Oklahoma Football: 10 Presents the Sooners Hope to Find Under the Tree
It's officially less than a week until Christmas, the best holiday of the year.
As the Oklahoma Sooners get ready to travel to Tempe, Arizona for their Dec. 30 matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes, you have to wonder what exactly all the Sooners really want for Christmas.
After a lackluster season, a few Christmas presents could be just what the Sooners need to get back on track.
Let's start out with the obvious one...
An Insight Bowl Victory
What else could the Sooners want more right now? Well, I'm sure a national championship would be better, or maybe even a Fiesta Bowl victory...
Alas, the Sooners' underwhelming regular season has left them with a less-than-desirable bowl matchup against an average Iowa Hawkeyes team.
Will the Sooners even be able to get hyped for this game? The Sooners had trouble getting motivated to play against tougher Big 12 competition during the regular season, so why should we expect this to be an easy victory?
We shouldn't. Iowa will be coming into this game with a chip on its shoulder. Despite an average season, the Hawkeyes now have a chance to end their season with a victory over the preseason No. 1 team.
This will be a lot closer game than it should be.
What's going on with all these transfers?
First, sophomore tight end Austin Haywood decided he just wasn't happy playing at Oklahoma anymore. This came as a surprise to many, as Haywood was getting a respectable amount of playing time.
Because James Hanna is a senior, Haywood was expected to slide in as the full-time starter next season. Not anymore.
Second, as of this week, 5-star freshman running back Brandon Williams has decided to transfer, as well. Head coach Bob Stoops noted that he believed the main reason for Williams' transfer is family-related.
That very well could be, but playing time could be another big factor. Williams had to play behind Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch all season. Towards the end of the season, Williams seemingly jumped Brennan Clay for third-string on the depth chart.
With Whaley and Finch both coming back, Williams could have merely wanted a chance to be some team's main guy, and that team is likely Texas A&M.
Clay is also rumored as a likely transfer, which would leave the Sooners' backfield in even more disarray.
The Sooners can only hope that Haywood and Williams are their only major transfers.
For the past few seasons, the Oklahoma Sooners have been plagued by injuries.
It began in the 2009 season opener when quarterback Sam Bradford went down and had to miss the majority of the season, and it was highlighted with All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles' ACL tear in this season's Texas A&M game.
To go along with Broyles, the Sooners' starting running back, Dominique Whaley, was forced to miss half the season after suffering an ankle injury against Kansas State.
Other notable starters that have had to miss time due to injury this season include: center Ben Habern, wide receivers Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills, linebacker Travis Lewis and cornerback Jamell Fleming.
The Sooners will be without Broyles, Whaley, Reynolds, fullback Aaron Ripkowski and lineman Adam Shead for the Insight Bowl—all due to injuries.
As the semester comes to a close, the Sooners have already lost one key member of their team due to academic ineligibility.
Sooners defensive end Ronnell Lewis has been battling with academic ineligibility all season. In fact, it was uncertain whether Lewis was even going to be able to play in the season opener due to his struggle in the classroom.
Lewis had to miss the season finale against Oklahoma State, and he has already been declared ineligible for the Insight Bowl.
Due to his constant struggle and his genuinely high draft status, head coach Bob Stoops alluded to the fact that Lewis' career at Oklahoma is likely over.
With transfers, injuries and academic ineligibility, the Sooners are a complete mess right now. They can only hope that no other player be deemed ineligible once all grades are posted.
Great Production from Recruits
To go along with the "Less Transfers" slide, the Sooners can only hope that their new recruits come into the program ready to play.
The Sooners need a good amount of depth at nearly every position, and they need to find guys who want to be on the field at all times. Questioning the current roster's want and motivation to play became too commonplace this season.
Wide receiver should be a position that the Sooners can add instant depth to, as four of their top six recruits are all wide-outs.
However, running back recruit Alex Ross and corner back recruit De'Vante Harris may make the biggest impact on the team in their first year.
Robert Griffin to Leave Early
After winning the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III's draft status just keeps rising. While he hasn't officially come out with a statement saying he's leaving, it's assumed that Griffin will be heading to the NFL.
However, what happens if Griffin doesn't leave? Even though Griffin would be turning down a lot of money, there's still a possibility that he'd want to return to finish school and keep Baylor a contender for at least another season.
While this season was "the year of the quarterback," next season looks to be more of a rebuilding year for many Big 12 teams.
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden will be leaving, Texas is still trying to figure out their quarterback situation, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall will be playing against tough competition throughout the year for the first time in his career, etc.
As of right now, if Griffin and Landry Jones both leave, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein appears to be the best in the conference, giving Kansas State a great shot at the Big 12 title.
If Griffin returns, Baylor's offense wouldn't miss a step, and after a year of experience, the Bears' defense is only going to get better.
In conclusion, Griffin's return puts Baylor in a great position to win the conference. If Griffin leaves, the top spot should be up for grabs with Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas and TCU as the top contenders.
A New Face on the Sidelines?
By now, the "Mike Stoops return to Oklahoma" possibility has been discussed so much, it seems more like a fantasy and less like a reality every day.
It doesn't help that his brother, head coach Bob Stoops, hasn't even hinted to this (rightfully) warranted request.
However, the fact of the matter remains that a new face on the sidelines may be just what the Sooners need. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has done an admirable job in the past with his defenses, but something was lacking this season in the secondary.
They had the talent, but their play was awful. Does the blame fall on the players or the coaches more? That can be debated for days, but one thing's for sure: Mike Stoops would have let his guys know exactly how he felt about their play.
That's not to say that Venables didn't do this, because I'm sure he did. No coach in their right mind would just allow their guys to play terribly without doing a little bit of yelling.
The intensity that Mike Stoops could bring back to this program, though, may be worth it. It's at least worth a try.
A New Playbook
First year offensive coordinator and play-caller Josh Heupel (pictured to the left) did a pretty good job this season.
The Sooners spread-offense has been going strong for a few years now, and the trend has been for the Sooners to attempt more passes than rushes in every season—this season was no different.
In the regular season, the Sooners attempted 558 passes to only 432 rushes. Keep in mind that 34 of those rushes were from Blake Bell on short-yardage attempts, and the majority of them likely came late in the game while the Sooners were ahead and trying to run the clock.
When the final score was a margin of zero to seven points, the Sooners only ran the ball 61 times. However, when the final margin was at least 15 points, the Sooners ran the ball 293 times.
With a former quarterbacks coach as your play-caller, it's not surprising that the Sooners would favor the pass—but is it time for a change?
Both Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch averaged over five yards a carry, while Brandon Williams was just under the 5-yard mark at 4.8 yards per carry. During the OSU debacle, Roy Finch was averaging over seven yards per carry,but still only touched the ball nine times.
The Sooners have to run the ball more. Period. They have good running backs, why not use them?
I don't even have a problem with the spread-offense because the Sooners have the wide-receivers to run it, but when Landry Jones can't throw an accurate deep ball, what's the point in continually running bubble screens for 3-yard gains?
It's time for a change.
A New Quarterback
This "present" could actually be a reality, as junior quarterback Landry Jones is a likely candidate to leave early for the NFL.
While it may be in Jones' best interest to return to school in order to better his draft status and overall game, Jones is still a potential Top 10 draft pick, and that's hard to turn down.
Now, let me set something straight, when I say the Sooners should want a "new quarterback," I'm not saying that Jones is a terrible quarterback by any means.
However, Jones still has a few negative qualities that really make it tough for me to put all my trust in him. He still can't throw an accurate deep ball, he has absolutely no composure and, at times, he looks uncomfortable in the pocket.
Now, I'm not even saying that I hope that Jones decides to leave for the NFL. If he decides to return to school, I'm more than okay with that decision. I just hope he works on his faults and improves. He showed literally no improvement from last season to this season.
If it's not Jones in the backfield, then the Sooners have to go with either Blake "The Belldozer" Bell, who has proved he can muscle his way into an end zone without being able to throw a decent pass, or Drew Allen, who hasn't really ever had a chance to prove what he can or cannot do.
Regardless of what happens, the Sooners need to have a "new" quarterback by the time next season rolls around.
Michael Jordan's Secret Stuff
Okay, so maybe this one is kind of a joke, or at least an homage to the best basketball film ever made.
However, Michael Jordan's "Secret Stuff" would be a great Christmas present for a team that really has lost any motivation to continue playing.
After falling all the way from No. 1 in the entire country to No. 4 in the Big 12, the Sooners have to be feeling disappointed. As I pointed out in a previous slide, it's going to be hard for a team that has seemingly lacked motivation all season to get hyped up for an Insight Bowl against a 7-5 Iowa Hawkeyes team.
If you can remember, this happened in Space Jam. The Tune Squad was talented, but very cocky. Because they underestimated their opponents, they got demolished in the first half against the Monstars.
By halftime, they all just wanted to give up. Then Bugs Bunny came up with a brilliant plan: He took Michael Jordan's water bottle (filled with water, of course) and wrote "Michael's Secret Stuff" on the side of it. Everyone wanted to drink whatever it was that made Michael Jordan so great.
Even though it was only water, it gave the Tune Squad the confidence they needed to get back on the court and take care of business.
This is exactly what the Sooners need.