clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Oklahoma Sooners Football: Five Players to Watch vs. SMU

With fresh faces showing out against Arkansas State, eyes are now on the roster’s veterans for Game 2.

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the Oklahoma Sooners secured a resounding 73-0 victory over the Red Wolves in their season opener, it’s evident that the OU squad is off to a strong start. However, with a challenging matchup against SMU on the horizon, there remain intriguing questions about this team’s capabilities as they head into their second game of the season. In this edition, we turn our attention to five key players to watch in this week’s game:

Billy Bowman

While the Sooners completely rolled over the Red Wolves, 73-0, there are still a lot of questions about this squad heading into their second game of the season. SMU will be a much different test for that group as they’ll be facing a legitimate passing attack led by QB Preston Stone. A name some who follow recruiting will recognize — Jordan Hudson — will be the featured receiver for the Mustangs. Hudson, a top-100 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, held several Power-Five offers, including Oklahoma and Alabama, and has the ability to take the top off a secondary.

This will be the first real test of the season for junior safety Billy Bowman, who has at times shown to be an excellent ‘center fielder’ for the Sooners. If Bowman holds Hudson at bay on Saturday, it will go a long way in convincing both this fanbase and the media that there is real change in this Oklahoma secondary.

Jalil Farooq

Oklahoma put up an impressive 422 receiving yards last weekend, but the name at the bottom of that box score? Jalil Farooq. Farooq was only targeted twice in the season opener and failed to bring in either target, while newcomer Andrel Anthony and redshirt freshmen led the team in yardage. Farooq wasn’t just out there doing cardio; he was a key blocker on several plays, including Drake Stoops’ touchdown on the opening drive.

That said, Farooq was expected to fill the shoes of the departed Marvin Mims. He has the most returning production from last season and the chemistry to become Dillon Gabriel’s go-to target on Saturdays. If anything, week one will likely be an outlier for Farooq, and expect Jeff Lebby to put an emphasis on getting him involved against SMU as the Sooners will want to build up that connection between him and Gabriel before heading into conference play.

Ethan Downs

Visit any message board or podcast, and the main area of concern after Oklahoma’s week one performance is pass rush. Sure, it’s a mostly rebuilt defensive front with several new names out of the transfer portal, but the talent mismatch alone should have been enough to generate pressure against Arkansas State. Against SMU, expect Oklahoma to rely a bit more on experience, and one name that has plenty is junior defensive end Ethan Downs.

Downs, who led the team in tackles-for-loss last season, recorded the only sack on the day. He looks to have added some explosiveness back to his game after trimming down over the off-season, which suggests he will primarily be an edge rusher in Brent Venables’ defense. Oklahoma will need to generate more pressure this week against a talented QB in Preston Stone, and this week it could start with Downs.

Andrew Raym

The senior out of Broken Arrow has started in 18 of his 32 career games as a Sooner and may have put together his best performance to date last weekend. Now, with a lot of these notes, you have to add the caveat that it was Arkansas State, but there are still some positives to take away with Raym. Firstly, Raym is benefiting from his second year under Jerry Schmidt’s strength and conditioning program. There’s no question there. Raym looks the part physically and backed it up last weekend, anchoring an offensive line that kept Dillon Gabriel for most of the day. Secondly, he’s coming off his healthiest off-season yet.

Raym looks to be a more active and involved blocker than we’ve seen in previous seasons. Again, one game doesn’t necessarily signal a big step forward, but if Raym can continue to build off that performance this week against SMU, there’s reason to be excited about what this group can be this season.

Austin Stogner

Stogner was supposed to be the answer to who will replace the now-San Francisco 49er Brayden Willis. However, Stogner recorded no catches or targets last weekend and, in fact, saw less time than Texas A&M transfer Blake Smith. Tight-end depth has been a popular topic amongst Oklahoma writers and podcasters since the beginning of fall camp, and it stands to reason that maybe the usage — or lack thereof — is by design. After all, Stogner wasn’t needed to win against Arkansas State.

Gabriel worked with a clean pocket for a majority of his snaps in the first half, taking deep shots downfield before targeting mostly the flats in the red zone. So it stands to reason that Jeff Lebby found more of a luxury to not have to put one of his biggest targets on film heading into a matchup with SMU. Expect Stogner’s usage to gradually increase starting this week as the Mustangs’ secondary should put up more of a fight than the Red Wolves.