After a solid 10-3 season and disappointing loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl in January, the Oklahoma football program enters the 2013 campaign with a few key questions yet to be answered.
Head coach Bob Stoops is one of the best motivators and leaders in the nation. Since taking over the program 14 seasons ago, Oklahoma has won 10 games or more 11 times and never failed to earn a bid to a bowl game.
No doubt he's got a plan in mind for his team this upcoming season.
That said, there are a few key positions that have yet to be determined. How players perform during summer practices will shape the roster.
Who Will Start at Quarterback?
This is the most obvious and most important question facing the Sooners this season. You can't win many games without a strong quarterback leading the offense.
Blake Bell would seem to be the front-runner for the job, having backed up Landry Jones the past couple of seasons.
That said, Stoops isn't ready to name him as the starter. In his interview at Big 12 Media Days, the coach told reporters, "You’re kind of making assumptions if you think he’s the guy right now," as noted by Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star.
Stoops went on to note that Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight were right there in the running with Bell to see who would claim the starting spot this summer.
Bell has been a prolific scorer for the Sooners the past couple of years, scoring 24 touchdowns. Unfortunately for him, all 24 of those have come by way of his legs.
In limited duty as a passer, Bell has completed just 50 percent of his passes and has an interception to his credit without a passing touchdown.
The battle between the three candidates will be one to closely watch this summer.
Who Will Claim the Lion's Share of Touches at the Running Back Position?
Last year's leading rusher, Damien Williams, likely has an edge over the field as the team's starting running back, but there are a couple of wild cards who could surprise everyone with breakout performances this summer.
Roy Finch, who was rarely used last year (seven carries for 62 yards and one touchdown), is a player to watch.
He played a bigger role in his freshman and sophomore seasons, and Stoops has been pleased by what he's seen this spring, as noted by Jason Kersey of NewsOK.com: "Roy is doing really well,” Stoops said. “Roy has had a lot of really good days. Roy has played well.”
Brennan Clay—the team's second-leading rusher last year—is also going to be in the mix for carries this season, as will super-fullback Trey Millard.
Given the level of uncertainty at the quarterback position, having so many good players to run the ball is a boon for Stoops and the Sooners' offense. That said, it might be tough to divvy out the carries in a way that makes everyone happy.
Biggest area of concern for Sooners is...
Who Will Dominate the Trenches on Defense?
A defense that wasn't particularly dominant last year took a huge hit up front heading into the 2013 campaign. The team lost Casey Walker, R.J. Washington, David King and Jamarkus McFarland to "graduation or expired eligibility," as noted by Ryan Osborne of The Dallas Morning News.
The team didn't have much success in the trenches last year on defense, even with those players. The defensive line only accounted for 24 tackles behind the line and sacks were purchased at premium prices.
Thankfully, defensive end Chuka Ndulue, who led the team with five sacks and six tackles behind the line, will be back this fall for Oklahoma playing at the tackle position. He'll need to improve upon his effort from last year while playing a different position, however, as he will have even less help up front.
Geneo Grissom is likely pencilled in as a starting defensive end after spending the last few years trying to figure out if he was a tight end or defensive lineman. After making the switch back to defense last season, he appears primed to make an impact this season.
The rest of the rotation has yet to be set, and the battles on the defensive line this summer will be among the most heated of any on the team. Figuring out who will play, and where, will be a huge piece of the puzzle facing Stoops and the team's defensive coaching staff.
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