Oklahoma Football: 5 Seniors Who Must Lead Sooners in 2012
The 2012 Oklahoma Sooners are loaded with underclassmen, but a crucial nucleus of seniors will be key to the team's success.
Offensively, Landry Jones' return, depth at tailback and experience up front paint a bright picture for the upcoming campaign. On the defensive side, seasoned veterans on the line and in the secondary set OU up to improve a bend-but-don't-break unit and perhaps return to elite status.
Of course, there are many non-senior Sooners who will be integral this season. But here are five seniors who must lead OU in 2012.
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2012 is the last hurrah for Landry Jones. After an up-and-down three seasons and a somewhat- disappointing junior campaign, the leading passer in OU history has one more chance to lead his team to glory.
You will find all sorts of opinions about the Sooner signal-caller, but all agree his leadership will be vital this season. If OU is to have any shot at a conference championship or more, Jones will have to be on top of his game.
Despite a lack of experience at the receiver position, Jones will have plenty of athletes to work with. Look for newcomers Trey Metoyer and Courtney Gardner to get plenty of looks in the Sooner attack.
Lastly, a solid offensive line and loaded running back corps will provide solid support for the senior quarterback. He may not have the best supporting cast in Sooner history, but there is plenty of potential.
Ultimately, it will be up to how badly Landry Jones wants it with his last shot in Norman.
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The walk-on phenom Dominique Whaley exploded on the scene last season, tallying 627 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games before succumbing to a season-ending ankle injury.
It’s hard to believe that Whaley only has one year left at OU, but he will be a key cog in OU’s offense, provided he is healthy. If Whaley thrives, he will galvanize the offense, fueling fellow tailbacks Roy Finch and Brennan Clay as well as the passing game in general.
A healthy rushing attack would also give Landry Jones some much-needed confidence. The Sooner run game was a weakness in 2011, leading to offensive ineptitude and imbalance. But a well-developed rushing attack would work wonders for forming a potent attack.
Considering his incredible success in 2011, there is no reason Whaley can’t shine in 2012 if he recovers. And a big year from Whaley means a big year for the Sooner offense.
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Anchoring the experienced Sooner O-line is center Ben Habern. Although he is out for spring practice with a neck ailment, he leads the returning linemen with 30 career starts and has been a solid and reliable presence in the middle.
Hopefully, the senior is able to stay healthy for his final season. He will play an integral role for an experienced and skilled front five.
It’s been an arduous three seasons in Norman for Habern. A recent neck injury is the fourth major setback in a sequence that cut into his playing time substantially.
But Habern has proven himself to be an intelligent, capable presence at center. His skill set and experience make him an indispensable factor for the 2012 offense.
Luckily, the O-line is blessed with experience. Even if Habern misses more time, junior Gabe Ikard is capable of filling in at center (as he’s demonstrated in the past), and Lane Johnson and Tyler Evans will provide additional senior leadership.
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Solid defensive line play will be crucial for the Sooners this season.
David King, who has played in 30 games and manned both the end and tackle spots, will be a key presence on the line. He joins fellow seniors R.J. Washington, Stacy McGee, Casey Walker and JaMarkus McFarland to form a seasoned corps.
King has shown steady improvement with increased playing time over his career. He should be a significant contributor for the Sooner D.
Solid play from him and his teammates could help the Sooners improve their rush defense (45th nationally in 2011 in yards allowed. Generating a high number of sacks once again (OU had 40 last season) will boost the pass defense and dictate games.
King is definitely in position to be the leader on the D-line. He and his fellow seniors will all be counted on to fuel the OU defense in 2012.
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Hurst has started the past 27 games as a Sooner, making him the most experienced player on the Sooner D. He led OU in 2011 with 11 pass breakups en route to an All-Big 12 selection.
Clearly, he has been an integral playmaker. He will be a key factor at cornerback once again as the Sooners adjust to Mike Stoops’ defensive scheme.
Despite recent struggles, talent abounds in the Sooner secondary.
Senior Javon Harris has been solid and will provide key veteran leadership. Stud athlete Tony Jefferson should blossom at strong safety. Aaron Colvin has accomplished much in a short period and is very versatile.
The only question mark is at the other cornerback position. Kass Everett and Julian Wilson both have the potential to start.
It should be exciting to see Mike Stoops go to work with such a talented group. But regardless of how good his strategies are, it will be up to Hurst and co. to deliver.