Oklahoma's 2011 football season is now just a little more than two months away and the Sooners will enter the season with a ton of hype and preseason accolades. The schedule sets up for a championship run. If OU can run the table then they'll be bringing in the new year from the Big Easy. The talent pool at Oklahoma is deep and the experience on the depth chart is heavy. However, that doesn't mean there aren't a few holes to fill and a few risks Bob Stoops is taking to fill them. Here's a look.
Standing in For Jarvis Jones - Jones is one of Oklahoma's most experienced offensive linemen and plays at right tackle. Last season he led Oklahoma in knockdown blocks against Florida State, Air Force and Iowa State. In 426 season snaps Jones recorded 81 knockdown blocks. Unfortunately a knee injury suffered during spring ball is going to force him to miss up to half of the season. Stoops is betting on an up and comer to fill in until Jones is back to 100%.
Sophomore Josh Aladenoye is one of the players tabbed to fill the spot. He appeared in twelve games last season and already has a spot on the place kicking team locked up. Redshirt freshman Daryl Williams has never played a down at Oklahoma but was impressive enough in the spring to get into the mix to possibly be a starter on opening day. Both guys will play but Stoops is hoping one of them emerges as the clear-cut starter until Jones is back.
Ronnell Lewis at defensive end - Yes, I do realize how crazy that sounds but the truth is that The Hammer has yet to find a position that sticks. Defensive ends seems to be that place and he's almost a natural there. He's only been at the position for less than a year now and you have to admit that its a bit of a risk starting him over guys who have played DE their entire careers. Its a risk that will pay huge dividends if Lewis is able to reach his full potential.
A true freshman at tailback? - Despite what you may hear from other SBN BIg 12 bloggers Oklahoma has a pretty solid running back in sophomore Roy Finch. Despite missing the first five games of the season as well as the Fiesta Bowl he still placed second on the team in rushing yards and produced 4.7 yards per carry. While that may not impress the brain trust over at I Am The 12th Man it has Sooner Nation pretty juiced up for the fall.
However, its the position of running back that Oklahoma fans are excited about. The Sooners will enter this fall without DeMarco Murray and OU fans will pretty much tell you they're okay with that. It isn't a knock against Murray at all. The kid had a historical career as a Sooner and left for the NFL as one of the most beloved backs of all time. Its just that the future is so bright at this position.
For the first time since Adrian Peterson ran the ball against Bowling Green on September 4th, 2004 we could see a true freshman play significant time at running back on opening day. Stoops is hoping Brandon Williams will be able to live up to his hype and be the second back. If for some reason he's not able to the stable is far from empty and the line to get some time on the field stretches pretty far. Its all unproven talent though and Oklahoma is going to have to take a risk on one of them.
Aaron Colvin at strong safety - With the status of Jamell Fleming still uncertain it just makes sense to keep Colvin at cornerback. He played the position all last season and even started the Texas game. That's why the switch to safety made us scratch our heads just a bit but his performance in the spring may have alleviated any uncertainty that was there among the fanbase. Its a risky move that, if it pays off, could solidify Oklahoma's secondary. However, the other part of this story is either Fleming coming back or Gabe Lynn having a solid season as the new starter at corner. That makes this move a double risk.
Josh Heupel at offensive coordinator - Come on, I love Josh, you love Josh, everybody loves Josh. That's just the kind of guy he is. That doesn't remove the fact that Bob Stoops took a bit of a risk when he named Heupel as the new offensive coordinator. He's a football genius and, in this humble Sooner fan's perspective, the best quarterbacks coach in the Big 12. Still doesn't remove the fact that his only game calling experience was the Fiesta Bowl. I will say though that this is by far the safest risk Stoops has taken heading into 2011.