I debated long and hard on where to place the Sooners on my list. The emergence of Trevor Knight in the Sugar Bowl has them in my top 10, but they could be ranked even lower.
OU finished the season 11-2 ending with big wins over in-state rival Oklahoma State and a very impressive 45-31 win over mighty Alabama. OU had big mid season losses to bitter rival Texas, 36-20, and to Baylor, 41-12. To OU’s credit, they pulled it together and finished the season very strong.
OU has a very favorable schedule to run the table. They must get past transitional Texas in Dallas, then they have Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State at home in Norman. They could more than likely win all of their big games and win the Big 12 and earn a playoff spot.
A major strength in 2014 is OU returning 4 out of 5 starters in their OL. They did lose all conference Center Gabe Ikard, which is a big loss.
But, they do return both tackles and both guards. Tackles Tyrus Thompson (6-5,320) and Daryl Williams (6-6,320) are huge and athletic. Guards Adam Shead ( 6-4,310) and Nila Kasitati (6-4,310) are like the 2 tackles in they are huge and quick and very similar in size and ability. Somebody will have to step up at Center and at OU somebody always does. Possibly Ty Darlington (6-3,280) could start here. Feels like OU always lacks depth in the OL but they always seem to pull through with flying colors.
QB was a pleasant surprise in last year’s Sugar Bowl. Actually, more than a pleasant surprise, it was probably a huge shock felt throughout the country.
Trevor Knight ( 6-1,200) looked like super man. On the season, Knight only threw for 819 yards and ran for 445 yards. He did suffer through an injury but should be well for 2014. Knight is fleet afoot and has an adequate arm.
Blake Bell (6-6,265) has moved to TE where he can use his size more effectively. Kendal Thompson will graduate in May and transfer to Utah.
Sophomore Cody Thomas (6-5,210) should be the back up QB and he may be pushed by 4 star recruit Justice Hansen (6-5,200) from nearby Edmond, Oklahoma. In an emergency, maybe Bell could move back to QB.
The Sooners lose Brennan Clay at RB who ran for almost a thousand yards in 2013. Leading candidate for his replacement should be Keith Ford (5-11,205) who had 134 yards in limited playing time as a true freshman.
Alex Ross (6-1,210) is another RB with a chance at starting and David Smith (5-10,205) could also be in the mix.
Watch out for incoming 4 star RB recruit Joe Mixon (6-1,210) out of California and fellow 4 star recruit out of Texas, Samaje Perine (6-0,215). Both of these guys could be big time players for the Sooners. I am thinking Perine could be a lot better than people think and nobody from Pflugerville, Texas should be underestimated.
Receiving positions had some big losses to graduation. However, Sterling Shepard (5-10,190) the son of the late Derrick Shepard is a big play guy at one receiver spot hauling in 51 passes for 7 TDs.
Duron Neal (5-11,200) had 13 receptions and should be a bigger factor this season.
Derrick Woods ( 6-1,190) only caught 2 balls a year ago but had a big catch in the Sugar Bowl that demonstrated what kind of abilities he possesses. Redshirt freshman KJ Young (6-1,175) could make a move as could fellow redshirt freshman Jordan Smallwood (6-2,200) who was forced to redshirt in 2013 because of injury.
Dannon Cavil (6-5,215) also redshirted and has a ton of potential. Slot receiver Austin Bennett (6-0,165) had a couple of receptions in 2013.
Recruits Michiah Quick (6-0,170) , Dallis Todd (6-5,210), Jeffrey Mead (6-5,180) are all highly rated and talented.
The Sooners lost a lot of players at WR, but they have some talent returning and a lot of potential here.
OU didn’t use the TE much last year, but they return Taylor McNamara (6-5,250) after a freshman season where he had a single catch for a whopping 4 yards. Sarcasm aside, Taylor was a highly recruited TE out of San Diego a year ago and is dripping with potential. He should be a big time player for the Sooners before he is done.
As already discussed, former QB Blake Bell is moving to TE. Time will tell if he is a good blocker and can catch the ball, but he certainly has the size and he is an athlete and a very strong runner.
Mark Andrews (6-6,220) and Carson Meier who is also 6-6, 220 are 4 star recruits that may need a little time to beef up.
Maybe the biggest instant help here is one of the top JC TE recruits in the nation, Isaac Ijalana (6-5,255). He already has the size to step in and play.
Defensively, the Sooners return everyone from their front 7 which is bad news for Big 12 offenses. Mike Stoops’ troops struggled a bit mid season but got better as the year went on. Mostly they struggled in the aforementioned Texas and Baylor games.
This defense should be pretty stout in 2014.
The secondary needs a couple of guys to step up quickly.
CB will miss one of the Sooners best players for the last few years, Aaron Colvin. Working to take his place could be Stanvon Taylor (5-11,175) or Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson (6-2,200) and Dakota Austin (5-11,155) who may need more time to gain some muscle.
At the other corner is Zach Sanchez (5-11,170) and he had 2 interceptions a year ago and was 8th on the team in tackles.
L.J. Moore (6-1,170) could be a factor here if needed, or 3 star recruit out of Texas, Marcus Green (6-1,175).
Julian Wilson (6-2,190) returns as the Nickel back and had 3 INTs a year ago. Quinton Hayes (6-0,180) is the returnee at Strong Safety after shagging 2 interceptions and was the team’s third leading tackler.
Free Safety could be Hatari Byrd (6-1,200). Watch out for highly touted recruit out of Jenks, Oklahoma, Steven Parker II (6-2,180). He could challenge for early playing time.
At OLB, Dominique Alexander (6-2,220) was the Big 12 Defensive freshman of the year. He was the team’s second leading tackler.
Frank Shannon (6-1,230) returns at MLB and he led the team in tackles. Eric Striker (6-0,220) has speed to spare coming off the corner at the other OLB spot and he led the team in sacks a year ago with 6.5.
Jordan Evans (6-3,215) played a lot as a freshman.
DE Charles Tapper (6-4,290) was all big 12 as a sophomore and had 5.5 sacks. Tapper recently ran a 4.67 in the 40 and that’s moving for a big man. DE Geneo Grissom (6-4,265) had 3 sacks in the Sugar Bowl and 4 more during the year.
DT Jordan Phillips(6-6,325) is a man monster that injured his back last year and should be back strong with a stronger back. I feel for anyone with back problems.
DT Chuka Ndulue (6-3,275) is in his 3rd year to start and had 2.5 sacks a year ago.
Jordan Wade (6-4,295) is also back and played very well for a true freshman. There are too many Jordan’s on this defense for me to keep straight.
Also, incoming freshmen Courtney Garnett (6-2,280) out of New Orleans and Brandon Glenn (6-4,260) from Irving, Texas should help in the near future.
This Sooner team should be pretty good this year if Trevor Knight is as good as he was in the Sugar Bowl and that was no accident. The team is fairly young across the board and should be good for the next few years.
I like the way Bob Stoops has gone far beyond the state of Texas as his main recruiting area and is bringing talent from California and the Deep South out of SEC territory.
I thought about ranking them higher because they have a favorable schedule and have good talent returning and more coming in.