Expectations are high for Oklahoma in 2014 coming off a strong finish to the 2013 season. A lot of key parts have moved on, making way for new names to take their place.
With spring practice beginning this weekend, Sooners Illustrated is looking at five names to watch on offense this next month.
It's a whole different world for Knight heading into this spring compared to last year. He's no longer a question mark in regards to where he stands with the team and the depth chart. Unless something drastic happens in the coming months, this is Knight's team. No longer looking over his shoulder, he's the guy. And all the pressure and expectation that comes with being the guy. He handled everything incredibly well as a redshirt freshman. These few weeks could go a long way toward seeing what Knight's mindset will be going forward.
Ford got the best kind of learning last season having to sit behind a trio of incredibly talented senior running backs. The door is wide open for Ford to bust through and become the guy. Two highly regarded freshmen will be coming in the summer, but the spring should be all about Ford and sophomore Alex Ross. Ford suffered an injury last season and had issues holding onto the ball. Pretty clear at OU that if put it on the ground, you're going to be riding the bench. A big-time explosive talent, Ford no doubt can be the future for OU at the position.
When the Class of 2012 was finalized, one of the more fun debates was who would make a bigger impact between wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal. Heading into 2014, Shepard is the runaway winner. It hasn't been smooth sailing for Neal, but this is his opportunity. Shepard and Neal remain the best of friends off the field and OU fans would like nothing more for them to become a one-two combo on the field. Ever since the Sugar Bowl, all Neal has talked about is showing what he can do.
You never know how things are going to work out. Darlington earned a lot of quality time as a freshman and was expected to do the same as a sophomore. But senior Gabe Ikard stayed healthy throughout the season and Darlington's limited number of reps erased his sophomore season. Darlington, a 4.0 GPA student like Ikard, is no doubt OU's answer at center for the next two seasons. The question will be whether or not he becomes the leader Ikard was for the Sooners.
Is it a waste of a year if you make the biggest splash in the biggest game of the season? Savage was nowhere to be found until making the start at offensive guard in the Sugar Bowl. With his incredible size, nobody doubts what Savage can do. And now with a full year of teaching under Bill Bedenbaugh, it will be a chance to see how much improvement he has made.