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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?

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Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 5 Oklahoma. The Sooners suffered some losses in the receiving corps, but the passing attack should be in good hands with quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Kenny Stills returning. The defense will have a revamped front seven, but remains one of the best in the Big 12.

Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
So much of Landry Jones’ success in the fall probably will be determined by seven on sevens with his receivers this summer. Jones is a quality quarterback, but he was lost without Ryan Broyles. Without Broyles, Landry Jones didn’t simply struggle. He statistically was one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big 12. In the four full games without Broyles, Jones had a passer rating of 116.5, more than 30 points lower than his his rating through the first nine games. Over a full season, that pass efficiency rating would have been the worst among Big 12 starting quarterbacks. Jones’ passing yards per attempt dropped from 8.5 yards to 6.6, which was fewer yards per attempt than Kansas’ Jordan Webb. Losing a receiver like Broyles threw the offense into disarray, not just Broyles, too. Kenny Stills needs to be ready to assume the No. 1 receiver role, a spot that’s going to be even more critical than it was a year ago. With third-leading receiver Jaz Reynolds suspended indefinitely, the position behind Stills is awfully inexperienced. If Reynolds is gone for any appreciable amount of time, Jones and Stills will need to be a championship-caliber duo because it’s a mystery what Oklahoma will get out of the rest of the receiver group. Of course, they were all major recruits, but guys like Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard are all freshmen. I believe Jones can become a championship-level quarterback despite all these variables in the Oklahoma offense. Jones has the experience and he’ll have talent around him, even if some of it is untested. There are questions here, but I don’t think we can take Jones’ experience and career production lightly.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes, but if the Oklahoma Sooners win, or even simply play, in the BCS National Championship game this fall, Mike Stoops and Tim Kish will deserve more credit than Jones. The senior quarterback has been incredibly productive in his career in Norman and should only post another statistically stellar season for the Sooners. But not many players have ever entered their final season with over 12,000 yards passing, nearly 100 touchdowns and as many question marks as Jones.

I've written about his numbers numerous times this summer, but just in case you missed our Big 12 quarterback rankings, here it goes. The Sooner showed major development from 2009 to 2010, increasing his completion percentage (58.1% to 65.6%) and significantly dropped his interception rate (one INT every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts). Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories — to 63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT. Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish last year, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season — with five interceptions nonetheless.

Certainly, a healthier running game, featuring Dominique Whaley, and full receiving corps will help Jones get back on track. The emergence of Kenny Stills and expected contributions from newcomer Trey Metoyer will only help stabilize the Broyles-less wide receiver position. Additionally, Jones worked with quarterback guru George Whittfield over the off-season and should be at his best as a senior. Still, Jones needs to prove he can win the key games on the road in key situations — e.g., at West Virginia, TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State and the all-important neutral site contest in Dallas against Texas.

Jones can absolutely be a national championship quarterback, but if the Sooners are to go undefeated and play in Miami Gardens next January, I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more because of defense — aka Mike Stoops and Kish — than Jones himself. Hmm? A Mike Stoops-led stifling Sooner defense that ends up playing in South Florida for a national title? Sound familiar?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oklahoma can win the national title with Landry Jones as its quarterback, but he does need to play better. Consistency and cutting down on the interceptions are two areas that Jones needs to improve upon this year but that could be tricky with some uncertainty at the skill positions.

Jones was having a solid 2011 season prior to receiver Ryan Broyles suffering a torn ACL in the victory against Texas A&M. He threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 victory over Missouri and completed 31 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-17 rout against Texas. However, the offense came unglued after losing Broyles and posting 38 points in a loss to Baylor, as Jones tossed six interceptions and failed to throw for more than 256 yards in each of the final three games. With a full offseason to work on replacing Broyles, I expect Oklahoma’s passing attack to be better this year – even if it has some true freshman in the rotation.

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As with any quarterback, Landry Jones gets too much of the blame when things go bad and too much credit when things go right. As a senior, Jones should put together a solid season, and if the Sooners are the Big 12’s best team, then they will be in the national title hunt. However, the Sooners’ quest to play in Miami at the end of the year could rest on running back Dominique Whaley’s health and a rebuilt front seven on defense. Jones is the least of Oklahoma’s concerns, but he does need to take his play up another level if the Sooners want to finish in the top two of the BCS standings.

Mark Ross
Absolutely. Since Oklahoma is a preseason top 10 team, by our own (Athlon's) estimations, the Sooners figure to be in the national title hunt all season long, provided they take care of business in the Big 12 conference. Texas looks to be very strong on defense, but the annual Red River Shootout could be just the game where Jones, the seasoned senior quarterback, is the difference. Jones' experience may also come up big at the end of the regular season when OU finishes up with road games at Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU, sandwiched by a home date against in-state rival Oklahoma State. Outside of their Big 12 slate, the Sooners' toughest non-conference foe will be Notre Dame, who comes to Norman on Oct. 27.

As far as Oklahoma's national title aspirations go, I think the least of the Sooners' worries is Jones. Here's a kid who's averaged more than 4,100 yards passing and 31 touchdowns in his first three seasons, and has completed more than 63 percent of his passes in his career. He's led the team to a 22-5 record the past two years, including a 11-5 mark in the Big 12 and the 2010 Big 12 title.

Last season, even though All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles missed four games because of injury, Jones still finished second in passing yards (4,463) and tied for second in touchdowns (29) in the Big 12. The quarterbacks who finished ahead of him? Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and fellow first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden.

Broyles is gone, but Jones appears to have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including wide receivers Kenny Stills and Trey Metoyer, among others. The Sooners' running game still needs to sort itself out, but the offensive line returns three starters including All-American candidate Gabe Ikard. The defense also should be strong as seven starters return, including three in the secondary.

So the pieces appear to be in place for Oklahoma to make a run at another national title. There's still plenty of business to take care of on the field, but to that end I think the Sooners could do a whole lot worse than having Jones as their quarterback.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It will be difficult for the Sooners to win it all, but I definitely think that Jones is a good enough signal caller to lead OU to a title. He is already Oklahoma’s s all-time passing leader with 12,379 career yards, and the New Mexico native owns 13 school passing records. Some critics point to “his” road record being subpar, but Jones does not get enough credit for what he does do. If the 2008 Sooners offense is the standard, then every QB in the land would fall short of expectation. Jones’ record as a starter over the last two seasons is 22-5, and the defense allowed 33, 36, 41, 45 and 44 points in those defeats.

The offensive line and running game should be improved this season as Jones searches for new weapons on the outside with Ryan Broyles’ graduation. Kenny Stills (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) is a proven receiver and newcomer Trey Metoyer looks like a player, but there are off-the-field questions with the suspended Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson. Jones should lead another powerful offense, while new coordinator Mike Stoops takes over the defense. The run game and defense must be better to win it all, and OU has a brutal three-game stretch to end the season at West Virginia, hosting Oklahoma State and at TCU. However if his teammates play to their potential, Jones can lead the Sooners to a BCS crown.

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