March 20, 2017 at 10:21 am #4108
Spring Football Primer
The long hiatus is over, and football is set to return in Norman, Oklahoma tomorrow. The Sooners are one of the few teams that are expected to make a run back to the College Football Playoff next season. With Baker Mayfield, an entire offensive line, and a defense returning enough to be respectable, many have pegged Oklahoma to be a contender in 2017.
Let’s take a look at some of the questions and headlines heading into tomorrow’s first practice:
Yes, the Sooners will have a position battle at quarterback, but it will be for the position to back up Baker Mayfield. Austin Kendall took those snaps last fall, but Kyler Murray and Chris Robison will have their fair share of snaps this spring in order to try and win that spot. All signs point to Kendall retaining his position, but the versatility of Kyler Murray can not be forgotten. The two-sport athlete brings a unique skill set to the table and many believe he will have his own part in the Oklahoma offense. Lincoln Riley has never been one to tip his hand, but I expect Austin Kendall to continue as the backup quarterback after this spring.
No Mixon, No Distraction
The cupboard was left empty in January after Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon announced their decisions to head to the NFL Draft. However, Oklahoma did gain a huge boost as the elephant in the room has now found its way into another locker room. Baker Mayfield did his best part to bring in another mess, but that momentum and talk have been stymied for the time being. This will be the first time since 2014 that Joe Mixon’s violent punch will not be discussed as an issue that could hurt the chemistry of the Oklahoma team.
Running Back U?
With the departures of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, Oklahoma has a chance to make that label of “RBU” a permanent one. Rodney Anderson, Marcelias Sutton, Abdul Adams, and Trey Sermon will have a chance to fill that void that Mixon and Perine left. The money is on Rodney Anderson to return from injury and be that featured back, but the health concerns are still there. The running back room is full of talent, but Abdul Adams is the only one that has received meaningful snaps at Oklahoma. Can this running back group duplicate the production of the two-headed monster from the last two years?
No Shep, No DeDe, No Problem?
Oklahoma has lost just more than 2800 yards in the air from their last two offenses in the form of Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook. The Sooners return sure-handed receivers in Jeffery Mead, Mark Andrews, and Nick Basquine, but they do lack that home-run threat that they have had the last two years. Junior College transfer, Marquise Brown, is looking to be that guy. The College of the Canyons product has electrifying speed and agility, and will separate himself from others with his ability to make plays after the catch. With CeDarian (CeeDee) Lamb and Charleston Rambo having to wait to get to Norman until the fall, the opportunity for Marquise Brown and others this Spring is going under-the-radar to a certain extent.
It was made well-known on National Signing Day that Bob and Mike Stoops were going to head back to the 4-man front along the defensive line. Many suggest that this is to get more pressure on the quarterback, but the main concern is the overall depth at inside linebacker. Tim Kish has three true inside linebackers, and gained a hybrid player as Ricky DeBerry made the move from outside linebacker to inside over the off-season. It was expected that Emmanuel Beal and Jon-Michael Terry would have begun the season as the two inside linebackers in the 3-4, but will Oklahoma truly move to a 4-3? No.
Oklahoma’s new 4-front will feature Obo Okoronkwo as a stand-up defensive end, and the rest of the defensive line will use 1-gap techniques. This will force Mike Stoops to always force pressure. The move will also allow Emmanuel Beal, Jon-Michael Terry, or even Ricky DeBerry to play with more freedom as the inside linebackers. This move will also allow Caleb Kelly to play with more freedom as well. The sophomore will play as the nickel and the outside linebacker in most sets. An essential “dog” position that does not have any sort of distinction. Is it a scheme change or a responsibilities change? I think it is the latter, but this will be something to watch for in the Spring Game.
War Daddy Alert
Is it time for Neville Gallimore, Du’Vonta Lampkin, and Marquise Overton to takeover the Big 12? People close to the team have suggested that it is. The three made it to Norman in 2015, and have yet to make an astonishing impact. However, that should change. People close to the team suggest that those three have “blown up” this winter are ready to take that next step this year.
Oklahoma’s depth along the defensive line is at an adequate place, headlined by seniors D.J. Ward and Matt Romar. Add in that Obo Okoronkwo will be rushing the quarterback for the entire game, and the job getting the quarterback along the defensive line is much easier than it has ever been during the Mike Stoops’ regime.
The Sooners’ secondary has one spot open, and an Oklahoma product is set to make that leap into the free safety position. You saw Will Sunderland get meaningful snaps last season, including an INT against Texas. However, the former Midwest City Bomber is not only going to start, but has a chance to be an impact player. The wolves had a rough year in 2016, but the progress from game one to game thirteen was clear. Can they continue to improve? Is Will Sunderland ready to make a name for himself?
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