Oklahoma Sooners Open Spring Practice with High Expectations

Luke McConnellCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Travis Lewis #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts at the end of the game against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Yesterday was just another day in Norman, Oklahoma.

The wind was blowing, it was a bit overcast and yet, the excitement in the air was simply unmistakable.

Football was once again happening in the heart of Sooner Nation.

The Sooners' quest for the eighth national championship in program history began on Monday and several months of expectations and questions could begin to be answered.

Ever since Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis announced that they would be returning for their senior years, hype has surrounded Norman like bees around a flower. Experts left and right have been predicting that the Sooners will be the preseason No. 1 team in just about every poll when they come out over the summer.

However, the offseason has been anything but peachy for the Sooners.

Freshmen Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson had a small run-in with the law, Stacy McGee was charged with marijuana possession and most recently, it was discovered that cornerback Jamell Fleming is not enrolled in classes this spring after a second academic misconduct violation.

As for the injury train, running back Roy Finch, who missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture in his foot, has been cleared for practice, as has defensive end Ronnell Lewis. Tight end Trent Ratterree and fullback Trey Millard are both out for the spring after shoulder surgeries.

Question marks also abound on the defensive side of the ball up front and in the backfield.

Depth at the defensive tackle position is a big problem and some of the new freshmen are going to have to grow up fast. Freshman Marquis Anderson is already in Norman for spring practice and can use this time to really mature.

Fleming's absence at the cornerback position poses several problems as well. If he does not return in the fall, either sophomore Aaron Colvin or sophomore Gabe Lynn will take over the cornerback position. Coaches are raving about Colvin's ability and in his playing time last season, he certainly made a great first impression. 

Offensively, the Sooners are as loaded and as scary as any team in the country. The only minor question is if the Sooners can establish a dominant running game to go with their terrific passing game. There was a bit of inconsistency last season in the running game and if the Sooners are going to run the table, they need to be able to do that without any dropoffs.  

Oklahoma is without a doubt a favorite to win the national title in 2011. However, they still have a lot of work to do in order to become that dominant team everyone thinks they already are.

The time between now and April 16 is a great place to start.