Oklahoma Football: 5 Questions Sooners Face Going into 2013
The Oklahoma Sooners' roster is depleting day by day after losing underclassmen Tom Wort, Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson to the NFL draft.
Sooner fans are questioning Bob Stoops and his coaching staff these days, partially because they haven't sniffed a title game since 2008 and also because it doesn't look like they're doing much about it.
Not only are the Sooners losing key players to the draft (Aaron Colvin could commit to the draft any day now), they are also light on commitments so far in the recruiting season. According to ESPN.com's SoonerNation they have just 17 commitments, two in the ESPN150.
Who are they going to bring in? What positions are at the top of their agenda? When will they be back in a BCS title game?
Those are questions Stoops faces every day at Oklahoma. Here are five important questions the Sooners face going into 2013.
(All stats and recruiting information provided via ESPN.com and SoonerNation)
Who Will Start at Quarterback?
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It's not a given that Blake Bell will follow in Landry Jones' footsteps as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma.
There are a couple of names Sooner fans need to know going into 2013. Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas will get their shots to steal the position away from Bell in the spring. Knight was redshirted in 2012 and Thomas is a 6'5" pro-style recruit out of Colleyville, Texas.
Stoops has been loyal in the past and Bell will likely get the nod as the starter going into the red and white game. However, we haven't seen him run the offense the way Jones, Sam Bradford, Jason White and Josh Heupel ran it in the past. All we've seen out of him has primarily come out the "Belldozer" package where he smashes into the line in short yardage situations.
So who will be Oklahoma's starting quarterback next season? Bell? Knight? Thomas?
We will see in the spring, but surely the decision is at the top of Stoops' agenda going into 2013.
How Will Mike Stoops Rebuild the Defensive Line?
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The Sooners lost most of their defensive line outside of sophomore Chuka Ndulue, who returns as Oklahoma's only experienced defensive end.
Mike Stoops has a lot on his plate right now with his best defensive players declaring for the NFL draft. However, he has to look towards the future and start developing a new crop of interior and exterior defensive linemen.
Jordan Phillips will likely see more playing time next year, but Stoops still faces plenty of questions. Who's going to start up front? How can they improve the defense? What's going to happen if the line is made up entirely of freshmen?
Stoops will have to look to a young crop of linemen from the 2013 class to try and fix their defensive problems. It's apparent the Big 12 is still an offensive league and Stoops will have to figure out a way to rebuild the Sooners' line and get pressure in opponents' backfields.
Who Will Start at Middle Linebacker?
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Now that Tom Wort has declared for the NFL draft, the Sooners must find another starter at middle linebacker.
Frank Shannon has the most experience at the position with two starts in 2012. He finished the year with 38 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks and stands to be the main starter going into 2013. According to ESPN.com's SoonerNation, the Sooners haven't committed a linebacker in the last two recruiting classes.
With such a long list of great linebackers under Stoops, the question remains. Who will be the Sooners' next Butkus Award candidate? Who will step up like Rocky Calmus, Torrance Marshall, Teddy Lehman, Rufus Alexander, Clint Ingram and Curtis Lofton did in the past?
The Stoops brothers are still searching for their leader on defense. There is no doubt they're trying to find their next great linebacker.
Who Is Going to Be the Outside Threat on Offense?
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Kenny Stills was Landry Jones' main outside threat for the last two seasons, but since his decision to declare for the NFL draft, Bob Stoops and Josh Heupel must figure out who will be the next quarterback’s go-to deep threat.
Jaz Reynolds showed his abilities last season and should return for his junior year in 2013. Along with Reynolds, Oklahoma returns Trey Metoyer and LaColton Bester, who each saw valuable playing time in 2012.
Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard will likely fill the slot for Oklahoma in 2013, leaving little depth on the outside. Durron Neal could be a player Heupel looks at to give the future quarterback an extra target on the outside of the field.
It felt like Kenny Stills was at Oklahoma for about eight years. He had great hands and an above-average ability to separate from smaller defensive backs. Now the Sooners will miss those aspects as they begin their search for their next deep threat.
Who Will Replace Tony Jefferson?
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Safety Tony Jefferson declared for the NFL draft after the Cotton Bowl, which leaves a gaping hole for Mike Stoops to fill in Oklahoma's secondary.
Gabe Lynn started at nickelback for the Sooners in 2012 and will likely get the first crack at replacing Jefferson at free safety. Other than Lynn, the Sooners don't have much experience in the defensive backfield.
Cornerback Aaron Colvin was easily Oklahoma's best defensive player last season and could return to do the same in 2013. Colvin is mulling intentions to declare for the NFL draft and will likely come to a decision in the coming days, as the deadline for underclassmen to declare is Jan. 15. However, his decision does nothing for the safety position outside of providing a blanket for half of the field.
The Stoops brothers should be focusing on the secondary going into 2013. They have plenty of questions to answer, but how they will replace Jefferson at safety could be the most important.