The Oklahoma Sooners enter the 2014 college football season with some lofty expectations.
Following a successful 2013 campaign—one that was capped off by a dominating Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama—the sky is the limit for these Sooners. There’s no doubt that the Big 12 title goes through Norman this season.
But just how good can Oklahoma be?
For the answer, let’s take a closer look at the squad.
|Title||Name||Years on Team|
|Head Coach||Bob Stoops||15|
|Assoc. Coach/Def. Coordinator||Mike Stoops||7|
|Asst. HC/Cornerbacks||Jack Wright||15|
|Asst. Def. Coordinator/Linebackers||Tim Kish||2|
|Co-Off. Coordinator/Quarterbacks||Josh Heupel||9|
|Co-Off. Coordinator/Wide Receivers||Jay Norvell||6|
|Director of Recruiting/Runningbacks||Cale Gundy||15|
|Tight Ends/Special Teams||Jay Boulware||1|
|Offensive Line||Bill Bedenbaugh||1|
|Defensive Line||Jerry Montgomery||1|
If it isn’t broken, why fix it, right?
The Sooners return their entire coaching staff from a year ago. Entering his 16th season in charge, Bob Stoops has all the pieces to try to bring the school its first national title since 2000—his second year with the program.
Line coaches Bill Bedenbaugh (offensive) and Jerry Montgomery (defensive) will look to build on brilliant inaugural seasons. Meanwhile, second-year tight ends coach Jay Boulware will be called upon, as Oklahoma looks to finally get some production from the position again this season.
What to Watch for on Offense
|Position||1st String||2nd String||3rd String|
|QB||Trevor Knight||Cody Thomas||Justice Hansen|
|RB||Keith Ford||Alex Ross||Daniel Brooks|
|FB||Aaron Ripkowski||Joe Palange||Dimitri Flowers|
|WR||Sterling Shepard||Michiah Quick||K.J. Young|
|WR||Durron Neal||Jordan Smallwood||Austin Bennett|
|WR||Derrick Woods||Dannon Cavil||Mark Andrews|
|TE||Taylor McNamara||Blake Bell||Isaac Ijalana|
|C||Ty Darlington||Alex Dalton|
|LG||Adam Shead||Dionte Savage||Tony Feo|
|RG||Nila Kasitati||Tyler Evans||Nick Hardaway|
|LT||Tyrus Thompson||Josiah St. John||Kenyon Frison|
|RT||Daryl Williams||Derek Farniok||Christian Daimler|
The Sooners return seven of 11 starters on offense from a year ago. It doesn’t get any better than on the offensive line, where the team returns four starters, including three seniors.
Just how good the Oklahoma offense will be depends on what kind of quarterback it will get out of Trevor Knight. Will he be the hesitant youngster who crashed and burned his way out of a starting job before even completing two full games? Or will he be the confident playmaker that shocked an entire nation to the tune of 348 yards and four touchdowns in helping the Sooners throttle Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?
Sports Illustrated seems to expect the latter, as the publication posted the rising sophomore’s face on the cover of its college football preview issue:
At running back, Oklahoma will have to cope with the loss of each of their top three running backs. It doesn’t help matters that incoming freshman and 5-star running back Joe Mixon was recently suspended for the season, per ESPN.
Still, Keith Ford was formerly a 5-star recruit himself. Not to mention, Alex Ross is another one to keep an eye on.
Although the Sooners lost some talent at receiver, Sterling Shepard and incoming freshman Michiah Quick will really provide Knight with some options. Not to mention, if Dorial Green-Beckham is ruled eligible to play—which Oklahoma believes he will be, via The Oklahoman’s Jason Kersey—then Oklahoma will bet set.
What to Watch for on Defense
|Position||1st String||2nd String||3rd String|
|DE||Chuka Ndulue||Charles Walker||Rashod Favors|
|NT||Jordan Phillips||Jordan Wade||Quincy Russell|
|DE||Charles Tapper||D.J. Ward||Matt Dimon|
|JACK||Geneo Grissom||Devante Bond||P.L. Lindley|
|ILB||Jordan Evans||Tay Evans|
|ILB||Dominique Alexander||Aaron Franklin||Londell Taylor|
|OLB||Eric Striker||Ogbonnia Okoronkwo||Curtis Bolton|
|CB||Zack Sanchez||Dakota Austin||Jordan Thomas|
|FS||Hatari Byrd||Ahmad Thomas||Brandon Kitchens|
|SS||Quentin Hayes||Steven Parker||Darius Owens|
|CB||Julian Wilson||Stanvon Taylor||Cortez Johnson|
|P||Jed Barnett||Jack Steed||Jack Braught|
Once again, the defense will be a strength for the Sooners, with eight of 11 starters returning.
First-team All-Big 12 selection Charles Tapper and second-teamer Eric Striker return to give the unit one of the most formidable front sevens in the nation. Let’s not forget Geneo Grissom and Dominique Alexander, who should both have excellent years as well.
The departures of Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn definitely leave a whole in the secondary. However, Zack Sanchez and Julian Wilson look ready to step up. Incoming freshman Steven Parker is another name to watch.
All in all, Mike Stoops should have this unit ready to roll come opening kickoff.
Injury and Suspension News
|Player Name||Reason||Expected Return Date|
|Joe Mixon||Charged with misdemeanor||Out for season|
|Frank Shannon||Assault investigation||Out for season|
It hasn’t been all good news for Oklahoma this offseason.
After a stellar freshman season, linebacker Frank Shannon found himself in the middle of an assault investigation. Although the victim finally decided not to press charges, per the Tulsa World’s Guerin Emig, Shannon was still suspended by the team.
Losing him is a huge blow to the Sooners. Shannon finished 2013 with 92 tackles (7.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks and an interception.
As noted above, Mixon also found himself in some trouble as he is currently being charged with a misdemeanor after an altercation with a female at a bar on his birthday. Oklahoma still has depth at running back. However, Mixon was expected to grow into a playmaker this season.
The Fresno, California, native has the potential to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
Other than at receiver, expect Michiah Quick to make some noise in the return game as well. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see the coaching staff try to draw it up to get him some carries also.
A 4-star recruit, Quick has the skill set to be successful at the collegiate level. There may be a learning curve at the start, but by season’s end, look for Quick to be one of the players you hear the announcers calling out often.
|Aug. 30||Louisiana Tech||Norman, OK|
|Sept. 6||Tulsa||Tulsa, OK|
|Sept. 13||Tennessee||Norman, OK|
|Sept. 20||West Virginia||Morgantown, WV|
|Oct. 4||TCU||Fort Worth, TX|
|Oct. 11||Texas*||Dallas, TX|
|Oct. 18||Kansas State||Norman, OK|
|Nov. 1||Iowa State||Ames, IA|
|Nov. 8||Baylor||Norman, OK|
|Nov. 15||Texas Tech||Lubbock, TX|
|Nov. 22||Kansas||Norman, OK|
|Dec. 6||Oklahoma State||Norman, OK|
There are three games that could make or break Oklahoma’s season.
1. Tennessee (Sept. 13)
The Sooners are fortunate that this game is at home and early in the season.
Head coach Butch Jones has done a tremendous job with the Vols since taking over. The team showed signs last season of the talent it possesses, and bringing in a handful of talented recruits over the offseason will help.
Given that Oklahoma will also have several highly touted recruits in-house, this game is a must-win in more ways than one.
2. Texas (Oct. 11)
Regardless of either team’s talent or record coming into the matchup, the game typically lives up to the hype.
The Longhorns will be breaking in a new system in head coach Charlie Strong’s first year, but don’t expect that to provide any sort of edge for Oklahoma. After all, Texas looked like a fish out of water last year before upsetting the Sooners.
Revenge will surely be on the mind.
3. Baylor (Nov. 8)
Speaking of revenge, the Sooners will certainly want to gain some retribution after the beating they took in Waco last season.
With quarterback Bryce Petty returning for his senior season, expect head coach Art Briles to once again have his Bears competing for the Big 12 title and more. Expect the winner to have the inside track to the conference title.
Optimism hasn’t been this high around Norman since former quarterback Sam Bradford announced he was coming back for his junior season in 2009.
But don’t be mistaken, all of this hype is certainly deserved. There’s a good chance Oklahoma will be brought up as one of the four entrants in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Getting another 11 wins or more, along with the Big 12 title, is not too much to ask given how this year’s Sooners squad is shaping up. It certainly helps that almost all of their tough opponents will be at home.
However, once again, just how far the team will go depends on the play of Trevor Knight.
For complete coverage and everything Oklahoma football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.