Oklahoma Football: Players to Watch in Sooners' 2014 Spring Game

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterApril 9, 2014

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight (9) hands off to running back Brennan Clay (24) during an NCAA college football game between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki

Among the big-time programs holding their spring games this Saturday is Oklahoma. Following the Sooners' Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, expectations are once again high in Norman. 

It's safe to assume that Oklahoma will be the preseason favorites to win the Big 12, and Saturday will be the first chance to see the 2014 team in action. 

Which players should fans be keeping their eyes on? It's a mixture of established stars and relative unknowns. 


Quarterback Trevor Knight

This sort of goes without saying, so why does he deserve a mention? Simply put, Trevor Knight isn't a story for Oklahoma—he's the story. Not just for the spring, but for 2014. His monster game in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama was a complete surprise. Folks are going to be interested in his progress. 

Knight's bowl game didn't come out of nowhere, though. Anyone who watched the Sooners last season would (and should) agree that Knight began showing improvement in the passing game against Iowa State and Kansas State. Still, there couldn't have been many people who thought Knight would throw for four touchdowns against the Tide while dropping dimes to his receivers. 

Rusty Costanza

This will be the public's chance to see if Knight can pick up where he left off that night in New Orleans. Former quarterback Blake Bell has moved to tight end—and will be out for the spring game with a knee injury—meaning it's the Knight show. 

Anyone can look like a stud in a spring game, but there are specific things to watch for with Knight. Does he look more comfortable and more consistent as a passer? How is his chemistry with a young (and banged up) receiving group? Is he running the offense with command? 

As far as intrigue goes, Knight is a major storyline across college football this spring. 


Wide Receivers: Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Speaking of Knight, who is he going to throw to? Himself?

Sue Ogrocki

Not only are the Sooners losing Jalen Saunders, Lacoltan Bester and Jaz Reynolds, they'll have a couple of key returning receivers out with injuries.

According to Ryan Aber and Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman, Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal have hamstring and knee/ankle injuries, respectively, and will be held out. 

So who steps in? Derrick Woods played in 11 games last year but only caught two passes. For him, this is an excellent opportunity to make the most of the spotlight. Beyond him, it's mostly a group of unknowns. 

So while there aren't many big names to watch, per se, this is a chance to examine the depth Oklahoma has at wide receiver. 


Linebacker Eric Striker

Perhaps no player on Oklahoma's defense struck the fear of God in opposing players like Eric Striker. 

A pass-rushing specialist, Striker had 10.5 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks, last season. Additionally, he broke former Texas quarterback Case McCoy in half in last year's Red River Shootout Rivalry Showdown.

Credit: Bleacher Report

This spring, head coach Bob Stoops feels more comfortable about the system in place. As a result, expect Striker's role to grow as coaches put him in more positions to be successful. 

Here's what Stoops said about Striker's responsibilities, from Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com

On normal yardage [downs] we probably rushed Julian (Wilson) twice as much as we did Eric. We get in third down and Eric always rushed. First and second downs, it can be a little bit reversed. That’s all we’re saying, giving him more opportunities to do what he does best.

It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma's coaching staff uses Striker on Saturday. He offers a lot with his athleticism.


Cornerback Zack Sanchez

As Oklahoma rebuilds its secondary, Zack Sanchez will have to grow up into a defensive leader quickly. 

A redshirt freshman a year ago, Sanchez led the team with 13 pass breakups. He also had one of his two interceptions in the Sugar Bowl. With Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn gone, Sanchez, along with Quentin Hayes, has to hold the fort in the secondary. 

With the receiving group being what it's going to be in the spring game, Sanchez should have a good day. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.