt, but senior Brian Simmons is a good one ready to step in. 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 two years ago and was a backup at both spots last year. He was more than solid whenever he stepped in and was a dominant run blocker. The former defensive lineman never quite got into the swing of things when he started his career, hurting himself in a weightlifting accident, but he'll be one of the team's better blockers now that he has a full-time role.

Jon Cooper was the leader of the ultra-talented line, and now it'll be up to Ben Habert to try to fill the void in the middle. The 6-3, 288-pound redshirt freshman was a backup in the middle last year, seeing time in three games, but was knocked out for the season with an ankle injury. Talent isn't a question, he was considered among the nation's top center prospects by just about everyone last year. Experience and durability are the early concerns.

Sophomore Stephen Good will take over at right guard for all-star Brandon Walker after spending last year as a key reserve in his true freshman campaign. He's a tough, strong blocker who's expected to be dominant in the running game. While he still needs work and time to become a polished pass blocker, the 6-6, 291-pounder has the skills to become a stalwart up front for the next three years.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jarvis Jones started out his career at LSU where he was a backup left tackle as a freshman. He transferred to OU, sat out last year, and now will push for time at right tackle behind Brandon. At 6-7 and 297 pounds he's built like a tackle, but he could move to guard if needed. He saw time at right guard at LSU.

6-6, 285-pound sophomore Donald Stephenson is one of the team's most athletic linemen. Extremely strong and with great quickness and speed, he has all the raw tools to become a good tackle at either spot. He'll spend this year working behind Williams, and he should step in at left tackle next season.

Tavaris Jeffries is a 6-4, 309-pound JUCO transfer from Coahoma CC and is expected to be an instant factor at left guard. He's a tough, physical blocker who can see time at either guard spot. Also coming in from the JUCO ranks is Jeff Vinson, a 6-8, 350-pound monster who's still figuring out what he's doing after starting to play football late in life, but he's huge and quick enough to see time at either tackle position.
 
Watch Out For ... Habern. For all the talent the OU line has had over the last few years, steady center play has been one of the big unsung keys to all the success. Habern is an elite prospect who'll be in for a bit of a battle with Brian Lepak for the job, but with Jason Hannon quitting the team, Habern should be set.
Strength: Size. The Sooners lose massive, NFL-caliber bodies and replace them with more massive, NFL-caliber bodies. The line should be able to plow over everything in its path.
Weakness: Experience and what happened this offseason. The line struggled mightily with its cohesion and consistency throughout the offseason. The OU D line had a lot to do with that, while replacing four starters is another part of the equation. The line will be good, but there will be a drop-off.
Outlook: You don't lose four starters off the nation's best line without there being a bit of a problem, but while this won't be the line of last year, it should be fine as long as there isn't an early rash of injuries. Williams is a star to build around, while Simmons should earn all-star honors at left guard. This is a big group with good upside, but it might take half the year to jell.
Rating: 8