Season Preview

Inside Carolina begins its annual preview of the Tar Heel season with a look at the 2000 National Champions.

Oklahoma Sooners

Big 12
2000 Record - 13-0, 9-0 Big 12 -  National Champions
Orange Bowl - Oklahoma 13 - Florida State 2
Coach - Bob Stoops 


Key players returning -- OL Frank Romero, RB Quentin Griffin, WR Antwone Savage, WR Ande Woolfork, WR Curtis Fagan.  Overall, six starters return.

Key players lost - QB Josh Heupel - Hybl may be a more physically gifted quarterback, but has huge leadership shoes to fill.  

Star in waiting - RB Jerad Estus.  Redshirt freshman Estus is being hyped as a multi-purpose threat in the Sooner attack, and had a stellar spring.  

Strengths - The skill positions.  Entire wide receiver corps returns which combined for 133 catches for 1,841 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Tight end also returns. Tailback Griffin had 17 rushing touchdowns in 2000.  

Weaknesses - While not a "weakness,"  the offensive line must replace Bubba Buchanan (C- 13 starts), Scott Kempenich, (RT, 12 starts) and Al Baysinger (LG,3 starts).  A couple of Sooner reserve linemen transferred, making depth an issue.  At right tackle, a redshirt freshman, Wes Sims, is slated to start. 


Key players returning - All-American LB Rocky Calmus, SS Roy Williams (First team Big 12 in 2000), CB Derrick Strait.  Six starters return from 2000. 

Key players lost - Orange Bowl MVP LB Torrance Marshall, FS J.T. Thatcher (Led Big 12 in 2000 with 8 INT's)

Star in waiting - Jimmy Wilkerson, whether he plays linebacker or defensive end, as he did in the Orange Bowl.

Strengths - Veterans in each defensive unit.  Two starters return from defensive line, Calmus at linebacker, and two starters in the secondary.

Weaknesses - Very few, but the Sooners will have to replace big play guys from 2000, linebacker Torrance Marshall and free safety J.T. Thatcher.  Cornerback Michael Thompson, who sustained injuries in a May car crash, was one of the team's fastest players. 

Special teams

Seniors (Kicker) Howard Duncan and Jeff Ferguson (punter) return for one of Division 1-A's best combinations.

On balance

Though the Sooners have some concerns on the offensive line, they also have OL/OC coach Mark Mangio who has been here before.  Last year, Oklahoma replaced three starters on the offensive line, including a first round draft pick and the Sooners yielded sacks on only on 3.9% of their passing attempts.  The bigger question is whether Hybl will be able to direct the high-powered Sooner offense at the same level of intensity as did Josh Heupel.  However, loaded with talented skill players, the Sooners should be able to execute Stoop's high octane style. 

It will be interesting to see if the Sooners can duplicate their Number 8 national ranking in pass defense, which is all the more impressive because they replaced all four starters from 1999.  Some observers think that Thatcher's replacement, sophomore Brandon Everage, will be more consistent in pass coverage than was Thatcher, though lacking his big-play knack.   Calmus alone makes the linebacking corps tough.  The defensive line will again be solid against the run.  Over the last three years they have allowed less than 4.0 yards per carry, and last year allowed an average of only  3.1 yards per carry.  They do not get much pass rush from their front four, however.  That might change this year with Bary Holleyman.

This group has one of the best coaches in the nation in Bob Stoops, who returns his entire staff from last year.  They will be brimming with confidence after an undefeated championship season, and will be playing on their own field. 




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