COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops, 139-34 (13 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Josh Heupel, Jay Norvell | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mike Stoops
Even with some key losses on defense, Oklahoma will be back in the mix for the national title.
The lure of the NFL tugged hard at Landry Jones, with a first-round draft grade offering plenty of reason to go pro. Yet one more year at Oklahoma pulled even harder.
“I want to accomplish the goals that I set before I got here,” the Sooners quarterback says, “and there is still a lot more to do. I want to make sure I’ve exhausted every effort in that area.”
Jones already owns 13 school passing marks and ranks among the program’s elite quarterbacks in terms of wins. Still, he’s out to win the ultimate prize — a BCS championship.
And with Jones at the controls, the offense should be equipped to do its part. Despite the loss of record-setting receiver Ryan Broyles, there’s much reason for optimism. Dominique Whaley returns at tailback after a breakout season derailed by a broken ankle. And the infusion of big, physical wideouts Trey Metoyer and Lacolton Bester to a solid (but thin) receiving corps led by dynamic Kenny Stills puts playmakers across the board.
OU’s receivers struggled after Broyles was injured late last season, dropping too many passes and failing to seize the vacant spotlight. Still, their talent was never questioned, and the additions of Metoyer and Gardner only bolster the position.
A veteran offensive line that features six players with a combined 102 career starts completes an offense with few question marks.
Mike Stoops, back as defensive coordinator after an eight-year run as Arizona’s head coach, stands in the spotlight of the defense.
Following a season in which the Sooners surrendered a combined 89 points in losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, there’s hope that Stoops can rekindle the success of his Sooner defenses of the early 2000s, although the league’s offenses have changed drastically since then.
There’s pressure on the men up front, where the Sooners lost a pair of All-Big 12 ends. Inside at tackle, Casey Walker, Stacy McGee and Jamarkus McFarland have been solid, yet hardly dominant in a three-man rotation. That puts pressure on ends David King and R.J. Washington to finally emerge as the premium players they’ve long been expected to be.
At linebacker, Tom Wort is an aggressive and physical grinder who has vowed take on a leadership role in his third season. Consistency is the only thing standing in the way of Corey Nelson becoming a star.
Beyond second-team all-conference cornerback Demontre Hurst, the secondary has been much maligned. The other three positions — or four, depending on how much 4-2-5 alignment the Sooners use — are fluid.
Ryan Broyles, WR
The NCAA’s all-time career receptions leader (349) is also the Big 12’s career leader in receiving yards and receiving TDs. He ranks No. 2 on the NCAA career receiving yards list (4,586), and amassed 45 career receiving TDs.
Landry Jones, QB Postponed a shot to be a first-round NFL Draft pick, returning to lead a hopeful run at a national title.
Tony Jefferson, FS Jefferson’s shift to free safety is seen as a stabilizer for the defense.
Dominique Whaley, RB The feel-good story of last fall as a walk-on starter; return from a broken ankle will be watched closely.
Gabe Ikard, OL Mr. Versatility on the line, Ikard has shined at guard and center, enough to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors last season.
David King, DE With both 2011 starting ends gone, the Sooners need King to emerge as a reliable pass-rusher.
|Sept. 1st||at UTEP|
|Sept. 8th||Florida A&M|
|Sept. 22nd||Kansas State|
|Oct. 6th||at Texas Tech|
|Oct. 27th||Notre Dame|
|Nov. 3rd||at Iowa State|
|Nov. 17th||at West Virginia|
|Nov. 24th||Oklahoma State|
|Dec. 1st||at TCU|
Senior Tress Way ranks among the nation’s top punters, offering both a strong leg and an ability to pin opponents inside the 20. Kicker Michael Hunnicutt gained the starting job in Week 3 a year ago and went on to set the school record with 21 field goals. The return units could use an upgrade.
Jones’ return immediately installed the Sooners as the Big 12 favorite, with that piece of the puzzle all that was missing from an explosive offense. Now, can the defense play its part? Mike Stoops has simplified things in an attempt to free players to react and attack. With Jones and Co. ready to produce, the defense doesn’t have to be dominant, just dependable. “I think we’re going to be a very complete defense,” Stoops says.
If the two units come together, the Sooners will contend in the Big 12 and beyond.