Oklahoma Football: 5 Things OU Fans Hope to See vs. UTEP
Expectations in Norman, Oklahoma are always high. After a very disappointing season a year ago, Oklahoma fans expect to see improvement in several areas.
As usual, head coach Bob Stoops has a squad capable of winning their conference and a national championship. First there are some major questions that need to be answered, though.
Oklahoma's first opportunity to do so will come Saturday night in the west Texas town of El Paso against the UTEP Miners.
Is Landry Jones a Championship Caliber Quarterback?
Mike Stoops said in an interview on WWLS The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City that he was surprised at the amount of criticism the Sooners quarterback Landry Jones has received. The Oklahoma defensive coordinator also said Jones is one of the elite passers in college football.
A large number of fans in Oklahoma would disagree with that statement. There seems to be very little faith among the more vocal Sooners fans in Jones' ability to take his team to the top.
Regardless of your thoughts on Jones, the truth is pretty hard to ignore. This is a quarterback who has some of the most impressive numbers in not just the history of Oklahoma football, but also the history of college football.
Jones comes into the 2012 season ranked 18th all-time in CFB passing yards with 12,379 yards. He also leads all active quarterbacks and already owns the school record. With the slightest improvement from last season, Jones will end up second all-time nationally.
His critics will say the only stat they care about is wins and titles.
Jones already has more wins than Heisman Trophy winners Jason White and Sam Bradford. In fact, he's four wins away from the school record. He has five more wins than Bradford and only one more loss.
As for national championships, White and Bradford never won it all. Jones hopes to jump ahead of those two guys with a title this year.
Do the Sooners Have Playmakers at Wide Receiver?
There's no doubt Oklahoma fans were extremely disappointed in Kenny Stills' inability to step up as a big time wide receiver after the injury to Ryan Broyles last season.
His antics on the social media sites have also rubbed fans the wrong way.
The good news is freshman Trey Metoyer has joined the squad after sitting out a year due to eligibility issues. The explosive Metoyer impressed coaches and fans in the spring and could be the go-to guy Jones needs on the outside.
Bob Stoops was also able to join in on the Penn State sweepstakes and grab the Nittany Lions' top pass catcher in Justin Brown. At 6'3" and 209 pounds, Brown brings size to a position that has lacked size for the Sooners in recent years.
The addition of Brown, Metoyer and a very talented group of new recruits at receiver should allow Stills to move back to his natural spot on the outside and could keep the other team's best defender off of him.
Against UTEP, Oklahoma fans want to see the new guys make some plays and see a little consistency from Stills.
Did Bob Stoops Recruit Enough Talent to Make Up for Injuries and Suspensions?
During the past summer it seemed as if all the news was bad news for Stoops and his Sooners. The worst of the news was the loss of center Ben Habern. Habern was the anchor of the offensive line and had to end his career due to injury.
Gabe Ikard will take over for Habern as he did in the past. Had the bleeding stopped there, the Sooners would have been just fine.
It didn't stop there though. It seemed as if everyday the coaching staff was announcing either an injury or a suspension.
Two days before the loss of Habern, the Sooners learned that junior college transfers Will Latu, an offensive tackle, and receiver Courtney Gardner both failed to qualify academically.
It had already been decided that receivers Trey Franks, Jaz Reynolds and Kameel Jackson would not be on the team after being suspended in the spring. As of today, that is still the case.
More recently, Stoops announced the suspension of defensive tackle Stacy McGee and the loss of offensive lineman Tyler Evans to an ACL tear.
Oklahoma fans are just praying that what is left over is enough to protect Jones and give the running game a few holes to run through.
Against the Miners, a nice goal for the offensive line will be to not allow a sack, keeping Jones' jersey clean.
Will RB Dominique Whaley Return to Form?
This time last year, Oklahoma fans were shocked to see Dominique Whaley's name listed as the starting running back on the depth chart. As a walk-on, most fans had not heard of Whaley and the rush was on to find information on the kid from Lawton, Oklahoma.
Through the first six games of the year Whaley had already totaled up 627 yards and nine touchdowns, but then he suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Kansas State.
So far in the fall, it appears Whaley is back and ready to finish what he started. Now on scholarship, Whaley is determined to prove he was not a one hit wonder.
In the event he is not able to produce like he did to start the 2011 season, the Sooners have the top junior college running back from a year ago in Damien Williams. The JUCO All-American has been labeled as fast and physical while impressing the coaching staff in the fall.
If Whaley is able to pick up where he left off before the injury, the running game should give Jones and the offense the balance that was missing at the end of last year.
A 100-yard performance by Whaley will get Oklahoma fans fired up again.
Is Mike Stoops All the Difference on the Defensive Side of the Ball?
Oklahoma fans were thrown into a frenzy once news had spread that Mike Stoops was rumored to rejoin his brother in Norman. For a decade, the feeling among fans was he was the missing link that kept the Sooners from winning an eighth national championship.
The hope is that his fire and passion—evident on the sidelines during his first stint at Oklahoma—will be enough to turn around a defense that has struggled for several years.
The biggest question mark has been in the secondary. The Sooners gave up over 241 yards per game through the air in 2011. In games against Baylor and Texas Tech, the secondary looked completely overmatched.
Perhaps the best move Stoops has already made is moving his best player, junior Tony Jefferson, from the nickelback position to his favorite spot at free safety. The move and his reputation as a playmaker has already placed him on the Thorpe watch list.
Cornerback Demontre Hurst is already considered to be better than last season's third round draft pick Jamell Fleming. Meanwhile, coaches are raving about Aaron Colvin as he has moved from safety to his natural position at cornerback.
As a freshman, Colvin was so impressive at cornerback the coaches and players used the moniker "Colvin Island" when talking about his dominating performance in the secondary.
UTEP won't be the strongest test of Stoops and his new defense, but they're also no Savannah State. On the road, this should give Oklahoma fans a good look at what they can expect from what they hope will be a new and improved defense.
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