Spring preview: offensive breakdown

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners are set to open up spring football this weekend, and Sooners Illustrated breaks down what things look like on the offensive side of the ball.


The most interesting battle anywhere on the field finally comes at the signal caller spot, where there has been little to no doubt over the last few years. It was Landry Jones' job coming into the season for three straight years. Before that, Sam Bradford held the post heading into the year for three consecutive seasons. This time around it's quite different. Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson are fighting it out, with Bell and Knight figuring to be in a dead heat and Thompson slightly behind but still in it nonetheless. Bell's experience in the Belldozer package could give him a leg up, but Knight turned heads on scout team last fall as the player of the year and Thompson is an elusive option that thrives with his escapability. Expect this battle to last into fall camp.

Running back/fullback:

Good news here, as the Sooners return their two leading rushers from 2012 in Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. Williams led the team, netting 946 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Clay added 555 yards and finally broke out en route to notching six touchdowns, the most famous of which was a Bedlam overtime scamper for the walk-off win. In comes Alex Ross to the fray after redshirting. They'll unleash him, and Roy Finch is back for his senior season. Also, fullback Trey Millard elected to stay and play his senior season at OU, which is huge for OU's rushing attack. He managed 199 yards and also caught 30 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns a season ago.

Wide receiver:

Another position outside of quarterback that loses a lot of productivity is the receiving corps. Veterans Kenny Stills and Justin Brown exit, but Jalen Saunders remains. He finished as the third leading receiver for the Sooners last season, catching 62 passes for 829 yards and three touchdowns. Sterling Shepard, who caught 45 balls for 621 yards and an equal number of touchdowns, is also expected to play a pivotal role. Head coach Bob Stoops expects Durron Neal to step up and Trey Metoyer to materialize after somewhat slumping through his freshman season more than people thought he would. Jaz Reynolds will return off his season-long suspension, and another scout team player of the year, Derrick Woods, gets into the mix. True freshman Dannon Cavil has arrived as an early enrollee and could play an inside receiver/tight end role for the Sooners.

Offensive line:

These guys will make it easy for whoever earns the starting quarterback job to settle in. It's an experience unit that returns four out of five starters outside of left tackle Lane Johnson. Expect Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson to serve as the two tackles under new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. The Sooners have options inside and can run with a unit of guards Bronson Irwin and Gabe Ikard, with Ty Darlington at center, or Bronson Irwin and Adam Shead at guard, with Ikard in at center. Tyler Evans is also healthy off his torn ACL and good to go this spring. There's some good players and a talented unit here.

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