Throughout the duration of the 2013 season, Trevor Knight failed to make an appearance in five games after being injured twice. The absence led fans to question his ability to stay healthy. Now, with the experience at quarterback depleted due to a position switch for Blake Bell and the decision to transfer by Kendal Thompson, the concern grows. Head Coach Bob Stoops shares the concern for the immediate future.
Some injuries you just can't avoid. But at the quarterback position, regardless of how much or how little we run him, when he has the opportunity and he is out on the perimeter running, we want him to avoid and take as little contact as possible. Step out of bounds. Slide. Get down. If you already got 13 (yards), that's good enough. Someone's closing in on you? Slide. Get down. Avoid the big hits. - Bob Stoops via NewsOK
In what seems like a miracle of small proportions, OU exits camp without an injured player. Oklahoma's best chance for success in 2014 undoubtedly comes with Knight on the field.
Find Playmakers On Offense
Last season, OU had a dependable back in Brennan Clay along with an experienced receiver group led by Jalen Saunders. Fast forward to today and it becomes clear that Oklahoma lacks the experience it had just a year ago at the skill positions.
For the first time of the Stoops era, the Oklahoma Sooners lack an upperclassman at the running back position. Losing the top three rushers from a year ago means Stoops and the coaching staff need to find another reliable candidate to carry the ball. Will it be Keith Ford or Alex Ross taking the field on August 30th?
The receivers present another challenge as well. Of course, the Sooners return two of their top five receivers from a year ago. First up is Sterling Shepard who cemented himself as a vital part of the offense with 51 catches and 603 yards. Up next is an unproven Durron Neal who recorded 13 receptions for 176 yards. When combined, these two accounted for just over 30% of the production through the air. Where will the other 70% come from?
Balance The Attack
For the first time since in...well...a long time, the Sooners gained more yards on the ground than through the air in 2013. Yet, the attack remained fairly balanced.
|Avg per Rush||5.2|
|Avg per Game||223.9|
|Avg per Game||199.1|
A team becomes significantly easier to defend if the squad can be forced to become one dimensional. Although the air raid took root in 2008 with record setting performances by Sam Bradford and crew, masterminds have cracked the code. Now offenses are turning elsewhere and change is once again sweeping over the nation.
Oklahoma adopted the new mindset thrusting a dual-threat QB into the limelight. The result was instant as the Sooners' production flipped, leading to more rushing yards than passing yards. OU must look to continue what they started while keeping the opposition guessing...ground or air?
Finish The Game Strong
One of Oklahoma's strengths last season was the ability to outscore opponents late in the game. Look no further than the TCU game from a season ago for the evidence behind this statement.
With under five minutes to play and the Horned Frogs gaining momentum, Brennan Clay took the hand-off from Blake Bell 76-yards to all but secure a win. At the end of the year, Oklahoma outscored their opponents 126-61 in the 4th quarter. Compare that to 2012's numbers of 112-98 and one can see just how this team exceeded expectations. This progess is a trend I personally hope continues but also believe to be a key to their success moving forward.
Win The Turnover Battle
The Sooners proved to be excellent at getting pressure on the quarterback in order to force unwanted turnovers. Taking to the road and hitting South Bend, the defense flashed it's brilliance, coming up with 3 turnovers with the offense doing its job to secure a long awaited win. Again in the Sugar Bowl, the defensive front proved to be a dominant force as the defense came up with 5 turnovers. However, when Oklahoma lost the turnover battle --- with the exception of the Red River Shootout due to poor game planning and Kansas due to talent difference --- a completely different story played out.
|Date||Opponent||Result||Fum. Gain||Int. Gain||Total Gain||Fum. Lost||Int. Lost||Total Lost||Margin|
|09/07/13||West Virginia||W 16-7||3||1||4||2||2||4||0|
|09/28/13||@ 20 Notre Dame||W 35-21||0||3||3||0||0||0||3|
|10/12/13||+ Texas||L 20-36||1||1||2||0||2||2||0|
|10/19/13||@ Kansas||W 34-19||0||0||0||1||1||2||-2|
|10/26/13||Texas Tech||W 38-30||1||2||3||1||0||1||2|
|11/07/13||@ 13 Baylor||L 12-41||0||0||0||0||2||2||-2|
|11/16/13||Iowa St.||W 48-10||0||2||2||0||0||0||2|
|11/23/13||@ Kansas St.||W 41-31||0||2||2||0||1||1||1|
|12/07/13||@ 17 Oklahoma St.||W 33-24||1||1||2||0||1||1||1|
|01/02/14||+ 7 Alabama||W 45-31||3||2||5||0||1||1||4|
|@ : Away, + : Neutral Site|
In the upcoming season, the expectation is for the defensive front to continue their onslaught while taking much of the pressure off the secondary. But, make no mistake, if the offense turns the ball over consistently, the defense will wear out as fans have witnessed in the past. Due to inexperience at the skill positions, this turnover battle may be the one stat to watch all season long...