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Oklahoma Football: 5 Storylines to Watch This Offseason

Trey HunterContributor IIIDecember 6, 2012

Oklahoma Football: 5 Storylines to Watch This Offseason

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    The Oklahoma Sooners offseason is just around the corner and there will be plenty of storylines to watch for after they finish their season at the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4. 

    The Sooners are completing their 14th season under Bob Stoops who is now 149-36 at the school. Stoops has led his program to Big 12 and national championship games, but knows that his job never stops. 

    The offseason is where it all starts. 

    Recruiting, practice, spring games and more recruiting. 

    Stoops will have plenty to do this offseason after his program failed to make the BCS in 2012. He loses his starting quarterback, most of his defensive line and has room to make up on the recruiting front. 

    There is nearly a month until Oklahoma plays Texas A&M and Stoops still has a heavy agenda for the 2013 offseason. He has to balance his team's practice schedule while concentrating on his offseason plans. 

    Here are five storylines to watch for as the Sooners head into the 2013 offseason.  

Starting Quarterback Situation

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    If Landry Jones has been anything during his tenure as the University of Oklahoma quarterback, it’s durable.

    Jones has started every game since he was a freshman, with the exception of three games in 2009 in which Sam Bradford started before and in between injuries.

    Oklahoma will have to transition to a new signal-caller this offseason, but the question is: who will take the starting job?

    Bob Stoops has plenty of choices.

    Blake Bell has been featured in Oklahoma’s offense in the “Bell-dozer” package used in short-yardage situations. He has the most in-game experience of the quarterbacks vying for the starting job and according to Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com, he could have a leg up going into the offseason.

    Drew Allen has backed-up Jones for the past two seasons and could finally get a chance to start as a senior. He has experience running the offense in practice the past three seasons.

    Trevor Knight and Kendall Thompson, Oklahoma’s quarterback recruits from the 2012 class, can throw their hats in the ring as well. The job is open and Stoops has started freshman in the past.

    The Sooners have a busy agenda this offseason, but the quarterback situation is the most important. 

The Recruiting Trail

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    Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners have finished outside ESPN.com's top ten class rankings three of the last four years.

    As of Dec. 6, the Sooners rank 20th in ESPN.com's rankings for the 2013 recruiting season. They have 13 commits, but haven't signed a 5-star athlete to the class.

    The Sooners' 2013 class, so far, features two ESPN150 players, but in order to bring a top ten class to Norman, Stoops needs to get on the recruiting trail quick.

    Oklahoma's defense will lose players at key positions to graduation and doesn't have much depth to work with.  They have three defensive linemen committed already, but none are defensive tackles. 

    Oklahoma also loses a starting safety (Javon Harris) and a starting cornerback (Demontre Hurst) and there's no guaranteeing Tony Jefferson will return now that he's eligible for the NFL Draft. 

    The Sooners don't lose much to graduation offensively. They will lose four players including Landry Jones. There are quarterbacks on the depth chart, so Stoops' recruiting plan could be centered on the defense. 

    Stoops and the Sooners haven't made much impact on the recruiting trail yet, but after the Cotton Bowl they should be more aggressive. 

Building a New Defensive Line

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    The Oklahoma Sooners lose most of their key defensive linemen after their Cotton Bowl matchup with Texas A&M on Jan. 4. 

    Casey Walker, Stacy McGee, Jamarkus McFarland, R.J. Washington and David King all graduate after platooning on the defensive line in 2012. They totaled 123 combined tackles in 2012 including eight sacks and an interception.

    Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Phillips will be the only experienced returners on Oklahoma's defensive line next season, making the unit a priority for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

    Stoops will have to remake the defensive line and possibly change the strategy up front. Oklahoma's defense gave up over 181 yards per game on the ground in 2012 and the defensive line was mostly to blame. They gave up 458 rushing yards to West Virginia playing with three down linemen most of the game.

    According to ESPN.com's Recruiting Nation, Oklahoma has just three defensive line commitments in the 2013 class. Two of the three recruits, D.J. Ward and Matt Dimon, are 4-star recruits while Jordan Evans is a 3-star.

    Bob Stoops will have to jump on the recruiting trail soon or Oklahoma could fall behind defensively while introducing a new starting quarterback. Fielding a new signal caller with no backup on defense is never a good combination.  

Improving at Linebacker

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    It is no secret that the Oklahoma Sooners' linebackers aren't what they used to be. 

    There is no Rocky Calmus, Torrance Marshall, Brian Bosworth or Teddy Lehman on the roster.  

    Tom Wort is the team’s leader at the position, but his numbers decreased from 2011 to 2012. Corey Nelson is the other experienced linebacker on the defense, but his numbers have decreased as well.

    Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops have to figure out something defensively to stop the high-power offenses in the Big 12 and it starts with the linebacker unit.

    Oklahoma has a 4-star commit at inside linebacker according to ESPN.com, but he is the only linebacker in the 2013 class. Once the bowl season is complete, Oklahoma could be on the prowl for more players at the position.

    Rebuilding a position is never easy especially on defense. The Sooners aren't necessarily in rebuilding mode, but improvements must be made in the offseason.

    If not, they could be on the wrong end of high scoring games in the future. 

The Offensive Strategy

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    Oklahoma Sooners' Blake Bell and Landry Jones are not the same type of quarterback. 

    Jones is a pocket passer while Bell is more effective running the ball. 

    If Blake Bell wins the starting quarterback job this offseason, will Josh Heupel have to change his offensive philosophy? Will the Sooners feature more of a run-first strategy while passing in between or will they stick with the high-powered passing game that has led them to multiple national championship games?

    Drew Allen or freshman Trevor Knight could be a better fit for Heupel's offense, but Bell has more in-game experience. Allen has been a backup the past two seasons and Knight hasn’t even sniffed the field.

    The Sooners also have two senior running backs returning in 2013.

    Damien Williams and Brennan Clay combined for over 1,400 yards in 2012 and proved they can carry Oklahoma's run game. With more experience, the running back combo could also carry the load with the offense centered around them. 

    Heupel and the Sooners have many decisions to make in the offseason, but figuring out whom the offense will be shaped around is near the top of the list. 

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