Preview 2017: Oklahoma Sooners

Preview 2017: Oklahoma Sooners

Big 12

Preview 2017: Oklahoma Sooners


Preview 2017: Oklahoma Sooners

Previewing and looking ahead at the Oklahoma Sooners season – and what you need to know.

Contact @PeteFiutak

2017 Oklahoma Preview: The Brilliance Of Bob Stoops
2017 Oklahoma Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Oklahoma Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The Oklahoma Offense

If it’s possible, the nation’s second-best offense in yards, third-best in scoring, and first in passing efficiency will be more than fine – if not better – despite losing two NFL running backs in Samaje Perine in Joe Mixon, and a Heisman finalist receiver in Dede Westbrook.

And it should be just fine, even with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley now taking over for Bob Stoops as the head coach.

Baker Mayfield has been a regular on the Heisman circuit, and this year he should be deep in the thick of thing – even with all the key losses. This might be the year of the quarterback across college football with a whole slew of superstar pro prospects on display, but Mayfield could end up having the best college season out of all of them.

Who’s going to step in for Perine and Mixon? If Rodney Anderson can stay healthy – a problem so far -he should be terrific, while fullback Dimitri Flowers will be among the nation’s best blocking backs.

Mark Andrews is a big-time talent at tight end/big receiver, while the rest of the receiving corps is full of question marks, transfers, and underutilized veterans needing to flow together. Fortunately, Mayfield and the OU offensive style makes wide receivers stronger.

The skill players are going to be fine as is, but they should be phenomenal with all the time they’ll have to work thanks to a loaded O line with at least four blockers who’ll earn all-star honors. There’s depth, experience, and a whole bunch of talent.

Is Oklahoma The Greatest Program of All-Time?

Biggest Key To The Oklahoma Offense

A No. 1 wide receiver has to emerge. The running game will be fine no matter what – the line is so good that you could run behind it and crank out five yards per pop. However, the receiving corps will need more work around Andrews.

There isn’t a Westbrook or a Sterling Shepard, but there’s upside among a few of the interesting options. Jeffrey Mead started to come up with a few grabs over the second half of the season, and Kentucky transfer Jeff Badet is a blazer – they should make the most noise early on.

What You Need To Know About The Oklahoma Defense

The D had a nightmare of a time early on – getting bombed on by Texas Tech and TCU, among others – but it got better and better as the year went on. 

It’ll be a versatile D that’ll use hybrid Ogbonnia Okoronkwo as both a pass rushing end and an all-around linebacker, depending on the opponent. The pressure in the backfield, though, should come from all sides.

The line will be good enough, but it’ll be more serviceable than special – even with Okoronkwo up front. The tackles will more than hold their own, though, on the veteran front.

With all-star Jordan Thomas at one corner, and a terrific group of safeties, the secondary will easily be the strength of the D. There might be times when the defensive backs get bombed on – they do play in the Big 12 – but they’ll have more than their share of big moments.

The linebacking corps is the biggest question mark around Emmanuel Beal, who rose up to become the second-leading tackler. It’s not a bad group, but it could take a little while to come up with the right starting threesome. There’s a boatload of talent, though – it’s just a question of finding the right mix.

Biggest Key To The Oklahoma Defense

Get behind the line a bit more. The pass rush wasn’t miserable, but it didn’t take over games. The Sooners came up with 80 tackles for loss in 2014, 90 when they went to the College Football Playoff, and just 68 last season, with little to no production at times from the line.

It was the same problem when it came to hitting the quarterback. OU came up with 30 sacks or more for several years, and then last season generated just 25. It’s all part of the reason to move to more of a 4-3 alignment, but the D will find ways to get into the backfield from everywhere.

Oklahoma Will Be Far Better If …

The placekicking is a wee bit stronger. Michael Hunnicutt handled the gig for four years before handing it off to Austin Seibert, who had a terrific first season hitting 18-of-23 field goals and cranking out over 42 yards per punt. He was still solid for the punting game last year, but he missed five field goals.

To be fair, most of them were bombs, but that was part of the problem. He didn’t hit anything from beyond 39 yards, going 0-for-4 from deep. It didn’t turn out to cost the Sooners a game, but this year, with the goal being College Football Playoff-or-Bust, he has to be counted on for at least one big shot.

Best Oklahoma Offensive Player

QB Baker Mayfield, Sr. – One of the all-time great walk-ons, Mayfield has been the perfect baller for the OU offense. There might have been problems off the field this offseason, but on it, he’s been nothing short of magical since arriving in Norman.

As if the former Texas Tech Red Raider wasn’t good enough two years ago – throwing for 3,700 yards and 36 scores with 405 rushing yards and seven touchdowns – he was even sharper last season. He cranked the deep plays up a few notches, throwing for close to 4,000 yards with 40 scores, while running less – but with six touchdowns.

Not all that big – he’s listed at 6-1 and 218 pounds, but nahhhhh – he makes up for it with tremendous quickness, the feet to keep plays alive, and the ultimate cocksure gunslinger’s mentality that’s given the Sooners an edge at times – in a good way.

2. TE Mark Andrews, Jr.
3. OT Orlando Brown, Jr.
4. QB Kyler Murray, Soph.
5. OG Ben Powers, Jr.

Best Oklahoma Defensive Player

CB Jordan Thomas, Sr. – One of the most productive playmaking corners in college football, there were a few problems here and there against the high-powered passing teams on the schedule, but he won more than enough battles on the way to All-Big 12 honors.

The 6-0, 186-pounder followed up a five interception season with a career-high 49 tackles with two picks and a whopping 16 broken up passes, killing Texas with a slew of great plays, and following it up with a brilliant day against Kansas State. Thomas won’t get many opportunities with so many teams likely to pick on Jordan Parker on the other side, but he’ll still be an impact performer.

2. DE/LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Sr.
3. S Steven Parker, Sr.
4. LB Emmanuel Beal, Sr.
5. DT Matthew Romar, Sr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

RB Rodney Anderson, Soph. – It would’ve been amazing to have seen what the offense could’ve and would’ve done had Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon stuck around for another year. But Oklahoma is a running back factory, and now it’s up to Anderson to be the next star to help balance things out.

The 6-2, 223-pounder came up with just one carry for five yards in an injury-shortened season, but his leg is going to be just fine – now he has to stay in one piece. He’s got the feet, the quickness and the power to be another Sooner statistical superstar – he just hasn’t had any luck. This year, he needs to get some.

The Oklahoma Season Will Be A Success If …

It gets back to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three seasons. Winning the Big 12 has been fun, and of course it’ll be a successful season if the Sooners do it again, but the new standard of excellence is whether or not you get into the four-team tournament. Even with Riley at the helm, the expectations don’t change.

There’s enough talent back, there’s a conference championship game to help the overall cause, and there’s the fire to get into the thing after finishing 2016 on a roll. But to do that, OU probably has to come up with a win over …

Key Game To The Oklahoma Season

Sept. 9 at Ohio State – The road game at Oklahoma State might mean everything to the Big 12 chase, and dates at Kansas State and against Texas will be right there in terms of importance, but OU can afford a conference loss and be just fine. All that matters now in the Big 12 is whether or not you finish in the top two, then you’re in the championship game.

But if the Sooners want to get back into the College Football Playoff, they might have to avenge last year’s loss against Ohio State – and do it in Columbus. Lose, and it might be tough to get in without being perfect the rest of the way. Win, and the Sooners get the street cred that carried the Buckeyes into the CFP, even though they didn’t win the Big Ten and finished with a loss.

2016 Oklahoma Fun Stats

– Time of Possession: Oklahoma 32:16 – Opponents 27:44
– Field Goals: Opponent 18-of-19 – Oklahoma 11-of-16
– Penalties: Opponents 87 for 703 yards – Oklahoma 66 for 679 yards

2017 Oklahoma Preview: The Brilliance Of Bob Stoops
2017 Oklahoma Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Oklahoma Previews: 2016 | 2015


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