Oklahoma Football: 5 Seniors the Sooners Will Count on in 2013
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
If you're an Oklahoma football fan, it's hard not to be excited about the Sooners' young talent. But for that talent to materialize, veteran Sooners need to provide leadership and guidance.
After losing their quarterback, top receiver and several key defenders, senior leadership will be essential for OU in 2013.
A seasoned offensive line will serve as the glue to help foster the development of a wealth of talent.
On defense, upperclassmen at linebacker and cornerback must be as good as ever as the unit faces potent Big 12 offenses.
Here are five seniors the Sooners will count on in 2013. Because of their contributions and the outlook at their position, they will need to deliver once again next season.
Can Aaron Colvin go from All-Big 12 to All-American?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Colvin's decision to return for his senior season is a boon for Sooner fans.
With Tony Jefferson, Javon Harris and Demontre Hurst all gone, Colvin will be the unquestioned leader of the secondary. The All-Big 12 standout will be counted on to help ease the transition for untested talent.
Luckily for Colvin, senior Gabe Lynn, who played nickelback last season, also returns. Expect to see new faces joining the veterans. Kass Everett and Julian Wilson should see plenty of action.
Additionally, several incoming commits have chances to play immediately. Hatari Byrd, Stanvon Taylor and L.J. Moore could potentially start. Dominique Alexander and Ahmad Thomas are also worth keeping an eye on.
Can Damien Williams top 1,000 rushing yards next season?
USA TODAY Sports
Sure, the Sooners put up healthy passing outputs on a weekly basis. But the running game has been subpar the last few seasons. This needs to change.
Damien Williams must spearhead this process. The JUCO transfer opened eyes with 946 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground last season. Hopefully, he can top that effort with a solid senior campaign.
Williams will have plenty of support in the backfield. Senior Brennan Clay, who tallied 555 rushing yards last season, will provide depth. Hopefully Roy Finch, who was oddly silent in 2012, can contribute as well.
Also look for the touted redshirt freshman Alex Ross to see action.
And, of course, there's always 5-star commit Keith Ford. Redshirting him may be a wise choice. But whoever gets this opportunity, expect nothing less than excellence.
Jalen Saunders could become OU's No. 1 receiver.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Another position to be excited about next season is wide receiver. Despite losing Kenny Stills, the Sooners are oozing with talent in this area.
As one of the few relevant seniors in the group, Jalen Saunders will need to step up once again.
There was reason to have high expectations for the transfer from Fresno State last season. But one has to give Saunders serious credit for what he accomplished.
In only nine appearances, Saunders snagged 62 passes for 829 yards and three scores. He also took a punt back 81 yards for a crucial touchdown against Oklahoma State.
In a group that includes nine freshmen or sophomores, Saunders needs to be a consistent and reliable target. This is especially important for making the next starting quarterback's job easier.
Expect Saunders to be one of the top targets at wideout. Also look for breakout seasons from sophomores Sterling Shepard and Trey Metoyer. Durron Neal should impress in his second season as well.
Gabe Ikard has played at a consistently high level at OU.
R. Yeatts/Getty Images
Oklahoma should be thankful to have rock-solid center Gabe Ikard back for 2013. The two-time All-Big 12 lineman has been spectacular over the last three seasons.
Ikard will need to be at the top of his game once again. OU's next quarterback will have enough on his plate without having to worry about pass protection. And improving the run game is key, which won't be possible without solid play from Ikard and Co.
Luckily for Ikard, he'll be joined by seasoned players. Tyler Evans, Bronson Irwin and Austin Woods return as seniors. Juniors Adam Shead, Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams round out an experienced group.
At this point, the starting front five will include all juniors and seniors, an encouraging sign. That should make adjusting to a new offensive line coach in the wake of James Patton's departure easier.
Corey Nelson is the face of the 2013 OU linebacking unit.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
After a horrendous showing last season, it's essential OU bolster the linebacking corps. Regardless of whether Mike Stoops switches to a 3-4 scheme, he made it clear he wants the linebackers to have more active roles.
With Tom Wort forgoing his senior season, senior Corey Nelson is the unit's new leader.
Nelson may not be high-profile, but he's been a key contributor. In three seasons, Nelson has played in all 40 games. However, he cooled off in 2012 after earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore.
It's imperative that Nelson ends his Sooner career on a high note. Aaron Franklin and Frank Shannon, leading candidates to start alongside Nelson, have a combined two career starts.
Coaching will be key for making this unit more relevant. But ultimately, it's up to the players. If Corey Nelson is inspired, he can lead a key turnaround at linebacker in 2013.