If Bob Stoops knows one thing about football it's this: how to win games. His record at OU is a highly impressive 149-37 over 13 seasons, hardly a fluke. He knows there are people in the media who are questioning what his team can do this year after losing eight starters from last years 10-3 team.
"They (the team) say they want the challenge. They're going to get it."
After four years of setting records and winning games quarterback Landry Jones is gone. In steps his replacement, Trevor Knight, and all eyes will be upon him. Even though he‘s only a freshman, he already has a lot of hype surrounding him.
"He's a player," center Gabe Ikard said of the freshman. "He's got a great arm and he's extremely fast. We're going to get to see and all-around quarterback. He makes good decisions. I know he hasn't played any games yet, but he's a rare talent. It's very exciting to have him behind us and we're very excited what he can do."
The question will be how he handles the pressure mentally. Anytime you have a quarterback with lofty expectations play his first down as a freshman the chance of early missteps are high. Teammates speak highly of his accuracy and overall understanding of the offense.
Williams will be the starter at running back after account for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Millard will play football on Sundays next year, Williams couldn't ask for a better lead blocker. At receiver Knight will have Saunders and Shepard helping make him better. They are both returning starters which always makes the transition easier on a new QB.
The defense is going to be a big question mark for OU. Second year coordinator Mike Stoops is going to have to deal with replacing three three-year starters in the secondary, three three-year starters on the line and a three-year starter at linebacker. And that is after surrendering 37.8 PPG over the final five games of the season. As if that isn't enough, to add just a little bit extra challenge to the situation, they are going to be without defensive end Ward who had his spleen removed earlier this month and will miss the first six weeks.
That's going to make the first game of the season especially tough. Louisiana-Monroe is led by senior quarterback Kolton Browning, who threw a Sun Belt-high 29 touchdowns and finished third with 254.1 passing yards per game.
"Kolton Browning is probably the best offensive player in that league," Stoops said. "I think he's a great player, and he has a lot of experience around him."
Everyone who knows Oklahoma football knows that this is a team with a new, distinct look. Bob Stoops fired three assistants last year - he went 11 years without firing one before that - and he's hoping it will invigorate the energy around the program. Even though they have a fresh, young guy running the offense in Knight, they still have a load of talent on offense. They're going to have to lean on it if they hope to have any real success too.