While the outcome this Saturday against Tulsa may not really be in doubt, there are still several players/aspects of the game that should interest OU fans. Possibly more from a 'big picture' perspective than one individual game, but when your goal is National Championship #8 it's probably wise, at least for us fans, to take that approach. So we're going to put the spotlight on several players and/or position groups and tell you what we're looking for on Saturday night, then you can take part in the comments and tell us guys we missed or other things you might keep an eye on.
Corey Nelson - There might not be a guy on the OU side of things with more pressure on them than LB Corey Nelson. Stoops and the OU coaches certainly did him no favors in terms of realistic expectations from Sooner Nation with all the praise they heaped on him this offseason. Add that to the fact that he's filling the WLB role for a bonafide superstar in Travis Lewis and I'd venture to guess Nelson is feeling the pressure to perform against the Golden Hurricanes. OU fans will be eager to see if the young man can live up to the hype if not just for this year, but also 2012 and beyond once Travis Lewis graduates after this year.
Secondary Wide Receivers - I'm going to cheat a little on a couple of these, going with a position group rather than an individual player, and this is the first one. We know what we have in Ryan Broyles (duh, stud). Even though he's likely to miss the game due to a suspension, we know what we have in Kenny Stills. So that third, and at least for Saturday second, wide receiver spot is going to be one that has an opportunity for some big plays with defenses having to focus so much attention on Broyles, Stills, and all the other weapons OU will have on offense this year. There is no shortage of candidates in Dejuan Miller, Trey Franks, Jaz Reynolds, Justin McCay, Sheldon McClain, and Kameel Jackson. With Stills likely out, Saturday will be a big opportunity for these guys to step up and show they can hold down a spot in that WR rotation.
Brandon Williams - Much like WR, there is no shortage of options at RB for the Sooners heading into Saturday and the coaches have made it clear that they are taking a RB by committee type approach. So with a score that could get out of hand, it's not unreasonable to think OU fans could potentially see all six candidates on Saturday. And while they all bring something unique to the table, unquestionably the most hyped of the crew is five star true freshman Brandon Williams. There have been some rumors of late that the true frosh has had some issues hanging onto the ball in practice and may have fallen behind a couple of the other guys heading into Saturday's game. Obviously only time will tell just how far he may have fell, I just hope that if their is some doubt about his ability to hold onto the ball the coaches don't waste a year of eligibility giving him worthless carries in mop up duty (kind of like they did with Brennan Clay last year). I can appreciate the fact that there are a bunch of talented guys back there, but Williams can't earn more than a couple carries a game PLEASE just redshirt him and save that year.
Ronnell Lewis - Ahhhhhh, the drama finally has come to an end. Now we can finally get back to eagerly anticipating OU kickoffs and not just because it signifies we just put points on the board, but also because it means we get the opportunity to potentially see The Hammer annihilate someone. Good times. Seriously though, if OU is going to have a successful pass rush, which we all know is key to a defense, they are going to have to get a good (potentially great) season out of Lewis. His athleticism for a guy at that hybrid DE/LB spot is elite, but at some point it has to be about achieving that potential rather than just talking about it. This is the year that Ronnell needs to become the rush end we all expect him to be. With the frequency with which I expect to drop back and pass on Saturday, he'll have plenty of chances to get after the QB so if he comes away with an underwhelming (or sackless) performance it will be very disappointing.
Tom Wort - Not only will Wort have the pressure of having to make all the calls on defense with Travis Lewis out, he has also been given the honor of being the first Sooner to pay tribute to teammate Austin Box by wearing his #12 jersey. Wort took a ton of grief last year from Sooner fans and part of that was unrealistic expectations on their part and a tendency to be out of position on his part. There is no doubting Wort's talent and ability, but many in Sooner Nation are hoping that with a year of experience under his belt he can play with a little more discipline and self-control.
Defensive Secondary - And here is my second cheat. The secondary is viewed by some as a possible liability, personally I'm not sure how that is possible when you have two of the best corners in the country. But you know, to each their own I suppose. Despite those critics having no idea what they're talking about, the secondary will be tested early and often. So while I have zero concern with respect to Demontre Hurst, it will be interesting to see Jamell Fleming out there after his off-field issue and whether or not he can play at that same high level of last year. How the coaches work in one time believed to be start Gabe Lynn. How smooth the transition is for the two new starters at safety in Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin. Tulsa will be a great first game for this secondary as they'll be thrown into the fire from the jump and how they perform will be a good indicator for a pass happy Big XII conference.