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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #11-Oklahoma

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 8, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#11 Oklahoma Sooners

 

2012 Recap:

It was a very good season for Oklahoma but not spectacular as Oklahoma went 10-3 and lost in the Cotton Bowl to Texas A&M.  The defense really struggled especially stopping the run, so Oklahoma was involved in a few more shootouts than they wanted.

 

Coaching:

Bob Stoops has been one of the most consistent coaches at the FBS level in the 14 years he has been at the helm and compiled a 149-37 career record. There was a lot of turnover on defense and the quarterback position is a bit unsettled for the first time in years but Oklahoma will be right in the thick of the Big 12 race like they are each and every year.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Oklahoma has yet to make a decision on who the quarterback will be to open the season. This was a three-man battle but with Kendal Thompson suffering a broken foot the competition is now down to a pair. Trevor Knight is a redshirt freshman and he is in a battle with the “Belldozer” Blake Bell. Bell served as the backup a season ago and was used exclusively in short yardage and goal line situations. Bell was 9-17 for just under 200 yards and he rushed for 201 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bell is an intriguing prospect due to his 6’6” 265 pound frame and I have him listed as a 4th round prospect for 2015 and this is of course assuming he wins the starting job.

While the quarterback position is important, it will not be the focal point of the offense and it shouldn’t when you have someone like Damien Williams running the football and coming back for his senior season. Williams ran for 946 yards and also caught an additional 34 passes, showing that he can do more than just run the football. I have Williams listed as a 5th round selection for the 2014 draft but it will be another member of the backfield that I believe will go higher. Trey Millard is 6’2” 260 pounds and is a hybrid fullback/tight end and I currently have him listed as a 3rd round prospect. Millard averaged 6.0 YPC last season along with 30 pass receptions and 4 touchdowns. Milliard is the definition of offensive balance as he continues to prove he is the best fullback at the FBS level.

Best Draft Prospect: Trey Millard FB 4th Round 2014, Blake Bell QB 4th Round 2015.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Jalen Saunders is back to improve upon the 829 receiving yards he picked up last year in only 9 games. Saunders was third on the team in receiving behind Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, but both are now gone. Saunders doesn’t seem to let his size hinder him either. He needs to gain 10-15 pounds of muscle before moving on to the NFL level where I have him ranked as a third round prospect. Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard are the other wide receivers for Oklahoma, and between them they posted 62 catches a season ago. Shepard is another player who will be on an NFL team but he is only a sophomore and has plenty of time to develop. Oklahoma receivers are always coveted in NFL circles because the value of blocking is put at a high premium in the Oklahoma spread offense, so the Sooner receivers are already ahead of the curve when they enter the NFL. As stated above Trey Millard will factor heavily into the passing game and will likely become a favorite target in the red zone for whichever Sooner quarterback that is starting.

Best Draft Prospect: Jalen Saunders WR 3rd Round 2014.

 

Offensive Line:

The big uglies at Oklahoma are back. Offensive linemen is what this school has been known for producing in the past and this season is no different. Four of the five lineman from last season are back and led by All-Conference center Gabe Ikard, who could just be the best center in the country not named Travis Swanson (Arkansas). Ikard will be a 4th-6th round selection, but the highest draft pick on the line is Daryl Williams. He continues the values and traditions of huge lineman at Oklahoma that are more mobile than many others seem to give them credit for. The Sooners have plenty of experience at the guard position with senior Bronson Irwin and junior Adam Shead. Tackle Tyrus Thompson is the only lineman that will be new to the starting lineup but he has seen a bevy of action and this will not be completely new for him. Not only is the line the strength of this Oklahoma team, it is the best line in the entire conference. With a big year Williams could improve his draft stock and possibly seek early entrance into the draft for the 2014 class.

Best Draft Prospect: Daryl Williams OT 3rd Round 2015.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

There is cause for concern on defense as the team did not perform well last year and only four starters are back for 2013. Chuka Ndule is the only player back along the line and he is the person I have listed as the top prospect carrying a 6th round grade for next season. Ndule plays defensive tackle but at 265 pounds he is the perfect s size for an end at the NFL level. Ndule led the team with 5 sacks last year, and the Sooners only had 25 as a team, their lowest output in nearly 20 years. Chaz Nelson, Quincy Russell and Charles Tapper are the other starters and they all have little to no experience. Jordan Phillips and Geneo Grissom seem to be the best prospects for Oklahoma that are riding the pine and will serve as the top defensive backups. Oklahoma will have to improve on the sack totals from a year ago or it will be another subpar defensive campaign and Oklahoma will have to rely heavily on outscoring the other team.

Best Draft Prospect: Chuka Ndule DE 6th Round 2015.

                       

Linebackers:

Oklahoma utilizes a rover in the secondary in most formations and will only use 2 linebackers for about 80% of their snaps. Corey Nelson is a returning starter and he should improve upon a campaign where he suffered through many missed tackles. Frank Shannon is a sophomore and will be the other starting linebacker and one who I think has a brighter future than Nelson. Shannon had 40 tackles in relief at both positions as a freshman and he is an all-around player who can drop back in coverage, tackle and shoot the gaps to stop the run as well as rush the quarterback. Aaron Franklin saw action in nearly every game last year and Eric Striker was a freshman who primarily played special teams. The front seven for Oklahoma is a mess as there are questions at nearly every position.

Best Draft Prospect: Corey Nelson 6th Round 2014.

 

Secondary:

There are some question marks in the secondary although this is the strongest area on defense for the Sooners. Aaron Colvin is an absolute monster and may be the most gifted natural athlete in the FBS. Colvin has some lapses when it comes to technique and tends to rely on his natural ability too much. Colvin had 61 stops with 2 sacks, 4 interceptions and 15 pass breakups. Colvin should be a preseason All-American and will be in nearly every preseason award watch list. Colvin has a chance to slip into the bottom half of the first round but it remains to be seen how much work he will get. I can see teams avoiding his side of the field and picking on the inexperienced players. Cortez Johnson is the other starting cornerback. He is very very raw but has amazing closing speed and uses his hands well, being physical and jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. Gabe Lynn is also back at the free safety position and is coming off a 37 tackle season. That may seem a bit low, but to be fair he was hampered with some nagging leg and hamstring problems for much of the season. The other players will have to step up because teams will have the luxury of simply avoiding Colvin, so the secondary must remain disciplined and avoid injury for success.

Best Draft Prospect: Aaron Colvin CB 2nd Round 2014.

 

Special Teams:

Jalen Sanders is an excellent return man as he always seems to pick the right lane when making a turn. The real gem here on special teams is kicker Michael Hunnicutt who nailed a few long field goals last year and went 17-21 overall. Hunnicutt looks like a definite kicking prospect for 2015 when he becomes draft eligible. Jed Barnett is the new punter and a transfer so we have no idea what to expect at this time.

Best Draft Prospect: Michael Hunnicutt K 6th Round 2015.

 

Schedule:

The first three games are very favorable and the next three…ouch. The games are at Notre Dame, home against TCU and then the Red River game against nemesis Texas. Oklahoma then closes out the schedule with a pair of road games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. This is not an easy schedule and Oklahoma will have to stay on top of their game if they want to contend for the Big 12 title.

 

Draft Outlook:

Aaron Colvin is a prospect that I will be keeping a close eye on as he has a chance to play himself into the first round due to his althetic ability. There are more weapons on offense versus defense which is a bit unusual. No matter how good or bad the team will be in 2013 you always have to pay attention to Oklahoma athletes because there will be a number of elite athletes that can go between the 1st and 4th rounds.

 

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