Big 12 Preview: Oklahoma

In conjunction with the Big 12 Football Media Days being held this week in Houston, Go Pokes will be publishing previews on each of the conference's schools.

Oklahoma Sooners
vs. OSU, Nov. 26, at Norman
Head coach: Bob Stoops (7th year)
2004 record: 12-1, 8-0 in Big 12

Rebuild or reload? That will be the main question for the Sooners this season after being badly outplayed by USC in last season's national championship game. The bad news for Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is that 15 starters, 10 of which were taken in April's NFL Draft, are gone. The good news is that the cupboard is still full with four consecutive Top 10 recruiting classes waiting in the wings.

Offensively, the Sooners are without seven starters, including 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, offensive linemen Jammal Brown, Wes Sims and Vince Carter, and receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Bradley. Oklahoma does return one major piece to build next year's offense around in Adrian Peterson, last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, who earned first-team All-American honors after rushing for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns during his freshman campaign. In addition to Peterson, underappreciated fullback J.D. Runnels, tight end James Moses and offensive tackle Davin Joseph return this season.

The Sooners' most glaring unknown is who will replace White at quarterback? It appears to be a two-horse race between junior Paul Thompson and highly touted redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar. Bomar was impressive in the first two major scrimmages of spring practice, leading the first team offense on scoring drives in both, but struggled in the spring game with two interceptions. Thompson didn't outplay Bomar in the first two scrimmages, but did have the better spring game with a touchdown pass against the first team defense.

On the offensive line, the Sooners are somewhat inexperienced, but the unit is hardly young. When all is said and done, there could be as many as four seniors who have had previous starting experience in the rotation. Stung by the graduation loss of Clayton, a first-round pick in the NFL draft, and trio of other receivers, the Sooners' top receivers this season will be Travis Wilson and Jejuan Rankins. Joining Wilson and Rankins will be talented redshirt freshmen Lendy Holmes, Quentin Chaney and Fred Strong, plus highly recruited incoming freshmen Eric Huggins and Malcolm Kelly.

Defensively, Oklahoma returns only four starters, but they will welcome the return of defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, and several key backups with major playing experience from a year ago. Dvoracek, who was dismissed from the team last season before OU's third game, was a consensus All-Big 12 first-team selection in 2003 and dominated the spring with six sacks in three scrimmages. Joining Dvoracek at defensive tackle to form a solid unit up the middle, is sophomore Carl Pendleton, a starter in 2004, senior Remi Ayodele, sophomore Steven Coleman, redshirt freshman Cory Bennett and five-star recruit DeMarcus Granger.

At defensive end and linebacker, the Sooners return a host of players with experience. Junior Larry Birdine had six sacks last year, despite being a second-team defensive end. Linebackers Rufus Alexander and Clint Ingram were third and fifth on the team last year in tackles.

The OU secondary will have a totally new look this year. Gone are starting safeties Donte Nicholson and Brodney Pool, along with starting corner Antonio Perkins. The lone returning starter is sophomore Marcus Walker, who started only four games. Chijioke Onyenegecha, a former junior college All-American who came to Norman with high hopes, was a starter at the end of spring and could be a major difference maker at the other corner spot, should he realize his potential after an up-and-down junior season. At safety, the Sooners have several youngsters who have been waiting their turn behind Pool and Nicholson in sophomores Darrien Williams and Tony Cade and junior Jason Carter.

Also gone is defensive back coach Bo Pelini, who left in the off-season to become LSU's defensive coordinator. Replacing Pelini is longtime OU assistant Bobby Jack Wright, who plans to re-install the secondary schemes that brought the Sooners success under former defensive back coach Mike Stoops.

GoPokes Top Stories