Ranking the Sooners' Top 10 Playmakers Through Week 4
The Oklahoma Sooners have started their 2013 campaign 3-0 with much help from great playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But how do all of these playmakers individually compare?
Brennan Clay, Blake Bell and Corey Nelson have had standout performances thus far in the season, but players like Trey Millard, Frank Shannon and Jalen Saunders have been playing solid as well while flying under the radar.
With a full slate of key games coming up for the Sooners with teams such as Notre Dame, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor, the Sooners will undoubtedly need their playmakers to play consistently throughout the season in order to become Big 12 champions and keep their national title hopes alive.
These rankings are based off individual performance through the first four weeks of the season and the impact they have on the success of this Sooners team.
Note: Roster courtesy of CFBStats.com.
Trevor Knight, Quarterback
Despite his faults, Trevor Knight was much responsible for the Sooners' first two wins this season. Knight was named the starting QB during preseason after a highly competitive competition among Blake Bell and Kendal Thompson.
In his two starts this season, Knight went 21-of-48 passing for 205 yards and four touchdowns. Knight also rushed for 145 yards with an average pickup of 7.3 yards per attempt, per ESPN.com.
But due to lack of ball security (four interceptions in two games) and a knee injury sustained in Week 2 against West Virginia, Bob Stoops elected to replace Knight with backup QB Blake Bell.
Despite having lost starting the QB position for the Sooners, Knight still has a legitimate shot at regaining those honors this season. It all depends on his health coming back from his injury and the performance of Bell in the upcoming weeks.
Keith Ford, Running Back
Keith Ford, freshman, has appeared in two games this season for the Sooners. The physical 5'11", 215-pound back has accounted for 66 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, per CFBStats.com.
Many believe Ford to be the next great Sooner running back since Adrian Peterson. But due to his inexperience and lack of play, Ford will not be one of the prime backs for the Sooners offense.
But with a great amount of raw talent, look for Ford to make some big plays throughout the season.
Michael Hunnicutt, Kicker
Michael Hunnicutt, junior, has played superb for the Sooners so far this season, remaining perfect in extra-point attempts and going 8-of-9 in field-goal attempts, per CFBStats.com.
Hunnicutt proved to be the difference in Week 2 against West Virginia when he accounted for 10 points in the Sooners' nine-point victory.
With many key games still left for the Sooners this season, it will certainly help having a trustworthy kicker to come in during key field-goal attempts. If Hunnicutt continues the trend of exceptional place kicking, then it will certainly benefit the Sooners in the long run.
10. Jaz Reynolds, Wide Receiver
In the Sooners' first three games this season, senior wide receiver Jaz Reynolds has recorded five receptions.
So why did he make this list?
Well, the impressive part of Reynolds' receptions is that he averages 24.2 yards per each of them, per CFBStats.com.
Reynolds' big-play ability could come in handy for the Sooners this season; and judging off his 59 total receptions in his career, it is highly likely he will get many more catches under his belt throughout the duration of the season.
Three games is certainly a small sample size. So Reynolds' lack of receptions should not be a cause for concern yet. But if he can continue to rack up the yards with his receptions, then he will be highly beneficial for the Sooners offense.
9. Frank Shannon, Linebacker
Sophomore linebacker Frank Shannon has been a pleasant surprise for the Sooners defense this season.
Shannon is responsible for 19 tackles this season with 11 of those tackles being done solo, per CFBStats.com.
Shannon had a noteworthy performance in Week 3 against Tulsa, when he recorded four assisted and six solo tackles, per ESPN.com.
Shannon has done an exceptional job of plugging running lanes with a big-bodied, physical presence. His effort throughout the first few weeks of the season has contributed greatly to the Sooners' defensive success.
8. Corey Nelson, Linebacker
Corey Nelson has proved in the Sooners' first three games that he can do it all on defense. Whether it's breaking up passes, hurrying the QB or simply tackling, Nelson is capable of performing exceptionally.
Nelson, senior, is currently leading the Oklahoma Sooners defense in tackles (20), tackles for loss (3) and is tied for the lead in sacks (1), per CFBStats.com.
Nelson's versatility is arguably amongst the greatest in college football linebackers, and his performance thus far can back that up.
Needless to say, look for Nelson to continue to impress in his senior year.
7. Gabe Lynn, Defensive Back
Just call him the turnover generator.
Of the six turnovers the Sooners defense has generated this season, senior defensive back Gabe Lynn is responsible for three with two interceptions and one fumble recovery, per CFBStats.com.
Lynn has already matched his career interceptions amount coming into this season in just three games. His best performance this year came in Week 2 against Tulsa when he recorded three tackles and an interception, per ESPN.com.
While Lynn has had great playmaking ability throughout his career as a Sooner, in past years he had a tendency to cheat up in his coverage on routes, allowing receivers to get past him for deep throws. But Lynn has showed maturity this season in his coverage, and his two interceptions in just three games is proof of his development.
6. Sterling Shepard, Wide Receiver
Sophomore wide receiver Sterling Shepard currently leads the Sooners in receptions with 11. He has also recorded 146 yards and two touchdowns in the Sooners' first three games, per CFBStats.com.
Shepard had a slow start to the season with only three reception in his first two games. But he bounced back in Week 3 against Tulsa with a monster performance, recording eight receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns, per ESPN.com.
Sooners coaches are expecting great things from Shepard the next three years. Last year as a freshman, Shepard accounted for 45 receptions for 621 yards and three touchdowns, per ESPN.com.
With continued development and more experience under his belt, Shepard has the opportunity to be listed among the greatest receivers in Sooners history.
5. Jalen Saunders, Wide Receiver
Senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders has had an impressive career, with 152 receptions, 2,943 yards and 21 touchdowns, per ESPN.com.
So far this season, Saunders has kept par with his impressive career performance with 10 receptions for 137 yards and three touchdowns, per ESPN.com.
Saunders is just one of the many offensive weapons utilized by the Sooners offense. But with the absence of sure-armed Landry Jones at QB, it is likely Saunders will not get as many reception opportunities this season.
Despite the Sooners relying on their running game a bit more this season than in years past, Saunders will still get opportunities to make plays. After all, in just three games Saunders already has three touchdown receptions.
4. Roy Finch, Running Back
If you like speedy, swift running backs, then you will certainly enjoy watching Roy Finch.
Finch, senior, may be 5'7", 167 pounds, but he doesn't let that stop him from running up and down the field on defenses.
This season, Finch has had 15 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown, per ESPN.com.
Finch is the type of back that when he gets in the open field, he is nearly impossible to catch. His versatility and ability to make players miss is the best on the Sooners offense.
You'll see him used in a lot of screen plays and dump passes where he can generate space from defenders. After he gets the ball, he is off and running, and defenses are lucky if they can tackle him in the open field to keep him from picking up large chunks of yardage.
3. Blake Bell, Quarterback
Blake Bell has become a popular topic in college football in recent weeks. After replacing Trevor Knight at quarterback, Bell made Sooners history in his first career start in Week 3 against Tulsa.
In the game, Bell went 27-of-37 passing for 413 yards and four touchdowns, per ESPN.com. In doing so, Bell threw for more yards than any other Sooner QB in their first career start.
Impressive as it is, Bell has only played one game this season, which is a small sample size. If he played in all three of the Sooners' games this season and performed as he did in Week 3, then he would certainly be No. 1 on this ranking list.
The fact of the matter is that there is still a lot of uncertainty encompassing Bell in his passing game since he is known as more of a runner than a thrower. But if Bell's performance against Tulsa was a sign of things to come, then the Sooners have another Heisman candidate on their hands.
2. Trey Millard, Fullback
Whether it is blocking, rushing or receiving, Trey Millard can do it.
Millard, senior, is arguably the most well-rounded player for the Sooners offense. During games, he will be lined up in various positions on offense such as fullback, running back and tight end, making him the epitome of a true football player.
Even though Millard is not a player whom typically fills up the stats sheet, his importance to the Sooners offense is immeasurable.
Fullbacks are not commonly utilized in college football these days, but that is just because most teams do not have a fullback like Millard on their team who can be a huge difference maker.
His performance has somewhat gone under the radar this season since he contributes greatly in other ways other than filling up stats sheets. But simply put, the Sooners would not have had nearly the amount of success this season if Millard had not been on the squad.
1. Brennan Clay, Running Back
Brennan Clay has been astounding for the Sooners this season.
Clay, senior, has recorded 262 yards (leading the team), two touchdowns and averages 5.82 yards per carry, per CFBStats.com.
Clay has been an absolute wrecking ball at the running back position, plowing over defenders with physical running.
In Week 2 against West Virginia, Clay carried most of the offensive load with 22 carries for 170 yards, per ESPN.com.
Clay proved to be a highly valuable asset in the game when the Sooners offense used him to chew up clock in the closing minutes of the game while picking up solid yardage.
Despite being considered the primary running back in the Sooners offense, Clay shares time with Finch, Ford and Damien Williams, which allows him to maintain fresh legs throughout games.
But in key plays during games, Clay is the go-to man for picking up much-needed yards.