Przybylo: Revisiting OU 11 offense

Some were right. Some were wrong. Revisiting OU preseason offensive predictions.

Back before the season, made a list of who would be the top 11 OU performers on offense. Now that regular season is in the books, time to look back and see how it all shook out.

No. 11 WR Durron Neal/P>

Why he was No. 11: The list was bookended with receivers. Sterling Shepard at No. 1 and Neal at No. 11. The thought was OU needed to have more than just Shepard to have a quality offense and this was going to be a breakout season for Neal.

What he did in 2014: Through the first half of the season, it felt like Neal was turning into a reliable No. 2 threat. But when Shepard went down, Neal never elevated his game where he could become a consistent No. 1 target. Neal dealt with a lot of off the field issues and couldn’t quite put it all together this season. He had 40 catches for 508 yards and three touchdowns.

Verdict: Maybe just right but not a good thing for the Sooners. OU simply didn’t have the offensive explosion that looked like it was going to happen this year. Figured Neal for No. 11 but figured the numbers would be a lot higher.

No 10 RB Joe Mixon

Why he was No. 10: At least one true freshman was going to make an impact for the Sooners in 2014. The easy money was on the five-star running back, who would leapfrog the older guys and show why he was so coveted.

What he did in 2014: Nothing, obviously. Mixon was suspended for the season after being charged for a misdemeanor in an incident off the field. Mixon has stayed at OU and is reportedly doing well in school, but he was not allowed to see the field or practice this season.

Verdict: Whoops. That freshman did make an impact, but it was Samaje Perine, of course. Mixon could become a player, for sure, in 2015, but it won’t be easy with guys like Perine and Keith Ford and Alex Ross to earn those carries.

No. 9 K Michael Hunnicutt

Why he was No. 9: Thought if there was one spot OU wouldn’t have to worry about things it was at kicker with Moneycutt. No doubt he was going to contend for the Lou Groza Award and be a huge reason for OU’s success.

What he did in 2014: The exact opposite. His senior season saw him go from one of the most reliable players to maybe the poster boy of OU’s disappointment. He was 13-of-18 on field goals but missed some crucial kicks against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. OU lost those two games by a combined four points.

Verdict: He’s too high for the list. Never would have thought somebody like Hunnicutt shouldn’t make the final 11, but he really played his way out of contention in the final six games of the season.

No. 8 OT Tyrus Thompson

Why he was No. 8: Still had a lot of questions about his health after his season-ending injury in 2013. If OU was going to have success running the ball, it was going to be in part because Thompson was able to anchor things at left tackle.

What he did in 2014: Delivered and then some. Nobody helped himself more as a senior than Thompson. Off the field, he became one of OU’s best interviews. On the field, he has probably played his way into being drafted in the first or second round of the NFL Draft.

Verdict: He’s too low when it’s all said and done. Thompson was a major bright spot for OU and his story of being married and having two kids was a fun one to tell during the season. He should fare well when it comes time for the draft.

No. 7 OG Dionte Savage

Why he was No. 7: The thought process here was guard Adam Shead wasn’t going to last the whole season so Savage was going to take over and dominate. This season would be his coming out party.

What he did in 2014: He certainly had his moments, but he couldn’t stay healthy enough to make the lasting impression most thought he was capable of doing. Missing out on the record-setting game for Samaje Perine didn’t help his case, either.

Verdict: It’s a little too high with Savage. He’s going to have to show he can stay healthy if he’s ever going to amount to something at the next level.

No. 6 TE Blake Bell

Why he was No. 6: Two lines of thought. One, the transition was going to be really hard for Bell to make from quarterback to tight end so he couldn’t be a top five guy. Two, he’s so talented, though, he would be able to make the transition and make an impact.

What he did in 2014: Hard to argue what Bell did this season. As he has during his entire career at OU, he did everything that was asked of him and never griped about anything. Improved as a blocker, for sure, and finished the season with 15 catches for 213 yards and four touchdowns.

Verdict: It’s about right, and it’s through no fault of Bell’s. He did incredible this season, but the offense still never really featured a tight end no matter how many times it looked like he was open down the middle of the field.

No. 5 OT Daryl Williams

Why he was No. 5: Figured Williams would be the best offensive tackle for the Sooners and make that leap to being one heck of a senior captain.

What he did in 2014: Pretty sure he did just that. Williams had an outstanding season at right tackle and didn’t hurt his draft stock at all. Constantly singled out by the coaching staff for how well he played this season.

Verdict: Maybe too low in the grand scheme of things. Williams, as it turns out, was probably closer to a top three guy than anything else. Heart and soul of OU’s offensive line.

No. 4 RB Keith Ford

Why he was No. 4: One running back was going to separate himself, and it was going to be Ford. He would be the most complete back for what the Sooners wanted to do on offense.

What he did in 2014: At times, he was that. But injuries, fumbling and emergence of Perine stopped Ford from having that breakout season. He finished with 67 carries for 384 yards and five touchdowns and 11 catches and a touchdown as a receiver.

Verdict: Too high. This wasn’t the season Ford became a household name. He’s a solid, quality player but not sure he’s going to be that game-changer going forward.

No. 3 C Ty Darlington

Why he was No. 3: Taking over for Gabe Ikard, Darlington had to make a smooth transition if OU was going to be successful.

What he did in 2014: Played well, but he wasn’t a superstar. Darlington had a few bad snaps and seems poised to become that senior leader on offense next season. This year, though, just a little something was missing.

Verdict: Too high. Nobody would consider Darlington as one of the three best offensive players for the Sooners this season, but he’s definitely not a lost cause.

No. 2 QB Trevor Knight

Why he was No. 2: Because if OU was going to make a real chase for eight, it was going to be because Knight turned in a special season. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

What he did in 2014: He didn’t. Plagued by inconsistent passing and play calling that didn’t feel like it utilized him to the fullest, Knight was part of the problem on offense. An injury Nov. 8 ended his season although he hasn’t been ruled out of the bowl game just yet.

Verdict: Too high. Not a good thing that he’s too high. Maybe next season will be different.

No. 1 WR Sterling Shepard

Why he was No. 1: The one dynamic playmaker for OU, and he was going to show everybody why he was the best receiver in the conference.

What he did in 2014: Shepard was incredible until he got hurt. He was on his way to perhaps a 1,500-yard season before essentially missing the final five games. Still his numbers of 50 catches for 957 yards and five touchdowns was impressive.

Verdict: Just right or maybe No. 2. If you want to say Perine, that’s fine. But for my money, Shepard showed why he was No. 1 this season.

Best pick: None really stand out besides Bell and Shepard.

Worst pick: Hunnicutt and Mixon. Sigh.

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