Sooners Host KU Today

Just one short week ago, the Oklahoma Sooners were the toast of the country.

As top teams fell all around them, Oklahoma rang up Playstation-like numbers on its opposition, scoring seemingly at will while putting games away by halftime. But now, one week later, the Sooners aren’t even the top team in the Big 12, following a 45-35 loss to archrival Texas.

But the Sooners are certainly not devoid of weapons, and they enter Saturday’s game with Kansas as dangerous as ever.

It starts with a Heisman candidate at quarterback. When Sam Bradford (6-foot-4 218 pounds) has time to pass, he’s probably the conference’s top signal caller. So far this season, he’s been able to plant and play catch with his receivers, hitting 72.4 percent of his passes. He’s also on pace for more than 4,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. At the same time, Bradford has just five interceptions this year, with two coming during the Texas game.

Oklahoma has a bevy of talented running backs, starting with versatile athlete DeMarco Murray (6-1 205), who is a threat in both the running and the passing game. Murray has 437 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, with another 122 receiving yards. Chris Brown (5-11 210) is the best short yardage back and complements Murray well. He has 342 yards and six touchdowns this year. Mossis Madu is the third option, and he’s responded with 189 yards and three touchdowns. The Sooners have quality depth beyond those three as well – they boast two freshmen who were among the country’s top runners in high school last year. Matt Clapp (6-3 234) is the fullback, though Brody Eldridge (6-5 265) rotates at both fullback and tight end.

The Sooners like to move the ball downfield in big chunks – each of their top four receiving targets average at least 16.4 yards per catch. Manuel Johnson (6-0 183) leads the team with 553 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, followed by Juaquin Iglesias (6-0 204) with 493 and five. Ryan Broyles (5-11 175) is another big play option out of the slot, while tight end Jermaine Gresham (6-6 261) is one of the country’s best at his position.

Oklahoma has one of the best offensive lines in the country, led by All-America candidates in left tackle Phil Loadholt (6-8 337) and left guard Duke Robinson (6-5 335). Center Jon Cooper will likely compete for All-Big 12 honors as well, while right guard Brandon Walker (6-3 284) and right tackle Trent Williams (6-5 308) are both solid starters.

The Sooner defensive efforts start on the lines, including All-Big 12 candidate Auston English (6-3 253) at defensive end. English and fellow end Jeremy Beal (6-3 253) have combined for 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks so far this year. Adrian Taylor (6-4 295) has started at nose guard with DeMarcus Granger (6-2 302) still recovering from injury. Granger was considered an all-conference level player, and he came back and played against Texas, collecting a tackle for loss. Defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Cory Bennett are quicker, penetrating types. They have 5.5 sacks between the two of them, with McCoy collecting an additional three tackles in the backfield.

The Sooners sustained a huge loss when leading tackler Ryan Reynolds was injured against Texas. The Oklahoma defense wasn’t the same without Reynolds, and later, middle linebacker was later pronounced out for the season. But Oklahoma has had a week to prepare for his absence; and the spot will be filled by Brandon Crow (6-0 228) or Austin Box (6-2 221). WILL linebacker Travis Lewis (6-2 232) has 59 stops on the season, including seven in the backfield. SAM linebacker Keenan Clayton (6-2 220) has 6.5 tackles in the backfield.

If Oklahoma has a weakness defensively, it’s in the secondary, where the Sooners combine an inexperienced cornerback unit with a safety corps that struggles to cover one-on-one. Dominique Franks (6-0 189) may be young, but he could be the conference’s top cover corner by the end of the season. Brian Jackson (6-1 202) plays the boundary cornerback spot opposite Franks. Safety Nic Harris will likely contend for All-Big 12 honors, and he’s basically another linebacker in the lineup. Unfortunately, Harris also covers like a cornerback, which can leave a hole at times. Lendy Holmes (6-1 201) is a decent all-round player.

Kicker Jimmy Stevens hasn’t been used much – he’s taken OU’s only field goal this year, and hit it, from 36 yards out. Punter Mike Knall is averaging 36.8 yards per kick. Iglesias and Murray are the kick returners, with Broyles and Franks handling punt return duties.

Kansas will face its toughest test when it travels into Norman. But that’s not to say that Oklahoma is too good to leave the game with a loss.

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