We’re moving right along in our 2019 Countdown to Kickoff series, and as of today there are 43 days until the Oklahoma Sooners open the season with Houston on Labor Day Eve. For this installment, I want to breakdown the 43 touchdown passes from OU quarterbacks in 2018, then I want to take a closer look at sophomore DB Brendan Radley-Hiles.
The Sooners saw all 43 aerial scores from 2018 move on when Kyler Murray (42) was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and Austin Kendall (1) transferred to West Virginia.
Marquise Brown, Carson Meier and Myles Tease combined for 15 scoring receptions, with ‘Hollywood’ accounting for 10 of those by himself. Even without the services of those three experienced targets as part of the mix this fall, the combined 28 TD catches between CeeDee Lamb, Lee Morris, Grant Calcaterra, A.D. Miller and Charleston Rambo will be.
It goes without saying that the bulk of Oklahoma’s 43 passing TDs in 2018 were accounted by Kyler Murray, who had 42 to be exact. Austin Kendall’s lone contribution for that figure came in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. Still, the fact of the matter is that no returning Sooners threw for a TD at Oklahoma last season, and that hasn’t happened since Landry Jones graduated following the 2012 season. Before then, you’d have to go all the way back to Sam Bradford’s redshirt freshman campaign in 2007 to find such an occurrence.
However, there should obviosuly be an asterisk next to this stat, because expected starter Jalen Hurts does have quite a bit of experience, albeit at Alabama and not Oklahoma. Last season, the former Crimson Tide QB threw for eight scores, all from his backup role behind Tua Tagovailoa. Over the course of his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, Hurts totaled 48 passing touchdowns, plus 23 more on the ground. I’d say that’s a fairly decent amount of experience.
Regardless of how much or little experience is returning at the quarterback position, given the elite recruiting across the offense, it’s probably a safe bet that whoever is behind center in any given year during the Lincoln Riley era is probably going to be just fine, if not in contention for some serious hardware come December.
Now let’s cover any days we missed since our last countdown post:
44 Days! - Bookie
Upon arriving as an early-enrollee in the spring of 2018, there was a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding Brendan Radley-Hiles, who’s better known as ‘Bookie’. The four-star IMG Academy CB prospect (originally from Inglewood, CA) held scholarship offers college football’s most elite programs: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, etc. Of course, he ultimately chose Oklahoma, and the whirlwind began.
Bookie quickly became a regular stand out during spring ball and fall camp, which led coaches to insert him into the starting lineup. During the season he started 11 of Oklahoma’s 12 regular season games, only missing the Texas Tech game after suffering a mild injury. Said injury was sustained the week before versus Kansas State, when Radley-Hiles broke up a reception with this booming hit.
Because Oklahoma’s defense was under fire for most of the season, it was tough for any Sooner defenders to really stand out, but Bookie made a number of plays as a true freshman. In fact, some of the plays he made could have been even more impactful, such as this near pick-six against TCU.
One of the qualities to Bookie’s game that made him such a coveted recruit and make him such a dynamic athlete is his natural ability with the ball in his hands. Against Army, he returned three kicks on special teams for 80 yards (26.7 avg.), including this 32-yard return.
Down the stretch, as the Sooners’ secondary was tested more through the air, Radley-Hiles was challenged in ways only those who have played in the Big 12 can truly attest to. After a rough showing in Morgantown, Bookie was benched, but still saw playing time in Oklahoma’s final two games. For a young player with so much talent, such a decision can be tough to overcome, but he’s taken it in stride and is now using that experience as motivation going into year two.
In total, Brendan Radley-Hiles started 11 of 13 games as a true freshman, and racked up 39 tackles, five pass break-ups and one tackle-for-loss. With added humility and experience, Bookie should be able to resume his spot as Oklahoma’s starting nickelback, unless DC Alex Grinch and the defensive staff believe his skills are best suited elsewhere in the secondary. No matter where they want him, it’ll be tough to keep No. 44 off the field.
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