Oklahoma Sooners: Top Five Things To Look For In The 2009 Season

Tyler KnowlesContributor IJuly 3, 2009

The emergence of a backup Quarterback:

With Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford back for his junior season, the focus shifts from what was going to be who will replace Sam Bradford (who was likely going to be the first player taken in the draft) to who will step up and compete for the backup position in the upcoming season.

Who are the two options?

Red-shirt freshman Landry Jones and true freshman Drew Allen are candidates. Either way, whoever emerges as the go-to guy will be young and inexperienced. You have to look at the term ‘inexperienced’ carefully though. Neither have played in a game at the collegiate level, but both are extremely talented quarterbacks for their age.

In the most recent summer depth chart released by the coaching staff, the 6'6" true freshman Drew Allen holds a slight lead over Jones (Summer Depth Chart). Allen who graduated early and enrolled at OU in the spring semester has shown the ability through the spring of being a very capable quarterback.

Jones on the other hand, from watching spring practices and his performances in the spring game, shows that he could hold the upper hand by the time summer workouts are over. Jones has had the benefit of being in OU’s system for well over a year now, which should help him tremendously in earning that second spot. Jones presents a game that is very unique as well. With a cannon for an arm, he has the ability to throw a very accurate deep ball as well as short intermediate routes, and also shows the ability to run with the football; something he did very well in high school.

The placement of Allen over Jones on the summer depth chart could be a tactic by the coaching staff to help Jones step up and play at the level he needs to be playing at by the time the season begins. In all likeliness, Jones will be Bradford’s backup if something were to happen to the “Big Easy,” and Allen will be redshirted to gain more experience within the system. 

The development of a brand new offensive line:

With the departure of Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Jon Cooper, and Brandon Walker, the 2009 offensive line will be anchored by Trent Williams, the only returning starter. Williams who started every game at the right tackle position has shifted over to the ever important left tackle spot—a move which Sam Bradford will appreciate.

Week after week during the 2008 season, Williams graded out the highest nearly every game, even among Robinson and Loadholt who seemed to grab the attention of the entire nation. Williams was considered one of the “Big Four” to return instead of going pro. To complete the left side of the line is senior guard Brian Simmons, who played in all 14 games last season, seeing time at both the left and right sides of the line.

That leaves the Sooners with freshman center Ben Habern who saw action in just three games last season, and receiving a medical redshirt after suffering an ankle injury against Baylor. At right guard, sophomore Stephen Good looks to get the nod at that spot for the start of the season. Good played in seven games last season while recording a season-high four knockdown blocks against Nebraska.

The right tackle was one of the spots on the line that was thought to be up for grabs, between junior Cory Brandon and sophomore Jarvis Jones (transfer from LSU). Going into the summer, Brandon began drawing raves from the coaching staff and looks to have locked up the starting spot for the season. Brandon saw action in nine games last season as a reserve tackle.

Look for this offensive line to be quicker and a lot more athletic than the line from the 2008 season, making the fast-paced no-huddle offense of the Sooners even more of a threat. Even though this squad seems to have some youth and inexperience, they have a unique opportunity to be as good as last season.

The 2009 Edition of the Red River Shootout:

Why did this game make the top five list? Shouldn’t this game be a given every season? Well, unless you lived under a rock last year, or did not own an airplane/sign business, then you know why this game has made my list.

It became the biggest controversy of the 2008 season when the Oklahoma Sooners jumped ahead of the Longhorns in the final BCS Standings of the season to play for the Big 12 Championship and the BCS National Title Game, despite falling to Texas earlier in the season 45-35.

According to most preseason polls, this matchup will most likely feature the two teams being ranked within the top three in the country, and the two returning quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy look to be early and strong front-runners for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

The rivalry already produces so much hate and animosity between the two schools, yet with last year's controversy, this year’s matchup looks to be a battle to the death gladiator-style. The winner of this game looks to have the inside track to make the national title game once again that is of course some jumping is not involved again. So Sooner fans get ready to hear the score of last years game about 3.7 million times during your trip to Dallas. But rest easy since we have brought home the last three Big 12 Titles.

A Receiving Corp with Something To Prove:

With the loss of two of OU’s most prolific wide receivers in Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson, and the improved and reformed emergence of Quentin Chaney, the Sooners seem to have lost a lot at that position, but will be just fine.

Don’t get me wrong. Those three will be missed immensely, yet those stepping in have quite a bit of talent as well.  Now he may not be classified as a receiver, but senior tight end Jermaine Gresham proved to be one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets. Gresham recorded a team-high 14 touchdowns last season, including the only two touchdowns in the national title game against Florida. With such a weapon as Gresham, defenses will have to pick their poison this season: double team Gresham and leave an open receiver, or leave the 6’6" freak single covered.

Sophomore Ryan Broyles looks to become the leader of the bunch this season. After showing signs of brilliance during the 2008 season, Broyles possesses that certain ability to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. Not only will he be a starting receiver in the fall, but Broyles has also earned a spot returning kickoffs and will share time returning punts more than likely.

Adron “Pooh” Tennell, so far has earned the second starting spot for the season. The big question with Tennell will be his ability to stay healthy. The last two seasons, Tennell has dealt with injuries that kept him sidelined for most of the games. Regardless of the injuries, Pooh also possess a wealth of talent that will help this years squad tremendously.

Other receivers who will be a big part of this year’s offense include junior Brandon Caleb, who looks to have a breakout year after playing extensively on special teams in 2008. Sophomore’s Jameel Owens, who played in nine games as a true freshman last season, and Dejuan Miller, who possesses a body of a tight end and the speed of a receiver, looks like an absolute freak on the field.

Miller saw action in six games last season as a true freshman. With a stacked backfield already, junior Mossis Madu will get plenty of reps as he switched to the slot position alongside Broyles. Look for another big year out of Sam Bradford and the Sooner offense.

The return of the “Big Four”:

Juniors Sam Bradford and Gerald McCoy, and seniors Jermaine Gresham and Trent Williams all chose to forgo the NFL to come back to school in pursuit of a fourth Big 12 championship in a row and eighth national championship.

After the 2008 season ended and the NFL draft projections rolled out, Sooner fans everywhere were on pins and needles awaiting the decisions of these four players. Slowly, the news crept out that all four were coming back to school. Sooner fans rejoiced. Let’s break these four down.

Sam Bradford: The 2008 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback looks to be the frontrunner again in 2009. Bradford almost single-handedly re-wrote the Sooner record books by breaking the records for passing efficiency, single-season touchdowns, yards, and completions. The list goes on and on.

With his return, the Sooners are one of the early favorites to make it back to the national title game in 2009.

Gerald McCoy: McCoy wrapped up first team All-American honors in 2008 and has been added to nearly every defensive trophy/award watch list for the 2009 season. He will be a leading contender for both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. McCoy recorded seven sacks and even an interception last season, while plugging up the running lanes and causing havoc to the opposing teams signal callers.

Jermaine Gresham: He proved to be Sam Bradford’s favorite target in 2008, while catching a team-high 14 touchdowns. The 6’6", 260-pound freak of an athlete possesses the soft hands needed to catch passes and the ability to put defensive ends and linebackers on their backs. Again, Gresham will help provide relief for this fairly new receiving corps by drawing double teams when running his routes.

Trent Williams: When you think of last years line, the two names that everyone thinks of first are Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson. However, nearly every week it was Williams that graded out the highest among all the lineman.

Williams who started all 14 games at right tackle, will now be protecting Bradford’s blindside on the left side. In 2008, Williams was named All-Big 12 first team by the coaches, registered 131 knockdowns, a season-high 18 knockdowns in BCS title game against Florida, and a season-high grade of 91 percent against Texas Tech.

The return of the “Big Four” automatically makes this 2009 team better. With a common goal in their return (to win a national title), their talent and dedication to this university could go a long way in bring number eight home to the Sooner State.


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