2013 Oklahoma Sooners Football Preview

Team Info
Oklahoma Sooners
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
2012 record: 10-3 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2012 Bowl Result: Lost 41-13 to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 4 defense

Betting Info
Odds to Win 2014 BCS Championship Game: 55/1
Odds to Win 2013 Big 12 Championship: +390
Regular Season Wins: under 9 -160 / over 9 +130
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Oklahoma looks for another Big 12 title in 2013.
Oklahoma looks for another Big 12 title in 2013.

Last year, the Oklahoma Sooners went 10-3 and tied for the Big 12 title with Kansas St at 8-1. The only losses were to top 10 teams, Kansas State 24-19, Notre Dame 30-13, and to Texas A&M 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners had wins over bowl teams Texas Tech, Texas, Iowa St, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma St, and TCU.

 

This season, Oklahoma returns 7 starters on offense and 4 on defense. The Big 12 is wide open with Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma and TCU considered to be the favorites.

Offense

Last season, Oklahoma had the 15th best scoring offense in the country at 38.2 points per game, and the #5 ranked passing offense at 336.5 yards per game. However, the offense struggled to score in key games, namely the three losses.

The Sooners lose 4 year starter Landry Jones at quarterback. Jones, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, holds almost all of the Oklahoma career passing records. Jones completed 66.1% of his passes for 4,267 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. An intense 3 way competition to replace Jones started in the spring and has continued into the fall. Last year’s back-up, junior Blake Bell threw only 16 passes last year, but earned the nickname the Belldozer because of his short yardage running ability.  Bell is 6-6 and 263 pounds and had 60 carries for 201 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Reports say redshirt freshman Trevor Knight will be named the starter though. He is a dangerous two-way quarterback who is at his best when running outside. Bell will get plenty of snaps in short yardage situations like he has the last two seasons. Sophomore Kendal Thompson, son of former Sooner QB Charles, was also in the mix until he broke a bone in his foot earlier this month and had to have surgery to repair it. He is out indefinitely but could return after a couple of games. True freshman Cody Thomas might have to wait a year or too, but threw for over 7,000 yards and 83 touchdowns in his last two years of high school.

Senior running back Damien Williams had 176 carries, 946 yards, and 11 touchdowns, along with 34 catches, 320 yards and a touchdown catch. Senior Brennan Clay had 93 carries, 555 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 15 catches, 100 yards and a touchdown. Five star recruit Keith Ford will also get some carries. Fullback Trey Millard  is not only a great blocker, but had 33 carries for 198 yards, and also caught 30 passes for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns. Junior Aaron Ripkowski will back up Millard.

The Sooners lose their top two receivers, Kenny Stills and Justin Brown who are now both in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers respectively. Sophomore Trey Metoyer has the potential to be a #1 receiver but only had 17 catches, 148 yards and a touchdown last year. Senior Jalen Saunders, a former Fresno State transfer,  had 62 catches, 829 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Sophomore Durron Neal will back-up Saunders. Sophomore Sterling Shepard will start at the slot after making 45 catches, 621 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior Jaz Reynolds was suspended all of last season for violating team rules, but had 41 catches and 5 touchdowns in 2011. Senior Lacoltan Bester and freshmen K.Y. Young & Austin Bennett will also get some catches. Senior Brannon Green and redshirt freshman Taylor McNamara will rotate at tight end.

The line is anchored by center Gabe Ikard, a former guard. Ikard has the talent to be All-Conference and maybe All-American too. Junior Daryl Williams will start at left tackle and Junior Tyler Thompson will start at right tackle. Junior Adam Shead returns at left guard as does senior right guard Bronson Irwin. Senior Austin Woods and JUCO transfers Dionte Savage and Josiah St. John add depth to a talented, veteran unit.

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Defense

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops came back to work for his brother last season with mixed results. The Sooners gave up 25.5 points a game and were 9th in the Big Ten in rush defense and last in tackles in for loss. The defense was completely shredded by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the Cotton Bowl rout. Manziel accounted for over 500 combined passing and rushing yards with 4 combined touchdowns and an interception. The defense must improve, even in the offense first/defense optional Big 12. That might not be easy with only 4 starters returning.

Stoops used multiple formations last year, and could use either a 3-4, a 4-3, or a 4-2-5 depending on the situation. Junior Chuka Ndulue will start at tackle after making 43 tackles and 5 sacks. He will be backed up by Torrea Peterson. Jordan Phillips and Jordan Wade will rotate at the other tackle.  Junior Geneo Grissom, sophomore Mike Onuoha and Junior Rashod Favors will rotate at end. Freshman Kerrick Huggins and JUCO transfer Quincy Russell will also see time in the rotation on the line.

Senior outside linebacker Corey Nelson returns after making 45 tackles last year. Sophomores Frank Shannon and Eric Striker will rotate in the middle but Shannon should see most of the snaps. Junior Aaron Franklin could start when the Sooners use a 4-3. Jordan Evans and safety/linebacker Hatari Byrd add depth to the unit.

Senior corner Aaron Colvin made 61 tackles, broke up 11 passes and made 4 interceptions. Sophomore Cotez Johnson will start at the other corner. Senior Gabe Lynn looks to replace Tony Jefferson at free safety. Junior Trey Franks missed all of last season, but could start at safety if Lynn is moved to corner. Quentin Hayes, Ahmad Thomas and Byrd could see time at free safety. Julian Wilson could see time at the nickel and could rotate with Byrd. True freshmen Stanvon Taylor and L.J. Moore could see time in the secondary as well.

Special Teams

Junior kicker Michael Hunnicutt made 57 of 59 extra points, and 17 of 21 field goals. He doesn’t have a super-strong leg, but is reliable inside 50 yards.

Punter Tress Way is now with the Chicago Bears. He averaged 44 yards per punt. Junior Jed Barnett and redshirt freshman Jed Steed are competing to replace Way. Barnett originally played at California but played last year for Laney College where he averaged 41.3 yards per punt and planted 14 inside the red zone.

Jalen Saunders will return punts  after averaging 17.6 yards per return in just 5 return attempts. He did take one to the house for 81 yards. Brennan Clay averaged 25 yards per kick return. Roy Finch returned two kicks for touchdowns, and averaged 31 yards. Both will get more chances this year.

Schedule

Oklahoma opens with 3 straight home games, but none of them are cupcakes. Louisiana-Monroe is one of the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference and upset Arkansas last year in Little Rock. West Virginia comes to Norman for the conference opener. Tulsa is the favorite to win the Conference USA Championship game. Next the Sooners travel to Notre Dame. Then comes a home game against TCU and the annual Red River Rivalry game in Dallas against Texas. The second half of the season includes road games at Kanas, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State. The Bedlam game could decide the  Big 12 title. Oklahoma also hosts Texas Tech and Iowa St in the second half.

Outlook

If the defense gets better, another 10 win season is a good possibility even with a tough schedule. The defense must find a pass rush from somewhere. The Sooners are kind of in a rut where they win 10 games every season, but aren’t in contention for national titles which is what Sooner fans expect and want.

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