It's August 2007, and three names are on the lips of most Oklahoma football fans. Sam Bradford, Joey Halzle, and Keith Nichols. Rhett Bomar was at Sam Houston State and definately NOT coming back, Paul Thompson was off to the NFL... kinda, and in Norman we had us a QB battle. The last time we found ourselves in this predicament, well see Rhett Bomar and Paul Thompson circa 2005...
But 2007 turned out to be not that bad. Sam came out the starter and went on to complete 69.5% of his passes for 3,121 yards with 36 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions. He broke school records set by Josh Heupal and Jason White, along with NCAA freshman records. OU only lost two regular season games, they beat Texas, and they made the fiesta bowl on top of the Big Twelve Championship. If the Sooners had decided to actually come out of the locker room in the second half against CU, or if we had the king of second half explosions, Adrian Peterson on our roster then we would've played an Ohio State team that got blown out in the National Championship. Had Bradford not left the Texas Tech game with a concussion... well if if if if if. Always if when you're an OU football fan right?
Fast forward to last year, or should that be rewind to last year? For all intents and purposes Landry Jones was Oklahoma's starter after Bradford's shoulder was crushed by the Stormin' Mormons. Jones didn't regularly take snaps behind Oklahoma OL version 10.2 until Bradford re-injured (or maybe it was never really healed) his shoulder against Texas. Despite leading the Sooners to a disappointing 8-5 record, Jones compiled some impressive statistics. The unexpected starter threw for 3,198 yards with 26 TDs to 14 ints. One can't help but wonder if the stat line might be 28 TDs to 9 ints if Landry didn't forget that the Memorial Stadium he was playing in wasn't Gaylord-Memorial Stadium, and that he should be throwing to the guys with white jerseys rather than red jerseys during the Nebraska game. Of course this game in particular highlights the Oklahoma offense's main problem in that, Mr. Jones spent much of his time running for his life rather than looking downfield reading the defenses' coverages.
Or maybe not... both Jones and Bradford were only sacked twelve times during their first campaigns as the Oklahoma starting QB. Was the line really that bad last year? Is this a legitimate excuse for the offensive struggles of the 2009 Sooners? Let us look deeper into these two offenses. In 2007 OU ran the ball for 2,670 yards and 34 TDs. In 2009 the Sooners ran for 1,750 yards and 18 TDs. In 2007 Juaquin Iglesias had 907 yards receiving, Malcolm Kelly had 821, Jermaine Gresham had 518, Joe Jon Finley had 290, and a hand full of other players caught passes from Sam Bradford. In 2009 Ryan Broyles caught an amazing 89 catches for 1,120 yards, while Demarco Murray was the Sooners number two receiver with 522, meanwhile a late explosion by Dejuan Miller provided an additional 434 yards and Brandon Caleb, who started out the team's number two receiver had only 408 yards. Those receiving numbers may not seem that bad, however the dropoff from one to two is 598 yards, not to mention that number two was a running back. Not to mention a relative lack of run production compared to Sooner teams that most of us are used to.
So what does this all mean for our old new QB? I'm inclined to flip my homer switch to on for this analysis, however some elements of it may end up ringing true. I will argue that Landry Jones has a couple things going for him that most of OU's recent signal callers have not. For one, he, and the team, have dealt with the adversity of losing and really struggling to put points on the board. Not since Josh Heupal has Oklahoma fielded a returning starter at QB who was so familiar with losing. The Sooner teams who have competed for national championships in recent years have had defenders call out the opposing offenses as being overrated, and have thus seemed to think that they should be handed trophies. It is hard for Big Game Bob to live up to his moniker when the players fail to understand that winning is earned not inherited. Landry Jones may have had a chance to mature in ways that recent Oklahoma QBs have not. As we all know, becoming a stronger person in life often involves going through periods of time in which we struggle to live up to expectations. We can only hope this is true for the 2010 Oklahoma Sooners and their young and ocassionally mustachioed leader. Further more, any improvement in the offensive line and the running game, paired with a decent go to second receiving option should lead to a much more productive season for Landry Jones. Finally, don't forget OU's recent penchant for producing top qaulity collegiate QB's. Heupal, White, and Bradford all made trips to New York for the Heisman ceremony, and it is hard to believe that Bomar would not have made that trip were he to play by the rules. Fear the stache.