Now that the season is over and the 2012 recruiting class has been close to finalized, the Sooners can now prepare for what might be the most important time of the year: the off-season.
For anybody who has ever played a college football video game, you already know that the off-season can be the most exciting time of the year.
New players are coming into the system and competing against current players for snaps while you get to make some big decisions—who to start, who to red-shirt, etc.
So, for those who are currently in 'Dynasty Mode' on their game, what follows in this article may not be new to you.
However, there are some things that the Sooners need to take care of that can't be found in any video game.
For those of you who don't understand what I've been talking about, this article will help you better understand what goes on during the off-season at a major Division I football program.
The first thing the Sooners have to do in the off-season is evaluate their roster. It's important to see how returning players are performing in spring practice and how receptive the recruits are of the playbooks.
The coaches need to not only evaluate the players based on their talent and performance, but also their character, attitude and classroom performance.
Evaluating could take some time, as there figures to be a lot of competition this season at the skill positions.
Junior college transfer Damien Williams (pictured) is one player that needs to be looked at in great detail. Even though the Sooners have Dominique Whaley, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay returning in the backfield, Williams has the chance to win a starting position.
As a sophomore at Arizona Western College, Williams ran for 1,931 yards and 26 touchdowns.
These are numbers that should not be taken lightly.
Another junior college transfer that needs to be watched is wide receiver Courtney Gardner. The 6'2", 215-pound receiver out of Reno, Nev. caught 61 passes for 1,099 yards and 13 touchdowns last season at Sierra College.
Even with the outstanding talent and depth Oklahoma now has at wide receiver, Gardner could step in and be a starter from day one.
Now comes the hard part. Who is going to be a recipient of a redshirt this off-season?
There's a lot of strategy when deciding, so here's what Stoops and Company have to take into consideration:
- Will this player be contributing right away?
- How many snaps is he going to see per game?
- If redshirted, will the player come away with a better understanding of the game?
- If redshirted, will the team be in a better position to win this year? Next year?
Even though the 2012 recruiting class turned out to be loaded with talent, a lot of them won't ever see the field this year, due to the amount of depth and experience Oklahoma already has at some positions.
For example, the Sooners received five excellent wide receiver commits, but Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson are still around. Who gets the redshirt from this group?
I believe freshman recruits Durron Neal and Derrick Woods get redshirted this year.
That means Gardner and highly touted wide receiver prospects Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard join the lineup. Shepard has a chance to be red-shirted as well, but the Sooners could use depth at the position this year just in case another Ryan Broyles-like injury occurs.
Other possible red-shirts include: Alex Ross (RB), Trevor Knight (QB), David Smith (RB), Kyle Marrs (OT), John Michael McGee (OG), Ty Darlington (C), Charles Tapper (DE) and Daniel Brooks (ATH).
After evaluating and handing out red-shirts, it will be time to set the depth chart. The depth chart should act as a guideline to who starts, but don't let it fool you, there will be multiple guys at each position seeing playing time early in the year.
Here's my prediction for how the depth chart will turn out:
LT: Tyrus Thompson (So.)
LG: Gabe Ikard (Jr.)
C: Ben Habern (Sr.)
RG: Tyler Evans (Sr.)
RT: Lane Johnson (Sr.)
TE: Brannon Green (Jr.)
WR: Kenny Stills (Jr.)
WR: Courtney Gardner (Jr.)
WR: Jaz Reynolds (Jr.)
QB: Landry Jones (Sr.)
FB: Trey Millard (Jr.)
RB: Dominique Whaley (Jr.)
DE: David King (Sr.)
DT: JaMarkus McFarland (Sr.)
DT: Casey Walker (Sr.)
DE: R.J. Washington (Sr.)
SLB: Tony Jefferson (Jr.)
MLB: Tom Wort (Jr.)
WLB: Corey Nelson (Jr.)
CB: Gabe Lynn (Jr.)
SS: Aaron Colvin (Jr.)
FS: Javon Harris (Sr.)
CB: Demontre Hurst (Sr.)
Not too many surprises.
The offense looks the same except with the addition of junior college wide receiver Gardner now in the starting lineup. Also, junior college tight end Brannon Green should get the nod to start over freshman recruit Taylor McNamara due to experience.
The defense barely changes at all. David King and R.J. Washington step in for Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis at defensive end, while Corey Nelson fills in for Travis Lewis at linebacker. However, all these guys got ample amounts of playing time last season.
The defense will be a year older and more experienced, but somebody is going to have to step up in the secondary and take charge. Hopefully the return of Mike Stoops will help mold a group of talented players into a talented defense.
This slide isn't just talking about the players.
In fact, I want to put the emphasis of this slide on the coaches.
Bob Stoops started putting his foot down towards the end of last season by weeding out the players that either didn't want to or didn't deserve to be on campus. Stoops was left with a group of guys who were willing to work hard, and that led to an Insight Bowl victory over Iowa.
Stoops had to step up and do something at the end of last season to make a statement. Too many times last season, guys played unmotivated football. Only a handful of players seemed like they tried hard on every single play.
Even though Stoops and company are moving in the right direction, they now have to deal with over 20 new guys on campus. I'm sure they were able to get a glimpse into the character of these guys during recruiting, but a person's true character will be shown throughout a season, not during a few meetings.
Stoops has to take control of spring practice by establishing why it's a privilege these guys are on the team. Getting his team motivated in the spring will result in a motivated season.
It seems like all this should go unsaid, but nobody knows how some recruits are going to react once officially on the team.
Take control, Bob.
Once all the aforementioned tedious assignments have been completed, the coaches can focus some of their energy and excitement towards the 2013 recruiting class.
I know it's early, but ESPN currently has 64 high school seniors that are all considering Oklahoma. Of those 64, 42 are a part of the ESPNU 150.
Does this mean that Oklahoma has a chance to recruit all of these guys?
Well, technically yes, but there's no way that all 64 recruits are going to want to come to Oklahoma.
When it's this early, recruits will always put down about 10 to 20 schools they're considering.
Being a big-time college football program, Oklahoma always gets a chance to be one of those first schools these recruits list.
However, 42 top-150 kids is a great number to start with. The 2013 recruiting class has the possibility to be one of the best the program has ever seen.
Tyrone Swoopes (pictured) is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 class.
He's 6'5", weighs in at 220 pounds and runs a 4.59 40-yard dash. He's a 5-star recruit according to Rivals, and he's already attended Oklahoma's first junior day that took place last Saturday.
Swoopes is one of three highly touted quarterback prospects that are currently considering Oklahoma, but with multiple quarterbacks still on scholarship, Stoops is going to be selective about who he gives his offers too.
But for anyone that's curious, here is Swoopes' highlight film. Wow.