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You can read the entire Oklahoma preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 Big 12 magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops, 129–31 (12 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: J. Heupel, J. Norvell | DEF. COORDINATOR: B. Venables, B. Jack Wright
Landry Jones made the leap among the quarterbacking elite last year, eventually leading the Big 12 in passing yards and touchdowns and winning the Sammy Baugh Award as college football’s top passer.
Stats aside, Jones’ greatest gains came mentally as he emerged as a better game manager and leader, revealing a confidence and poise that had been absent until the midway point of last year.Behind Jones and a high-charged offense, Oklahoma braces for a run at a national championship.
An easy target is wide receiver Ryan Broyles, a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist who produced the greatest receiving season in school history a year ago, setting nine program records. But there’s quality help, too, with speedy Kenny Stills primed for a big season following a breakout as a freshman a year ago, when he started every game and provided a deep threat opposite Broyles. Even tight end James Hanna produced seven touchdown grabs.
Versatile running back DeMarco Murray has moved on to the NFL, leaving no single back with his varied skills. Still, the Sooners seem comfortable with a committee approach that will include sophomores Brennan Clay, Roy Finch, Jonathan Miller and touted true freshman Brandon Williams.
“We'll be good at running back,” Jones says. “All those guys are talented enough to play back there.”
The Sooners will play for the national title if they win in Tallahassee on September 17.
There’s no mistaking the confidence flowing through the Sooners defense, despite the loss of several standouts and questions at defensive tackle.
“This is Oklahoma,” says linebacker Travis Lewis, the unit leader and spokesman who has led the team in tackles each of his previous three seasons. “We restock with athletes and keep it rolling.”
While there’s youth, there’s also star power, starting with Lewis, a likely first-round NFL Draft pick. The line’s soft middle is buoyed by playmaking ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, all-conference types who can rush the passer or halt running backs in their tracks.
Cornerback Jamell Fleming, who missed the spring with academic issues, rejoined the team in early July. Fleming's return is a huge boost to Oklahoma's secondary. Rising sophomores like Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin had a strong showing in the spring and will help fill the No. 2 and No. 3 cornerback roles.
Another sophomore, linebacker Corey Nelson, may have been the star of the spring.
“The sky’s the limit for this team,” Lewis says. “If we keep making strides in the right direction, at the end of the day we’re going to be a great defense.”
Landry Jones, QB Maturing into one of the Big 12’s best quarterbacks; can Jones lead a national title run?
Ryan Broyles, WR He was an All-American in 2010, and the senior wideout plans on being even better this fall.
Travis Lewis, LB Emotionally, physically and statistically, Lewis is the unquestioned leader of the Sooner D.
|Sept. 17th||at Florida State|
|Oct. 1st||Ball State|
|Oct. 8th||Texas (Dallas, TX)|
|Oct. 15th||at Kansas|
|Oct. 22nd||Texas Tech|
|Oct. 29th||at Kansas State|
|Nov. 5th||Texas A&M|
|Nov. 12th||Iowa State|
|Nov. 19th||at Baylor|
|Dec. 3rd||at Oklahoma State|
Tress Way rates among the nation’s top punters, with stats to back it up. Jimmy Stevens finally provided some stability on field goals, at least from inside the 40. Broyles is almost as dangerous returning punts as he is running routes.
After Stoops won a national title in his second season in Norman, more titles were anticipated and expected. After more than a decade of disappointments and missed opportunities, this could be the year.
The pieces are in place, the schedule is manageable — although trips to Florida State and Oklahoma State are challenges — and the shrunken Big 12 also includes a vulnerable Texas and no conference title game.
“We’re optimistic,” Stoops says. “But there’s a lot of work to be done.”
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