The most amazing thing about the Sooners off season this year is that they managed to keep four players that were probably all first round picks. I cannot remember that happening anywhere in college football before.
Despite keeping that immense amount of talented underclassmen, the Sooners still lost plenty due to graduation and most of those losses were on offense, namely the offensive line and receiving corp.
Many have said that Bradford will come back down to earth after losing four starting lineman and will have plenty of new hands catching his passes as well. The defense returns nine starters but has lost both safeties and in the pass happy Big 12 that could become a big problem quickly.
Thus, despite so many great underclassmen returning their remains plenty of big shoes to fill and here is our list of Sooners most likely to do so.
The No. 1 place OU will need people to step up and step up big is offensive line and Good may very well be the biggest part of that puzzle. Why? Because the Left side of the line will be great. Expect Trent Williams to move to LT and Brian Simmons at LG to protect Bradford's blind side.
The other tackle spot is likely to be filled by Cory Brandon who like Simmons has preformed extremely well with plenty of playing time despite not being a regular starter. SO this leaves the potential weak spot as the center and RG. Ben Habern will get the nod at center and Good should be standing to the right of him to start the year.
They were both highly-touted five star recruits but both have gotten limited playing time. Habern played about ten plays before getting injured last year and Good found his way on the field in seven games. I expect teams to try and test the gap between them early in the season especially by blitzing linebackers inside.
Many Sooners are saying Good is the strongest player on the team, but will he have the speed and intelligence to make reads and cuts to pick up the heavy blitzes OU is sure to see all year?
The answer to that question may very well be the key for the O-line in '09.
Many will need to step up in the OU WR corp but Cameron Kenney may be the most likely to give OU an extremely scary deep threat. In Junior College he played WR, CB, returner and even kicker. He has the talent to be both a WR and a CB in Div I but it is his speed that makes him truly scary.
Expect OU to use him to stretch the field and as a returner on both kick and punts and wouldn't be at all surprised to see him as a gunner on punt team. That will depend on how deep the WR position ends up being but anyone who watched the Sooners last year knows they could use all the help they can get on Special teams coverage.
(Shipley is still returning that kick in my nightmares.)
We may even see him punting or kicking field goals but only if the games is well in hand and Stoops is feeling generous and confident in his depth at WR.
Las Vegas has been a pipeline for OU as of late. So much so my guess is somebody on the OU recruiting staff probably has a gambling problem.
OU really only has two questions marks on defense. Unfortunately both of those question marks are at safety. Oklahoma will need two players to step up big at both safety positions but the strong safety will be the most important one.
Why? Because last year teams passed over the middle on OU a lot and the Sooners will need an enforcer who can punish people for going over the middle and if anyone watched the Big 12 championship game last year they know Carter can become that guy.
Carter got plenty of playing time last year especially late in the season so expect him to be ready to go from day one.
OU has an absolute embarrassment of riches in the backfield at QB, FB and especially at RB.
With two 1000 yard rushers returning and a third-stringer that would start for many teams in Moses Madu, the one area they do not need a break out player is RB.
But some birds feathers are two bright to be caged and expect Calhoun's talent to force its way onto the field and make an impact. Especially with Madu experimenting in the WR rotation and Murray's injury history.
You probably rolled your eyes when you saw this name I know I would. He already gets praise as one of the Best Tight Ends in the nation. So a big year is not only expected, its demanded.
So why did I include him on the list? Because his year may be even bigger than any of us can imagine. In the National Championship game he was the one guy the vaunted Florida Defense could not cover scoring both OU touchdowns, one with only one shoe.
Mix that in with a receiving corp that is young and inexperienced expect him to be leaned on harder than any TE in college football especially in the big games.
The one thing that may stop him from having a mammoth year is his hands his sophomore year his hands were average but they declined immensely last year dropping wide open passes on many occasions.
His hands are not horrible but last year they were definitely below average and they are the only knock on him. Hopefully he will work on them throughout the off season because he will be more important to this team than any of the other years he has been a Sooner.
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