In an effort to help us get through the dog days of summer with no OU teams currently competing, Crimson and Cream Machine wants to hear from our loyal readers. Today's discussion: Who do you think is going to be the 2010 Breakout Player for the Oklahoma Sooners football team?
Feel free to join in the discussion after the jump!
This will be an open forum, so feel free to post any and all thoughts in the comment section below. I'll throw some names out there, give a little breakdown, and I'll give you my thoughts as well. But if you think I've over looked anyone again feel free to toss them into the mix in the comments. I was thinking we'd break this up by offense and defense, so you choose one player from each side of the ball and then defend your choice. Alright, let's get started!
Let me start by saying I refuse to put a QB on this list because there is no way I'm jinxing Landry.
RB - Jermie Calhoun 6'0" 218 RS SO- Calhoun was a five star highly touted RB when he arrive on campus two years ago, but up to this point he's had only minimal playing time. Heading into the season, he is projected to be the primary backup (and potential goal line back) to starter DeMarco Murray. Calhoun missed the last couple of practices this spring as well as the spring game due to an ankle injury. The coaches are expecting Calhoun to step up this year and force them to keep him off the field. The quickest way to get in Stoops' doghouse is to not hold on to the ball and in his limited playing time last year, Calhoun put the ball on the turf way too much. He'll need to improve on that and if he can prove to be reliable getting the tough inside yards, he can absolutely solidify his spot in the RB rotation.
RB - Brennan Clay 5'11" 194 FR / Roy Finch 5'8" 180 FR- Both Clay and Finch have been on campus for less than month, but both are drawing high praise already. It's difficult for me to imagine a scenario where one if not both of these kids gets a redshirt, but if the little bit of summer workout info being leaked out of Norman is accurate the coaches are going to have a very difficult decision to make with these two.
WR - Jaz Reynolds 6'2" 181 SO- Reynolds is a kid who didn't initially start last season and was looking very likely to redshirt midway through the season. However, the coaches brought him on primarily in the Baylor game and by the end of the season Jaz was entrenched as the #3 WR. He is a serious deep threat and has the size to make the catch in traffic as well. There's going to be plenty of competition at the WR spot this fall given the struggles the receivers went through last year. Reynolds has the starting spot for now, but he'll have to continue to carry over the improvement he displayed last year to hold on to that spot all year.
WR - Kenny Stills 6'1" 175 FR- It's not very often that a true freshman WR comes into a program the caliber of OU and makes the impression that Stills did this spring. He has impressed his coaches and fellow teammates with his route running and hands. There is no question that he needs to add weight, but that's exactly what this summer with Schmitty is for and Stills has been very open about doing what he needs to in order to put on that extra muscle. I don't see any way the coaches can keep this kid off the field in 2010, so keep an eye out for #4!
TE - Austin Haywood 6'5" 245 FR- Initially there was some concern whether or not Haywood would qualify academically, but that fear has been put to bed and Haywood is currently on campus and participating in summer workouts. It's no secret to anyone who watched our offense last year how much losing Gresham hurt what we were trying to do. Haywood has the potential to be very similar to Gresham and provide that threat to stretch the defense and cause all kinds of problems. Again, another true freshman (anyone else pumped about how much young talent we have!) so he could struggle to pick things up and OU's system demands that the TE block and block well which will certainly be something Haywood focuses on this summer.
OL - Donald Stephenson 6'6" 285 JR- Stephenson is a kid who has a ton of talent, but has struggled to get on the field for a variety of off field issues. By all accounts, the light bulb seems to have clicked on and he seems to have finally got his act together. He's projected to start at LT, so it goes without saying that he'll play a pretty important role in 2010. Protecting Landry's blindside and paving the way for Murray and Co. will be absolutely essential for this team to be successful. We're all painfully aware of what inconsistency along the OL can do to an offense, so health and avoiding stupid off field issues will be key to the success of Stephenson and the rest of the OL.
DE - Frank Alexander 6'4" 259 JR- Alexander isn't a new name necessarily, but this will be his first year heading into the season as a starter. He's received plenty of playing time in the past two years, mainly due to Auston English injuries, and he's done well in those opportunities. However, the coaches believe he has to potential to be a disrupting force on the pass rush and needs to spend plenty of time in the opponents backfield this year. In the past, he's been known to take some plays off and last year he drew a couple really stupid penalties, so he's definitely got some things he can improve on heading into 2010. Given the attention that's going to be paid to Jeremy Beal on the other side, there's no reason Alexander shouldn't be approaching double digit sacks this year.
DT - Jarmarkus McFarland 6'2" 296 SO- There's no getting around the fact that losing GK McCoy created an enormous void at the DT spot. McCoy was one of the all time great Sooners and he's going to be incredibly difficult to replace. The highly touted McFarland is looking to step up and take on McCoy's spot in the middle of the OU defense. McFarland saw time later in the season and got significant playing time during the Sun Bowl last year, even before Adrian Taylor's injury, so he's looking to build on the success he had in the second half of his true freshman season. McFarland saw plenty of time this spring while Taylor continues to recover from his Sun Bowl injury so he should be more than ready when we kickoff 2010.
LB - Tom Wort 6'0" 220 RS FR- Wort was drawing raves from the coaches last spring and looked assured to get significant playing time. Unfortunately as I'm sure most are aware, he suffered a torn ACL during spring practice and missed the entire season. Flash forward one year later and Wort has recovered from the injury and according to his position coach, Coach Venables, is the Tom Wort of old. The exception being the red mohawk he sported during the spring game causing some to draw comparisons to Sooner legend Brian Bosworth. Aside from hair styles, it's obviously a little early to compare the two but Wort is similar to The Boz in his absolutely relentless pursuit of the ball carrier. He is going to punish people this year and one of the players I'm most looking forward to watching this year.
LB - Ronnell "The Hammer" Lewis 6'2" 234 SO- Here's a man who needs no introduction with Sooner fans. He took it upon himself to introduce us to his abilities during the Sun Bowl last year where he played the role of a brick freaking wall opposite the Stanford Cardinal. I think the most difficult part of this season for Ronnell will be living up to the expectations most (if not every) Sooner fans have for him after that performance. The kid has an awesome story coming from eight man football in a very small OK town to D-1 football at one of the most prestigious programs in the country. I can guarantee I'm not the only one rooting for him to be successful and if he only lives up to half the hype he'll still be a total stud.
CB - Demontre Hurst 5'9" 165 SO- After Dom Franks' somewhat unexpected early declaration, OU was faced with the prospects of replacing both starting CBs. Hurst was among the very first believed to be capable of stepping up and earning one of those two spots and through spring practice he's done just that. Under the tutelage of new DB coach Willie Martinez, he has the ability to be the shut down corner OU needs. At 5'9" he's obviously undersized for today's typical WR, but Hurst has exceptional leaping ability and has done well at tracking the ball in order to make up for whatever he lacks in height. As a true sophomore first year starter, OU will do what it can to protect him but speculation has been that Martinez will play more man-to-man coverage (thank God!) rather than the two deep zone employed in that past. So if he's out there on an island against the WR there is only so much protecting they'll be able to do. Hurst is not lacking in confidence and while he'll surely get beat, as all CBs do, I think he'll be a player we can count on all year. I expect multiple big time plays, i.e pick sixes, plus he's a candidate to return kicks as well.
DB - Tony Jefferson 5'11" 196 FR- So do you think that CA recruiting connection is going to pay off or what? Jefferson is the third of three highly touted CA recruits the staff was able to bring in and early reports are that Jefferson will definitely see playing time this year. Again this comparison is very premature, but he's been described as a very similar player (at least in style) to (The Real) Roy Williams. He's a kid who plays in the secondary, but loves to play close to the line of scrimmage and will never hesitate to deliver the blow. He's projected to play a role similar to Keenan Clayton of last year, meaning he can stay on to play the run but is also capable of dropping back into coverage. Now he'll have to beat out Joseph Ibiloye who is the projected starter at that position, but expect OU to have plenty of fresh players to rotate in and out this year at the LB/S spot. If you believe message board rumors, Jefferson has reportedly worked his way into Schmitty's doghouse during summer workouts. However, I'm guessing that's more about a young man getting used to putting in the kind of effort that Schmitty is legendary for and he'll adjust to the demands of a D-1 football strength and condition program just fine.
Well, there it is for ya fellas. We've certainly got plenty to discuss so I expect a lot of comments. I know there's people I left out, but I didn't want this thing to be ridiculously long so I'm cutting it off here. I'm looking forward to hearing your take and who you expect to step up for our Sooners this year. See ya in the comments section!