White's Return Won't Diffuse Hype

Kansas City, MO -- Not surprisingly the top-ranked team in the country by several services, Oklahoma enters the season with very few question marks. But one could be quarterback, where Jason White comes off a knee injury that ended his 2002 campaign almost before it started.

So the question begs, can the Sooners follow through on their preseason hype and win a national championship with an unproven signal caller? Look no further than OU's championship season of 2000 for an example, says head coach Bobby Stoops. Josh Heupel entered the year without much attention and ended up leading a squad that went undefeated and beat Florida State in the title game.

"It's been proven time and time again that you can win championships without having the best quarterback in the league or in the country," said Stoops on Wednesday at the Big 12 Media Days. "I believe when we went into 2000 and won the national championship none of you were bragging about Josh Heupel. I bet Ohio State probably proved that a year ago, too. Miami, maybe, if you look at Ken Dorsey. He wasn't a high draft pick in the NFL.

"It's about great game management, being smart and sharp with the football, knowing your offense and moving the football. There are a lot of ways of winning and it takes more than a quarterback to win a championship."

White appeared poised for a breakout in 2002, but a torn knee ligament in the opener against Alabama sent him to the sidelines and handed Nate Hybl the job. Now, the graduated Hybl is the quarterback White replaces in the lineup.

Expect White to be ready for the challenge…if he can only stay healthy. He has completed 94-for-149 passes for 871 yards and six touchdowns in 14 career games in an injury-plagued career that has seen him tear ligaments in both knees.

"I think I learned a lot from my first surgery and what I could still do when I was hurt," said White. "I tried to stay more fit throughout the whole process so I'd be ready to go. I feel like I'm just as capable as I used to do before the injury."

Team notes

White figures to have plenty of weapons around him. The Sooners return Will Peoples and Mark Clayton to the receiving corps, along with promising junior Brandon Jones. Although Quentin Griffin is off to the NFL, OU will use the tandem of Kejuan Jones (over 600 yards in part-time role last fall) and Renaldo Works.

Stoops responded to questions concerning his team's preseason ranking of number one, saying it didn't matter where his team opens the season.

"We're not interested in winning that approval through August. Even if they called off the season right now, I'd be unhappy. We want to go play and earn it when it counts. Hopefully we can do that. Our team is looking forward to the challenge."

Athlon Sports, Dave Campbell's Texas Football, Football Digest, Jim Feist's College Football, CBS Sportsline, ESPN, Lindy's Football and Street & Smith's are among the publications handing OU a number one preseason ranking.

This year's Sooner defense, which could be one of the best college football has seen in recent years, should not be overlooked. They are absolutely loaded with the likes of Tommie Harris, the linebacking trio of Teddy Lehman, Lance Mitchell and Pasha Jackson and cornerback Derrick Strait returning.

So, are there any weaknesses on this unit? Stoops doesn't think so.

"I don't what they'd be," Stoops said. "But you still have to make it happen on the field when it counts and not just sit around talking about it."

(CN would like to thank The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston for sponsoring our coverage from Kansas City. CN & The Nest would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, August 27th for our 2003 preseason tailgate party. Stay tuned to CN and 1460-KXNO for more details)


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