Oklahoma Sooners Football: 2009 Preseason Outlook

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Oklahoma Sooners Football: 2009 Preseason Outlook
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Sooners' 2008-2009 season was full of great anticipation and severe disappointment. Oklahoma became the only team to score 60 points in five consecutive games in NCAA history.

A new Heisman Trophy, courtesy of Sam Bradford, now sits in the Switzer Center, along with a third consecutive Big XII title.

The only thing missing from these accolades? A National Championship trophy. Once again, the Sooners laid an egg in the postseason. The high-powered Sooner offense just couldn't get its late season flow back when it reached Miami.

Can Oklahoma pick up the pieces and put together another championship run?

It seems like the Sooners have a lot of the pieces they need to get to Pasadena, but do they have all of them?

 

Offense

The Sooners' offense was one of the most efficient in NCAA history last season. After the infamous 45-35 loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry, Oklahoma went on a tear and demolished its late season opponents. Can they bring back that fire after losing one of the best offensive lines in college football?

Oklahoma lost six offensive linemen to graduation this year. The Sooners can have the most potent skill players in the entire country next year, but if Bob Stoops and his assistants can't put this line back together, there is no hope for Oklahoma.

Outside of the line, the Sooner offense returns almost every key player from last season's team. 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford is tasked with improving on a season where he reached the pinnacle of college football.

He is surrounded by an incredibly deep legion of running backs, headlined by the shifty DeMarco Murray and the bruiser Chris Brown.

The return of tight end Jermaine Gresham is a godsend for an Oklahoma receiving corps that must look to replace the big play capability of Manuel Johnson and the reliability of Juaquin Iglesias.

Ryan Broyles and Adron Tennell must step up and take their place, and the battle for the No. 1 receiver should make this an interesting spring.

 

Defense

Since the departure of Mike Stoops, the Sooner defense has only had glimpses of greatness. Ask any Sooner fan what their biggest fear about the team's defense is, and almost every one of them will say "The Secondary."

The Sooners lose two key pieces of its secondary in Lendy Holmes and Nic Harris. These two players brought a lot of experience and hitting power to the soft Sooner defense. What Oklahoma does to improve its secondary woes will, potentially, make or break the 2009 season.

The linebackers have always been a strength for Oklahoma.

This strength momentarily turned into a weakness last season with the loss of Ryan Reynolds to injury. Reynolds' backups rallied in a few games and the combined effort of Austin Box and Mike Balogun helped to solidify the linebacker position. With no starter losses at this position, the Sooners can only improve over the offseason.

The defensive line for Oklahoma always seems to be a bright spot. The emergence of Frank Alexander last season, when Auston English was hurt, has helped make this part of the field a feared area for the Sooners' opponents.

Special Teams

Arguably, this was the weakest part of the Sooners' entire team last season. Kickoff returns and punt returns for the Sooners were incredibly weak. The Sooners averaged 25 yards per kick return and eight yards per punt return.

Sooner coaches need to focus on return blocking, so that this team can return to the elite in kickoff returns.

The Sooners finished 8-13 in field goals last season. While this doesn't seem like a bad statistic, it isn't great either. Sooner fans were spoiled with Garrett Hartley, but most are looking for improvement in the punter/kicker position.

 

Outlook

Big XII South Runner-Up, Cotton Bowl Victory

The Sooners have the potential for a great 2009, but if a few key elements don't come together then the year could fall short. If the Sooners handle BYU well at the new Cowboys' stadium, they will run through their non-conference schedule without any hiccups.

Oklahoma can beat Texas next season, but their inconsistency will make them fall to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners will proceed to finish the rest of the season with relative ease, but so does Texas.

The Sooners miss out on a BCS game this season, but steamrolls their opponent at the Cotton Bowl.

Oklahoma has the potential to be great this year, but the Big XII is stacked once again. As usual, the season hinges on the (second) game in Dallas. If they can get past Texas, Oklahoma should be able to make its way to Pasadena.

 

*Stats from Soonersports.com

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