Oklahoma vs. Florida State: 5 Possible Weak Links for No. 1 Sooners
The Week 3 clash between Top 5 opponents Oklahoma and Florida State is right around the corner and both teams seem to be in top form. The Seminoles dominated both of their opponents this year while the Sooners did the same in their opener against Tulsa. With NFL-caliber talent strewn across both sidelines (and a Stoops brother on each) this game promises to deliver.
The Sooners march into Tallahassee with a target on their back as the top-ranked team in the NCAA. The team is far from perfect, however. Injuries and the NFL Draft have left big question marks at several key positions, namely on the defense.
While each player will have to contribute to win, there are five places on the depth chart that stick out as spots that must get a big performance. These positions are either keys to countering FSU's strengths or they are being filled by young, unproven players and will likely be targeted by the Seminoles.
Let's take a look at five players that could make or break the game for Oklahoma.
RT Lane Johnson
Redshirt freshman RT Daryl Williams impressed coaches during the offseason, earning the starting role on the depth chart. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 against Tulsa, however, and is unlikely to play against the Seminoles. His presence will be missed, seeing that Daryl is the biggest offensive lineman on the depth chart at 6'6" 313 lbs.
If Williams can't play, junior Lane Johnson will fill his shoes. Johnson was originally recruited as a tight end, converted to defensive end and finally came to rest on the offensive line during this past offseason.
Lane is not as big as Daryl, but is more athletic and might actually be better suited to handle sack machine DE Brandon Jenkins. The reigning NCAA sack leader (13.5) likes to line up on the left side, which would be across from Williams or Johnson. This matchup will be absolutely crucial to the Sooner offense.
QB Landry Jones likes the short, quick throws which helps eliminate the effects put on by pass rushers, but the Heisman candidate will have to throw it down field eventually. If Johnson can't keep Jenkins out of the backfield it is going to be a long night for all of us.
Even if Daryl Williams is cleared to play, Johnson will still see plenty of snaps in a backup role at either tackle spot and will need to be in top shape when he is on the field. One missed assignment on the offensive line can spell disaster for a team, just ask Sam Bradford (sorry to bring it up).
MLB Tom Wort
Tom Wort has huge shoes to fill in the middle of the defense after senior Austin Box tragically passed away this summer. He played well enough in Week 1 against Tulsa to earn the game ball, but FSU on the road is a totally different story.
Tom will be fired up as usual, but needs to keep calm and lead a defense missing its true leader, 3-time top tackler Travis Lewis. The middle linebacker is the quarterback of a Stoops defense and the true sophomore will be relied upon heavily to make adjustments on the field.
To make matters worse, Tom will have to keep one eye on the mobile FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel who has the size and athleticism to really terrorize a defense.
There is no doubt FSU knows how much is riding on Wort's shoulders and will attack him all game with the slot receivers, tight ends and running backs flashing across the middle of the field.
FS Javon Harris
Free safety was the biggest question mark on the defense heading into the season, and inexperienced junior Javon Harris did little to silence doubters in Week 1. Nearly all of Tulsa's passing yards came as a result of busted coverages and Harris was in the mix on many of them.
In preseason practices, head coach Bob Stoops shifted nickleback Tony Jefferson to free safety and inserted Corey Nelson into his spot. This combination looked very sharp until Travis Lewis went down with a broken foot and everyone had to slide back. This was not a good sign for Harris, who's mistakes influenced the shift in the first place.
The Seminoles will try to exploit the possible Achilles' Heel of the OU defense with plenty of motion, overloading one side of the field and double moves from the receivers.
P Tress Way
Tress Way has quietly become one of the best punters in the conference. His 45.7 yards per punt average was third in the NCAA last year and he pinned Tulsa inside their own 15 several times in Week 1.
The reason Tress makes the list is because of who he will be kicking to. FSU cornerback Greg Reid is one of the scariest return men in the country and has the ability to change momentum every time the ball gets kicked to him.
Tress will be one of the keys to victory if he can keep Reid from taking over the game. His punts have to be sky-high, allowing the coverage team enough time to get into position and take down Reid.
In a battle of this magnitude, field position plays a vital role. Way will have to bring his A-game if the Sooners want to escape with a win.
DE Ronnell Lewis
Linebacker turned defensive end Ronnell Lewis will be a busy man Saturday night in Tallahassee. His first job will be applying pressure to E.J. Manuel, a must for the Sooner defense. If the dynamic play maker has too much time in the pocket, he will pick apart the secondary.
Ronnell has the speed and quickness to track E.J. down when he tries to escape the pocket. The FSU signal-caller has shown a propensity to flee a collapsing pocket and has done so with success in the past. Ronnell must keep an eye on the mobile QB and get off his block to chase him down if necessary.
His third role, and possibly most important, will be on special teams. As I said in the last slide, Greg Reid is a deadly returner. Ronnell earned his nickname, "The Hammer", last year during his duty on the kick coverage teams. He quickly became a fan (and coach) favorite as he was in on seemingly every tackle, usually punishing the returner with a big hit. Ronnell is the leader of the coverage team and will have a huge task at hand trying to maintain Greg Reid.
A solid all-around game for Ronnell Lewis Saturday night could be the final piece of the victory puzzle for the Sooners.
More from Eric Pennell
Check below for more articles from Eric...
Oklahoma Sooners Football: 6 Studs Poised for Breakout Seasons
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!