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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #8 Oklahoma

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 24, 2017

#8 Oklahoma Sooners

2016 Recap:
Oklahoma opened the year 1-2 after losses to Houston and Ohio State and both games weren't very close. Cries for the head of Bob Stoops were everywhere...had he lost his edge? All Oklahoma did after that was win 10 consecutive games capped with a victory over Auburn in the Orange Bowl to go 11-2.


Coaching:
This is where things get a little unpredictable as Bob Stoops would up retiring in June. The reigns have been passed to 33-year old Lincoln Riley. Riley spent two years as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and was the quarterbacks coach. Riley now ascends to the top spot with Bill Bedenbaugh and Cale Gundy serving as Co-Offensive Coordinators with Mike Stoops staying on staff as the Defensive Coordinator.

 

Offense

Baker Mayfield is back for his third year as the starting quarterback for the Sooners. Mayfield is coming off a season where he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns (with only 8 interceptions for an impressive 5/1 TD/INT ratio). The Sooners have now lost Sterling Shepherd and Dede Westbrook to the NFL in back-to-back season and the best remaining target is big Mark Andrews. The tight end could be the top tight end in this draft class if he declares as he currently looks the part of  #1 pick. The Sooners may start the year with a running back by committee approach with Rodney Anderson looking like the eventual favorite to start over Abdul Adams. The entire offensive line returns in what is not only the best offensive line in the Big 12 but likely the entire FBS. Orlando Brown and Bobby Evans will lead the stellar group into the season.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Mark Andrews TE 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate).

                                       Orlando Brown OT 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate).


Defense

Gone are the days of the dominating defenses when Barry Switzer was at the helm. In the wide open Big 12 this defense will be one of the better units but the overall rankings are always deceptive due to the amount of immense talent on this side of the ball. The front seven is loaded with athletes but they have had to reload and replace a lot of familiar faces so inexperience is a concern. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is the only returning starter among the front seven at outside linebacker. Big things are expected inside from sophomore Neville Gallimore and another outside linebacker Caleb Kelly. The pass defense ranked 111th overall last year but with Steven Parker and Jordan Thomas leading the way this unit easily has the experience needed to make big plays.

Best Draft Prospects: Steven Parker S 2nd Round 2018.               

                                       Jordan Thomas CB 2nd Round 2018.


Special Teams:

The return game for Oklahoma is a bit muddled as Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook are not exactly easy to replace. The only thing known is Austin Seibert is back to perform double duty on field goals and punting once again. Consistency has been an issue but Seibert is more than adequate in both areas.


Schedule:

Oklahoma took a beating against Ohio State last year in Norman, now they get to comeplete the home-and-home set by traveling to Columbus in week 2. Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are all road tests so this is far from being a "gimmie" schedule for the Sooners.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

Naturally the draft talent is off the charts as we could see 4-5 first round picks over the next two years coming out of Norman. It will be hard to say how the overall outlook will be as we have yet to see Lincoln Riley perform as a head coach. The fact that most of the staff remains with a little shuffling around should make things easier on the players..

 

DJ Boyer