Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Team Program

Sebastian LenaAnalyst IAugust 18, 2013

Oklahoma Sooners 2013 Team Program

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    After a down year, the Oklahoma Sooners will try to restore order in the Big 12 this season.

    Ranked No. 16 in both national polls, Oklahoma is expected to make some noise, but is not considered an elite team. However, it would be a mistake to count out Bob Stoops and his coaching staff.

    Here’s a preview of what the 2013 Sooners will look like.

     

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    Check out the "The Program" and its preview of the 2013 Oklahoma Sooners.

Recapping 2012

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    There’s no doubt that 2012 was a season to forget for Oklahoma.

    Coming in, the team was ranked top-five yet again. However, an early season visit from No. 15 Kansas State changed all that.

    Following the loss, the Sooners looked like a team possessed. The team beat its next three opponents by an average margin of 36. That included a 63-21 whooping of rival Texas.

    The stretch propelled Oklahoma back into the top 10. With undefeated No. 5 Notre Dame visiting, the Sooners had a perfect opportunity to get themselves back into the national title picture.

    However, Manti Te’o and Notre Dame had other ideas, pasting Oklahoma 30-13.

    Considered down and out, the team regrouped and put together five-straight victories to wrap up the season. Impressively, the Sooners won each of their final four games by eight points or less.

    In the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma faced No. 9 Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The Aggies would embarrass the Sooners 41-13.

    With all that said, Oklahoma still finished with 10 wins on the season. It says a lot about a program when that kind of a year is considered a failure. Not to mention, the three teams that beat the Sooners combined for just three regular-season losses.

    That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Depth Chart

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    Returning Starters

    Offense- 7

    Defense- 4

     

    2013 Depth Chart

    Offense

    QB

    1. Blake Bell (6-6, 263, Jr.)
    2. Trevor Knight (6-1, 202, Fr.)
    3. Kendal Thompson (6-1, 191, So.)

    RB

    1. Damien Williams (5-11, 214, Sr.)
    2. Brennan Clay (5-11, 197, Sr.)
    3. Alex Ross (6-1, 218, Fr.)
    4. David Smith (5-10, 206, Fr.)

    FB

    1. Trey Millard (6-2, 259, Sr.)
    2. Aaron Ripkowski (6-1, 260, Jr.)

    WR

    1. LaColtan Bester (6-3, 208, Sr.)
    2. Trey Metoyer (6-1, 184, So.)
    3. Jaz Reynolds (6-2, 198, Sr.)

    WR

    1. Sterling Shepard (5-10, 188, So.)
    2. Durron Neal (5-11, 201, So.)
    3. Jaz Reynolds (6-2, 198, Sr.)

    WR

    1. Jalen Saunders (5-9, 160, Sr.)
    2. Sterling Shepard (5-10, 188, So.)

    TE

    1. Brannon Green (6-2, 264, Sr.)
    2. Taylor McNamara (6-5, 253, Fr.)
    3. Sam Grant (6-7, 250, Fr.)

    OT

    1. Tyrus Thompson (6-5, 316, Jr.)
    2. Josiah St. John (6-6, 305, Jr.)

    OT

    1. Daryl Williams (6-6, 315, Jr.)
    2. Derek Farniok (6-9, 324, So.)

    OG

    1. Adam Shead (6-4, 311, Jr.)
    2. Dionte Savage (6-5, 345, Jr.)

    OG

    1. Bronson Irvin (6-5, 310, Sr.)
    2. Nila Kasitati (6-4, 309, So.)
    3. Tony Feo (6-4, 275, So.)

    C

    1. Gabe Ikard (6-3, 298, Sr.)
    2. Ty Darlington (6-3, 282, So.)

     

    Defense

    DE

    1. Geneo Grissom (6-4, 254, Jr.)
    2. Chaz Nelson (6-2, 244, Jr.)

    DE

    1. Charles Tapper (6-4, 253, So.)
    2. Rashod Favors (6-1, 262, Jr.)

    DT

    1. Jordan Phillips (6-6, 324, So.)
    2. Torrea Peterson (6-3, 280, Jr.)

    DT

    1. Chuka Ndulue (6-3, 262, Jr.)
    2. Jordan Wade (6-4, 306, Fr.)
    3. Charles Walker (6-3, 280, Fr.)

    LB

    1. Frank Shannon (6-1, 230, So.)
    2. Eric Striker (6-0, 198, So.)

    LB

    1. Corey Nelson (6-1, 215, Sr.)
    2. Aaron Franklin (6-1, 217, Jr.)

    CB

    1. Cortez Johnson (6-2, 198, So.)
    2. Zack Sanchez (5-11, 170, Fr.)

    CB

    1. Aaron Colvin (6-0, 181, Sr.)
    2. Stanvon Taylor (5-11, 175, Fr.)

    S

    1. Quentin Hayes (6-0, 181, Jr.)
    2. Ahmad Thomas (6-1, 205, Fr.)

    S

    1. Julian Wilson (6-2, 191, Jr.)
    2. Kass Everett (5-10, 180, Sr.)

    S

    1. Gabe Lynn (6-0, 199, Sr.)
    2. Hatari Byrd (6-1, 195, Fr.)

     

    Special Teams

    K

    1. Michael Hunnicutt (6-0, 169, Jr.)

    P

    1. Jed Barnett (6-2, 215, Jr.)

    LS

    1. Austin Woods (6-4, 310, Sr.)

    KR

    1. Roy Finch (5-7, 167, Sr.)
    2. Brennan Clay (5-11, 197, Sr.)

    PR

    1. Jalen Saunders (5-9, 160, Sr.)
    2. Sterling Shepard (5-10, 188, So.)

Injuries

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    D.J. Ward (DE, Fr.)

    According to The Oklahoman’s Ryan Aber, defensive end D.J. Ward underwent successful surgery to remove his spleen on Aug. 13.

    The true freshman is expected to make a full recovery within six weeks. That would keep him out of Oklahoma’s first three games of the season. However, Ward would likely be back for the teams’ big road-opener against Notre Dame on Sept. 28.

    With their defensive unit already considered to be the team’s weakness, the Sooners can’t afford to lose the 6’2”, 245-pounder for an extended period of time.

     

    Kendal Thompson (QB, So.)

    After suffering a foot injury on the first day of practice, quarterback Kendal Thompson is out of the running for Oklahoma’s starting spot.

    Soonernation’s Jake Trotter later revealed that the sophomore had fractured his right foot. He underwent surgery on Aug. 1 and is expected to return mid September.

    It’s a tough break for Thompson, who had hoped to outduel front runner Blake Bell and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight.

     

    Michael Onuoha (DE, So.)

    Just a day after announcing that Ward would miss time, head coach Bob Stoops informed the media that defensive end Michael Onuoha is also expected to miss time.

    According to The Oklahoman’s Jason Kersey, the sophomore underwent shoulder surgery in the spring and has yet to practice this year. He’s expected to return after the third game of the season.

    As a true freshman, Onuoha played sparingly. He appeared in four games, totaling four tackles.

Players to Watch

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    Blake Bell (QB, Jr.)

    Bell hasn’t started one game in his career at Oklahoma, yet he already has 24 touchdowns on his resume.

    That’s because the junior featured heavily in short-yardage situations in what was dubbed the “Belldozer” package. He’s accumulated 372 rushing yards on 104 carries in his first two seasons with the Sooners.

    However, the question is: Can Bell throw the ball?

    Thus far, he’s only attempted 20 passes in his career, completing just 10 of them. In the short time he’s been on the field, Bell really hasn’t displayed confidence or consistency with his arm.

    Sure, a preseason quarterback battle will likely bring out the best in him. But the jury is still out on whether Bell can be the guy to lead Oklahoma to another Big 12 title.

    Damien Williams (RB, Sr.)

    It’s a rare thing for a juco transfer to come in right off the bat and perform at such a high level. However, that’s exactly what Williams did last season.

    In his first season playing FBS football, the senior was just 68 yards shy of being the Big 12’s leading returning rusher. He rushed for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns on 176 carries.

    Williams’ numbers may not be all too spectacular. But that’s mainly because he shared the field with talented backs Brennan Clay and Roy Finch.

    As the feature back, it’ll be interesting to see how Williams handles the pressure in 2013.

    Jalen Saunders (WR, Jr.)

    Saunders was easily one of the Sooners’ biggest surprises last year.

    However, he shouldn’t be. The junior caught 50 passes for 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011. But many wondered if he could have that same kind of impact against top-flight competition.

    After catching 62 passes for 829 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last season, Saunders more than answered his critics.

    There’s no doubt that he’ll be one of Oklahoma’s go-to-guys this year. However, Saunders’ off the field issues—he was charged with a misdemeanor for marijuana possession on Dec. 2—could threaten to derail his progress.

    It would be a pity to see such a talented wasted.

Coaches

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    Head Coach: Bob Stoops (149-37 record, 15th season)

    When Stoops was named head coach in 1999, he took over an Oklahoma program that had its reputation dragged through the mud in recent years—the school was 54-46-3 from 1990-98.

    After putting together a 7-5 record in his first season, Stoops marched the Sooners to a 13-0 record and the BCS National Championship in 2000. Since then, he has led the team to three more BCS titles, eight Big 12 Championships and 14 bowl game appearances.

    Prior to joining the Sooners, Stoops spent time as an assistant coach with Florida, Kansas State, Kent State and Iowa.

     

    Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator: Mike Stoops (seventh season)

    In his second year back with the team, Stoops will try and regain his defensive mastery from the early 2000's.

     

    Assistant Head Coach/Cornerbacks: Bobby Jack Wright (15th season)

    Wright has been with the program since Stoops' hire in 1999. He recently received the Merv Johnson Integrity Award.

     

    Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks: Josh Heupel (ninth season)

    In Heupel's two years as Co-Offensive Coordinator (2011-12), Oklahoma ranked fifth in the nation in passing (342.9 YPG) and seventh in both scoring (38.8 PPG) and total offense (505.1 YPG).

     

    Running Backs: Cale Gundy (15th season)

    NFL star runningbacks DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson are former pupils of Gundy's.

     

    Co-Offensive Coordinator/Receivers: Jay Norvell (sixth season)

    Norvell has coached in both the Super Bowl and BCS title game.

     

    Assistant Defensive Coordinator/Linebacker: Tim Kish (second season)

    Kish has formerly coached with Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Northwestern, Army, Ball State, Purdue and Bowling Green.

     

    Offensive Line: Bill Bedenbaugh (first season)

    Bedenbaugh was named one of the nation's top 50 recruiters by 247sports.com in February. The offensive line will be in good hands, as Bedenbaugh has experience coaching a successful offensive unit. During his time at the school, West Virginia set single-season records for total offense (6,526 yards in 2012) and  passing (4,509 in 2011).

     

    Defensive Line: Jerry Montgomery (first season)

    During his time at Michigan, Montgomery helped the team post a 19-7 record and limit opponents to just 18.6 points per game in 2011-12. In fact, the Wolverines only allowed three rushing touchdowns in the final nine games of 2012. Montgomery's lessons will be highly beneficial for a young, inexperienced Sooners' line.

     

    Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator: Jay Boulware (first season)

    Although Auburn hasn't had much success in recent years, Boulware's units have. The Tigers' punt coverage unit ranked second in the nation and their kickoff coverage ranked third. Boulware was also part of the 14-0 Auburn team that won the BCS title in 2010.

2013 Schedule and Most Important Games

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    2013 Team Schedule

    Aug 31 vs. LA-Monroe
    Sept. 7 vs. West Virginia
    Sept. 14 vs. Tulsa
    Sept. 28 @ Notre Dame
    Oct. 5 vs. TCU
    Oct. 12 vs. Texas*
    Oct. 19 @ Kansas
    Oct. 26 vs. Texas Tech
    Nov. 7 @ Baylor
    Nov. 16 vs. Iowa State
    Nov. 23 @ Kansas State
    Dec. 7 @ Oklahoma State

    *Game played at neutral location

     

    Most Important Games

    Sept. 28, at No. 11 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

    Last season, the Irish marched into Norman and gave Oklahoma a 30-13 whooping on their home soil. It marked the team’s second home defeat of the year—an unprecedented result during Bob Stoops’ tenure.

    Sure, Notre Dame may be without Everett Golson and Manti Te’o, but they have a pretty talented squad. Not to mention, the game will be played at Notre Dame Stadium, where the Irish have won nine straight.

    This one will be about revenge for the Sooners.

     

    Oct. 5, vs. No. 20 TCU, TBD

    Last year, in a 24-17 loss, the Horned Frogs gave Oklahoma all it could handle in Fort Worth. Now, the team will travel to Norman for the first time as a member of the Big 12.

    Likely, first-time Sooners starter Blake Bell will be fresh off his first big-game experience the week before on the road against Notre Dame. Depending on the result of that game, Bell’s confidence could either be sky-high or down in the dumps.

    With TCU arguably Oklahoma’s biggest threat in the Big 12, whoever wins this one will surely have the inside track for the conference title.

    Oct. 12, vs. No. 15 Texas, TBD

    No matter the records, this matchup is always circled for both teams.

    The Sooners have won three straight in the series. That includes embarrassing victories of 63-21 and 55-17 the past two years.

    Oklahoma shouldn’t expect it to come too easy this time around. The Longhorns boast a much-improved roster this season.

    The Texas seniors will be hungry to try and grab their first win in the rivalry before they graduate.

     

     

What to Look for on Offense

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    Oklahoma finished top 15 nationally in both total offense and scoring offense. The team was also fifth in passing.

    With four-year quarterback Landry Jones departing, the Sooners will have to go back to the drawing board offensively.

    Blake Bell has featured mostly as a short-yardage back over the past two seasons. However, as the likely starter, it’s time for the junior to show that he can pass the ball too.

    He’ll have a great backfield to back him up.

    Oklahoma returns both of their top rushers from last year—Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. The duo combined for 1,501 yards on 269 carries for 17 touchdowns.

    The Sooners will also be able to rely on the experience of senior fullback Trey Millard.

    In season’s past, Millard has shown tremendous skill at being both a short-yardage back and receiver. Not to mention, his lead-blocking and pass-blocking skills are highly underrated. He’ll be a valuable asset for Bell to lean on.

    As for the receivers, Oklahoma will try to replace Kenny Stills and Justin Brown with Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard.

    Saunders—a transfer from Fresno State—surprised everyone last year by finishing third on the team in receiving. The senior racked up 829 yards on 62 catches for three touchdowns.

    On the other hand, Shepard had an outstanding freshman campaign. He totaled 621 yards on 45 grabs for three scores.

    On the line, unlike their defensive counterparts, the Sooners will be loaded with experience.

    Senior center Gabe Ikard will lead the charge. Expect Daryl Williams, Adam Shead, Bronson Irwin and Austin Woods to all make significant contributions as well.

    Stylistically, Oklahoma would like to be able to run a good chunk of snaps out of the pro set. However, that relies a lot on Bell’s ability to grow as a passer. It’s more likely that the team will feature an offense that really caters to the junior’s ability to run.

    Overall, if Bell can prove he’s a proficient passer, this is a unit that should carry the Sooners to another top-15 offense.

What to Look for on Defense

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    Oklahoma’s defense was already bad to begin with. The fact that this unit returns just four starters only makes it worse.

    The biggest area of concern has to be the defensive line.

    According to SBnation’s Bill Connelly, the Sooners ranked near the bottom of college football in several advanced statistics. The list includes: Adjusted line yards (107th), power success rate (120th), standard line yards per carry (109th), stuff rate (106th) and passing downs sack rate (89th). Not to mention, Oklahoma ranked ninth in the Big 12 against the run and dead last in tackles for loss.

    Even more embarrassing is the fact that the entire line combined for just 24 tackles for loss and never batted a pass down or forced a fumble. In comparison, during the 2011 season, ends Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander combined for 32 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 15 passes defensed and four forced fumbles between them.

    With Chuka Ndulue as the only returning starter, and two linemen already out with injuries—D.J. Ward and Mike Onuoha—it’s a situation that only looks to get worse before it gets better.

    At linebacker, the Sooners are just a little better off.

    Senior Corey Nelson (45 tackles, one sack and 3.5 tackles for loss) is the only returning starter. However, spot starter Frank Shannon (38 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss) is expected to make a splash in his sophomore year.

    In the secondary, senior corner Aaron Colvin will feature. He’ll also most likely serve as the leader of the entire unit.

    Colvin is a tough, physical defender who registered 61 tackles, four interceptions and broke up 11 passes last season. He’s a proven ball hawk that can lay out a receiver when needed.

    Fellow senior Gabe Lynn is expected to star as a safety.

    It wasn’t too long ago that scouts had Lynn ranked as the No. 1 corner coming out of high school. However, since then he hasn’t been able to record a single interception and has broken up just six passes in his career. Oklahoma is expecting that to change.

    Stylistically, the team will be playing with more of a 4-3 than a 4-2-5. However, given the pass happy style of the Big 12, don’t be surprised to see the Sooners line up in some nickel packages throughout the year.

    Overall, this unit might come out looking a little worse than last season during the early stages. But by the end of the year, expect Mike Stoops to improve the defense significantly in his second season back with the team.

X-Factors for 2013

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    Trey Millard (FB, Sr.)

    Millard is arguably the best fullback in college football.

    The guy can do just about everything. Whether it’s picking up short yards, receiving out of the backfield or blocking, no one does it better for Oklahoma.

    Last season, Millard caught 30 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed 33 times for 198 yards.

    Blake Bell and the “Belldozer” package can be credited with taking away valuable short-yardage opportunities from the senior. However, with Bell likely starting at quarterback, that job will fall back in Millard’s lap.

    Over his four seasons with the Sooners, Millard has played a pivotal role in the offense. Expect his experience to be relied on heavily this year.


    Quarterback Run Game

    It’s been a while since Oklahoma had a quarterback that could scramble.

    The last two signal callers—Landry Jones and Sam Bradford—only combined for negative 432 yards on the ground from 2007-12. In comparison, Blake Bell has rushed for 372 yards and 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

    And that was when he wasn’t the starter.

    Bob Stoops and his coaching staff know firsthand about the nightmares a defense faces with a mobile quarterback. In last year’s Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M stomped the Sooners behind quarterback Johnny Manziel and his 229 yards rushing.

    Expect co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel to draw up some specific run plays for Bell next season. If he can pull them off, Oklahoma could really have a dual-threat quarterback on their roster for the first time in quite a while.

    However, it all relies on whether or not Bell can become an efficient passer

     

Top Storylines to Watch

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    Will Bob Stoops Pass Barry Switzer as the Winningest Coach in Oklahoma History?

    In his 14 years with the Sooners, Stoops has achieved plenty of accomplishments. Among them, the 52-year-old has set four NCAA records and set or tied 112 school records.

    In 2013, Stoops might add yet another milestone to that list.

    To date, he’s won 149 games with Oklahoma. Stoops needs just nine victories to surpass Switzer’s total of 157.

    Given that the Sooners have won 10 or more games in 11 of Stoops’ 14 seasons with the school, nine wins shouldn’t be a problem.

    Norman Losing Its Mystique

    Before last season, Oklahoma was a stunning 77-3 at home under Stoops. More impressively, the team was an unprecedented 14-0 against ranked opponents, outscoring them by an average margin of 28.2.

    After last season, make that 14-2.

    The Sooners fell to both Kansas State and Notre Dame at Norman. Not to mention, the team also had two very close calls against Baylor and Oklahoma State.

    Throw in the loss to Texas Tech in 2011—a game that snapped a 39-game home winning streak—and Oklahoma has now lost three home contests in the past two years. In comparison, the team lost just two from 1999-2010.

    Gone are the days when opponents shook in their boots at the thought of playing the Sooners at home.

    Mid-Season Gauntlet Will Make or Break Oklahoma

    The Sooners’ three toughest games all come within the first half of the season. Unfortunately, they’re all played in the span of three weeks.

    From Sept. 28 to Oct. 12, Oklahoma will play at Notre Dame, host TCU and wrap up with the Red River Rivalry against Texas at the Cotton Bowl.

    For a first-time starter in Blake Bell, this stretch will be a huge test. One that could easily determine the fate of the Sooners, and Bell, for the remainder of the year.

    If the team can win at least two of the three games, Oklahoma will be in fine shape to make a run at the Big 12 title and maybe more. Lose two, or all three, and Oklahoma might be struggling just to finish with a winning record.

    Calling these three games huge would be an understatement.

Season Prediction

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    Prediction: 9-3

    Oklahoma will exceed expectations in Blake Bell’s inaugural season as signal-caller.

    The team will notch impressive victories over Notre Dame, Texas and at Kansas State. However, the Sooners will be caught looking ahead to the Red River Rivalry against TCU on Oct. 5. In between the matchups with the Irish and Longhorns, it makes for a perfect trap game.

    With a victory over the Longhorns, Oklahoma should still be considered a dark-horse contender for the BCS title in November. But on a Thursday night game at Baylor, expect Bell and the Sooners to trip up to a very underrated program in front of a national audience.

    With a conference mark of 7-3, it isn’t likely that Oklahoma will win its 9th Big 12 title under Bob Stoops. Instead, the team can expect a bowl game on or before New Years Eve.

     

    2013 Team Schedule

    Aug 31 vs. LA-Monroe- W
    Sept. 7 vs. West Virginia- W
    Sept. 14 vs. Tulsa- W
    Sept. 28 @ Notre Dame- W
    Oct. 5 vs. TCU- L
    Oct. 12 vs. Texas*- W
    Oct. 19 @ Kansas- W
    Oct. 26 vs. Texas Tech- W
    Nov. 7 @ Baylor- L
    Nov. 16 vs. Iowa State-W
    Nov. 23 @ Kansas State- W
    Dec. 7 @ Oklahoma State- L

    *Game played at neutral location

     



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