We’ve put out individual position-by-position breakdowns for the 2009 Oklahoma football team but in an effort to collaborate with all the SBN Big 12 blogs we’re going to run one more overview of the team, make our conference predictions and then share a few thoughts on some questions being passed around to the Big 12 sites. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.
Offense: The Sooners are loaded at every skill position and if the offensive line is just average then they shouldn’t be too far off from last year’s 51.1 point per game average. Quarterback Sam Bradford makes his bid for a second consecutive Heisman Trophy with two 1,000 yard rushers from last season in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown to keep opposing defenses honest.
When it comes time to go to the air there may not be a more accurate passer in America than Bradford. He’s got college football’s best tight end in Jermaine Gresham and while Manny Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney are all gone from last year’s squad a new crop of talented receivers has emerged. We saw in `08 what Ryan Broyles is capable of and Adron Tennell has stepped up in camp along with JUCO transfer Cameron Kenny to turn the heads of coaches and players by providing some of those coveted, "Wow!!!" moments.
Obviously the glaring concern for Oklahoma’s offense is along the line. While some are suggesting that four new starters equates to gloom and doom for OU’s high octane offense and others tend to be overly optimistic I think that the answer probably is somewhere in between. Led by returning starter Trent Williams, this new unit gives up a little size to last year’s line (averaging 305lbs) but should be quicker on their feet allowing offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson more freedom to pull from both sides and also move the pocket. Oklahoma doesn’t have to have the biggest line to repeat the success from `08, they just need a solid unit that can do their job. With OU’s quick strike offense an average line can take them a long way. Should they gel quickly and prove to be above average then records will fall in `09.
Defense: The greatest improvement we may see in `09 from any one unit is along the special teams but the second should be in the performance of the defense. In 2009 OU was #1 in the country in turnover margin (+23) and with 8 returning starters the potential is there to duplicate that performance.
Led by All-American Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma’s defensive line doesn’t look to be pushed around by anyone. One time All-Conference defensive end is healthy again and is looking to return to the form we saw in 2007. Also in the rotation at end are Jeremy Beal, who led the team in sacks last year, and Frank Alexander who may be having the best camp of all the defensive ends. How do you pick just two starters from that trio?
The linebacking corps returns intact in `09 as well. The same group that helped Oklahoma’s defense rank a respectable 20th in the nation against the run in `08 will be another year experienced going into this season. Travis Lewis led the team in tackles last year as a freshman with 144 total tackles and could actually see those numbers grow this year with the defensive line clearing the way.
Like the line for the offensive unit the secondary is where we find the question marks on the defense. Corners Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson will match up well with any receiver in the conference but the safety spots could be a bit unproven. Quinton Carter started a couple of games last season but played in a total of twelve where he gained a reputation of being a hard hitter who thrives on dislodging the ball from the person carrying it. Sam Proctor is the new strong safety and has more special teams experience than anything else and will have to quickly learn on the job.
Special Teams – The return game (both punts and kickoffs) is set with a quartet of guys (Dominique Franks, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Broyles and Cameron Kenny) who have game breaking speed the Sooners should be every bit as dangerous in the return game as they were last season if not more so.
The problems with Oklahoma’s special teams last season came in the kicking game and defending the returns. Both of those seem to have changed in `09. Jimmy Stevens appears to have found a more powerful and accurate leg while also finding himself on the Groza watch list and the personnel changes last year on kickoff coverage sent a clear message as it also sent players to the bench.
Predicted Final Big 12 Standings
Who wins the Big 12 North? See Above
Who wins the Big 12 South? See Above
How many Big 12 teams will be bowl eligable? Nine – Baylor, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech
Which conference team do you think will show the most improvement from last season (in record only)? Baylor
Who is your Non-QB conference player of the year? Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe.
Do you believe any Big 12 coaches will be gone (fired or hired elsewhere) after this season? Colorado’s Dan Hawkins is the only coach who is on the hot seat in my opinion and I don’t see any of the other coaches moving on.
What would you prefer as the Big 12's 3rd "best" bowl game? The Holiday or Alamo? Definitely the Holiday Bowl by location only.
Better D-Lineman, Suh or McCoy? McCoy plays on the better defense but Suh is the better player.
Better Wide Receiver, Bryant or Briscoe? Both are extremely talented but Briscoe seems unstoppable at times.
Predict the worst non-conference loss (an upset) that the Big 12 will suffer. September 25th – Missouri at Nevada
Predict the MNC participants and champion. Oklahoma vs. Virginia Tech – Sooners win number 8