Oklahoma Football: 10 New Year's Resolutions for the Sooners
Christmas has come and gone, and yet, the Oklahoma Sooners haven't exactly gotten what they asked for.
Instead of taking this week to prepare for a BCS bowl, the Sooners are traveling to Tempe, Arizona to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl—a postseason bowl nobody saw coming.
After an underwhelming year, the Sooners will have a chance to end on somewhat of a good note with a bowl victory, and then it's time for the next holiday: New Year's.
New Year's Eve is a time where many people gather to celebrate the coming of a new year, not just for fun, but also to shed any grievances from the previous year.
New Year's resolutions have become commonplace in our society, but how many of these resolutions actually happen? Everyone always wants to improve their lives in some manner, but it's ultimately up to every person's inner will to succeed.
Will the Sooners have a stronger inner will to succeed next season? We can only hope. Here are some probable resolutions for members of the Sooners.
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Resolution: If I stay, to practice on my composure and footwork when getting blitzed. If I leave, to pray for a good offensive line.
Landry Jones still hasn't made it clear whether or not he is returning for his senior season or leaving early for the NFL draft. Because of this, Jones should have two resolutions this year.
If Jones decides to return, he has to work on his weaknesses. He showed no improvements statistically from last year to this year, and he may have shown even more vulnerabilities.
What I've been preaching all season is that Jones has to work on his composure. He has to start looking comfortable in the pocket and making better decisions, or he's never going to make it at the next level. In all reality, it would be a very wise decision on Jones' part if he decides to return.
However, with USC quarterback Matt Barkley already declaring his return to school, the possibility of being a top 10 draft pick could be enough to entice Jones away from the Sooners.
If he does leave, his resolution has to be to pray more, because he's going to need the best offensive line in the league.
Unfortunately for Jones, being a top quarterback prospect doesn't normally come with the promise of a great offensive line. Jones could be one of the biggest busts of the draft if he decides to leave.
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Resolution: To practice throwing the ball (sometimes I forget I'm a quarterback).
Freshman quarterback Blake Bell, or the "Belldozer," only threw the ball four times this season. Of the four passes, only one was a completion. Of the four passes, one was an interception.
However, Bell wasn't asked to do much throwing for the Sooners with Landry Jones occupying the starting role. In fact, Bell wasn't even the second-string quarterback this season—that spot belonged to sophomore Drew Allen.
What Bell was asked to do, though, was anchor the Sooners redzone offense. After struggling in the redzone for the majority of the season, head coach Bob Stoops decided to utilize the 6'6", 245-pound Bell in the increasingly popular Wildcat formation.
While Bell was virtually unused for the first half of the season, he more than made his presence felt in the final five weeks of the season. Even though he didn't complete a pass during that time frame, Bell was able to score 10 touchdowns on 31 rushing attempts.
The "Belldozer" was able to power through every defensive line he faced. While this gimmicky offense was effective, it would have been doubly effective had Bell actually been able to throw the ball.
Bell should be feeling great about his team-leading 10 rushing touchdowns, but he really needs to work on his arm if he wants to compete against Allen for a starting job in the future.
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Resolution: To spend less time on Twitter.
Don't get me wrong, I think Twitter is a completely relevant social networking utility with very rewarding benefits. In fact, go ahead and follow me: @alexbrosephBR.
Now, beyond shameless plugs for lowly sports journalists, I think that Twitter is more or less harmless. I'm not one of the crazy conservative journalists/coaches/fans that believe that Twitter and other social networking devices should be completely outlawed during the football season for players.
Why would you want to keep players away from communicating with friends and family? It's only college football and they're only 20 years old. You can't take away all their liberties.
With that being said, did you know that Tony Jefferson has nearly 16,000 tweets? Maybe that should be toned down just a little bit.
Did all of his tweeting contribute to the terrible play of the entire Oklahoma secondary this season? Not likely. Did it distract him from keeping his mind focused on the game when it should have been? That's a definite possibility.
Jefferson will be anchoring the secondary next season with cornerback Jamell Fleming leaving for the draft. He needs to step up and be a leader for his teammates.
Jefferson may be the most talented defensive player on the Sooners current roster, but he needs to show that on the field, not on Twitter.
On a side note, Tony's Twitter account (@tonyjefferson1) is actually filled with some pretty hilarious stuff. If I weren't writing for him to stop tweeting so much, I would certainly advocate his Twitter gold.
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Resolution: To take over for Ryan Broyles.
Ryan Broyles was an All-American, an awards finalist, the all-time leading receiver for the Sooners, as well as the all-time leading receiver in the NCAA. Broyles was the best offensive player for the Sooners, but now, he's gone.
There's no replacing a guy like Broyles. Period. However, the Sooners are lucky to have a guy like sophomore Kenny Stills backing him up. Stills has Broyles-like potential when it comes to both stats and talent.
In his two seasons with the Sooners, Stills has 119 receptions for 1,604 yards and 13 touchdowns. Stills has always been a stand-out No. 2 receiver for the Sooners, but after Broyles went down with an injury, Stills didn't show any signs of being the go-to guy for Landry Jones.
In fact, Stills committed a few crucial drops in the final few games of the season, which is completely unlike him. Stills' performance with Broyles out of the lineup opened up a spot for fellow sophomore wide receiver Jaz Reynolds to shine.
While Stills remains the more talented of the two receivers, there's no doubt that Reynolds will be competing for the No. 1 wide receiver spot next season. Now is the time for Stills to step up and be the guy in the Sooners offense.
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Resolution: To stop getting injured every game.
Am I the only one that noticed this? It seemed like every game this season, sophomore linebacker Tom Wort was getting injured. Wort only missed one full game this season, but he routinely missed multiple defensive possessions.
Is he playing too hard? I love Wort's energy on the field. He is constantly sprinting towards the ball, and at times this season, he appeared to be one of the only guys on the field trying hard on every play.
However, could he be over-exerting himself? I really don't think that's the case. I think Wort just constantly hits people, so sometimes, he's going to get stingers or the wind knocked out of him.
Whatever the case, he really needs to figure out what's going on and put an end to it. The Sooners will need Wort out there as much as possible next season with Travis Lewis leaving for the NFL draft.
Wort will anchor the linebacking crew next season as a junior, and just like Tony Jefferson, he will have to step into a leadership role to take control and motivate the defense.
I don't believe that will be much of a problem for Wort, though.
Resolution: To never miss a field goal...ever.
Freshman kicker Michael Hunnicutt was one of the bright spots of the Sooners' season. After filling in for an injured Jimmy Stevens, Hunnicutt finished the season 20-of-23 on field goals and 51-of-52 on extra points.
Sooner fans welcomed Hunnicutt's kicking ability with open arms, as the kicking game has been a bit of a mess since former kicker Garrett Hartley (currently with the New Orleans Saints) graduated.
However, being a kicker at a big-time football school comes with a price. Even though Hunnicutt only missed three field goals this season, one happened to come at a terrible time. Hunnicutt botched a field goal late in the Texas Tech game that may have not even mattered, but because the Sooners ended up losing by three points, many were quick to place the blame on Hunnicutt.
Hunnicutt wasn't the one to blame, though; it was the entire Oklahoma defense. The Sooners should have never allowed the Red Raiders to score 41 points, and the fact that the game was being played in Norman made it even more confusing.
Still, Hunnicutt's missed field goal was talked about frequently after the loss. Going 20-for-23 on the season is a great stat, especially for a college kicker, but there's no doubt that Hunnicutt's New Year's resolution is to never miss a field goal again.
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Resolution: To practice catching the ball with both hands.
I really have nothing bad to say about sophomore wide receiver Jaz Reynolds. He outplayed expectations this season, finishing with 41 receptions for 715 yards and five touchdowns.
As you can see in the picture, Reynolds became a fan favorite after displaying his one-handed-catching ability. Reynolds' 6'2" frame, leaping ability and ginormous hands made him a favorite target for Landry Jones.
However, Reynolds' almost overnight popularity may have been too much, too fast. After consecutive games of making spectacular one-handed catches, Reynolds appeared content to just use one hand for the rest of the season.
There were multiple drops by Reynolds in the final few games that may have been completions had he just made more of an effort with both of his hands.
Reynolds is still young, though. His production was way up from his freshman year, and he just appeared to be getting better game by game this season. He will challenge Kenny Stills for looks next season without a doubt.
Resolution: To play in the secondary myself if I have to.
I mentioned in Tony Jefferson's resolution slide that he needs to step up and take a leadership role in the secondary next season. If he doesn't, it's likely that defensive coordinator Brent Venables will just go out and play in the secondary himself.
As you can tell in the picture, Venables isn't afraid to get in a player's face and tell him what's what. Unfortunately, all the yelling in the world couldn't fix Oklahoma's secondary this season.
The secondary was routinely out of place, confused, getting burned by pass-heavy quarterbacks and getting faked out by dual-threat quarterbacks.
The best example of this came on the road at Baylor. Of course, you have to take into account that Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III played out of his mind this season, but the Sooners secondary has to play better than they did.
They allowed RGIII to throw for 479 yards and four touchdowns, and that's with one touchdown being called back and another likely touchdown barely being overthrown.
The Sooners drastically need to play better in the secondary. They have all the talent in the world; they just can't ever seem to use it to their advantage.
It could be possible that they just need new guys back there, and if that's the case, recruits like De'Vante Harris, Eric Striker and Kevin Peterson may get a chance to contribute early. If not, Venables will either be the starting free safety next year or be a victim to a heart attack on the sideline.
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Resolution: To be more creative.
To be fair, first-year offensive coordinator and play caller Josh Heupel hasn't done a terrible job this season. There were times I disagreed with his play calling, but that's par for the course.
Being a former quarterbacks coach, there was no surprise that Heupel leaned on the pass this season. Since moving into the spread offense a few years back, the Sooners have thrived on short to mid-range pass plays.
The Sooners offense didn't miss a beat this season, as they finished fourth in the country with 365.1 passing yards per game. However, when Ryan Broyles went down with an injury, the offense suffered accordingly.
Quarterback Landry Jones failed to throw a touchdown pass without Broyles on the field the last three games of the season, yet Heupel was still content with throwing the ball 50 times a game.
Running back Roy Finch averaged over five yards per carry this season, and in the Bedlam game, Finch averaged over seven yards per carry, but how many times did he touch the ball in that game? Nine times.
With the departure of five-star running back Brandon Williams, the Sooners are less loaded in the backfield. However, four-star recruit Alex Ross should help fill in for Williams' departure.
The question remains: With all that talent in the backfield, why aren't the Sooners utilizing it more? I'm not saying that the Sooners should do away with the spread attack, but when was the last time a spread offense won a national championship?
Heupel has to mix in the run more and use more creative play calling to open up the offense. Bubble screens worked for awhile, but using it multiple times in the same game tends to get a bit tiresome.
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Resolution: To win the 2012 National Championship.
The Sooners will be facing an uphill battle next season, and that's even if Landry Jones decides to return to school.
With the Sooners best offensive player (Ryan Broyles) graduating and four of their best defensive players graduating or leaving early (Frank Alexander, Travis Lewis, Jamell Fleming, Ronnell Lewis), the Sooners will have some holes to fill.
Fortunately for head coach Bob Stoops, the Sooners are getting a bevy of talented recruits in at wide receiver, and with Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds still around, the passing game shouldn't be too bad.
Defense is another question, though. Winning a national championship starts with a good defense, and the Sooners will certainly have to step it up at every defensive position if they want a chance to compete for a title.
The Sooners should be battling for the Big 12 championship again next season, which would be Stoops' eighth conference championship since his arrival in 1999. After winning a national championship in 2000, the Sooners have been back on the big stage twice, losing both attempts.
It's time for Stoops to get his troops motivated and playing hard every single game. The goal of every season is a national championship, so there's no reason why that wouldn't be Stoops' New Year's resolution.