Oklahoma Sooners: 5 Players Landry Jones Must Lean On in 2012
Landry Jones entered 2011 as a Heisman favorite and a first-round hopeful in the NFL Draft. The 2012 season, however, starts with a different mindset for the Sooners' starting quarterback.
Jones is looking to bounce back from a disappointing season in 2011 that saw OU fall from the top team in the country to an injury-rattled mess that couldn't keep up with a high powered rival Oklahoma State team at the end of the regular season.
Jones didn't have a failure of a season. In his junior year, he finished third in the country in passing yards and set numerous Oklahoma passing records.
Still, Sooner fans left 2011 with a bad taste in their mouth.
Jones elected to come back to OU for his senior year and will be a major help for a young Sooner team that needs leadership. But for Jones, and the Sooners, to succeed, he will need to trust and rely on his players around him.
These players will be most important to Jones' ability to follow through and bring OU to a National Championship.
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Kenny Stills becomes the most important receiver on OU's roster after the graduation of Jones' favorite target, Ryan Broyles.
Stills played incredibly well in his freshman year of 2010. The receiver was a great deep ball threat and accumulated 786 yards and five touchdowns for the Sooners.
Stills continued to improve in his sophomore campaign, but struggled with his role as top receiver after Ryan Broyles was lost for the season against Texas A&M.
For Jones to play well, he must rely heavily on Stills. The junior receiver needs to be as consistent and reliable as Broyles was for Jones over the last three seasons.
With the summer to work on their rhythm and trust, Jones and Stills should be a top QB-WR combo in the nation.
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Dominique Whaley surprised everyone as a walk-on in 2011 with his strong play early in the season.
In just seven games, Whaley had nine scores and 627 yards. He became the starting running back after a few games before going down with an injury against Kansas State.
For Landry Jones to be at his best, he needs a strong running back to not only take over on the ground, but to also be at his best in the passing game.
Jones' success in 2010 was due in large part to Demarco Murray's play out of the backfield. Murray's ability as a dual threat allowed Jones to work with play action as well as have a strong, reliable option to check down to.
Just as Stills needs to replace Broyles, Whaley needs to be what Murray once was for Jones. If he can, expect some big numbers for the senior running back in his only year on scholarship.
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The backup quarterback is usually unimportant to the success of a starter. But for the Sooners, Blake Bell is key to Jones' ability to win.
Late in 2011, the OU coaching staff developed the "Bell-dozer" package, an offensive scheme that utilized backup quarterback Bell as a runner while reserving the option to throw.
Bell's size and speed were a tremendous boost to the Oklahoma offense, leading the team in rushing touchdowns with 13.
The connection between Bell and Jones is an interesting one. Each time Bell comes on the field, Jones is being pulled out. The constant running on and off the field may have shaken Jones' confidence late in 2011 and hurt his play on the field.
For Jones to be at his best, he needs to be confident that the coaching staff is making the best move to win, and that it chose him to be the starting quarterback. If he can rely on Bell in small yardage and not worry about being pulled, it will go a long way in improving how Jones' plays the game.
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When Oklahoma's starting center Ben Habern announced his retirement last week, it was a big loss for Jones.
Jones and Habern were close both on and off the field. Habern started 30 games in his OU career and was Jones' center for most of his time as a starter. Habern even introduced Jones to his wife, OU basketball star Whitney Hand.
Moving forward, Jones will need to lean on his new full-time center, Gabe Ikard, as the backbone of the offensive line.
Ikard started every game for the Sooners in 2011, including seven at center while Habern was injured.
Ikard will be the leader on the offensive line as a junior, and Jones will have to trust his new center if he will succeed.
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It seems that Landry Jones' worst enemy is often times himself.
Whether it's a costly interception or a dangerous throw downfield that got knocked away, Sooners fans are always holding their breath with their quarterback, despite the fact he is one of the best in the nation.
Jones needs to trust himself much more this season if he wants to rejoin Heisman talks.
Jones had a career high in interceptions with 15 in 2011 in a season where he saw a significant drop in touchdowns.
For Landry Jones to bring OU to the promised land, he will need to put any anxiety or qualms about his game behind him and just go out and play the game.
He's one of the best quarterbacks to step on the field in Norman, and if he acts that way, we'll be in for a show.