The non-conference season is in the rear-view mirror, and now it’s time for nine-straight games (no bye weeks) as Oklahoma trudges its way through the Big 12 season. Over the next three days, Sooners Illustrated’s Justin Hite will take a look at what we’ve learned about Oklahoma, what we still need to find out and who some of the top performers have been.
It finishes with special teams.
Punting - A-
When freshman Austin Seibert got the job to do both kick field goals and punt, there was some hesitation. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had never relied on a freshman to do both jobs during his time with the Sooners.
If it’s been tough, Seibert hasn’t showed it. Punting-wise: He’s placed six of his 16 punts inside the 20-yard line (with one touchback) and gotten fair catch on 50 percent. His 45.8-yard average is just solid – not great but solid.
Not much more you can ask for from a kicking game than a 100-percent make rate and 12 touchbacks on 21 kicks – with a net yardage of more than 40.
Nick Hodgson and Seibert have been excellent.
Return game - C-
There’s nothing to see here. Sterling Shepard has been better as a punt return, actually much better, this season. He’s averaging 10 yards per return on nine tries when last year he finished the season with 11 – and an average of 6.6 yards.
Still, he’s made a lot of bad decisions.
And wait, has anyone seen Alex Ross yet? He’s averaging 13.8 yards per return – nine tries. His long of 18 yards this year is 13 yards shy of his average from last year.
Best player - Seibert’s been the best special teams contributor, really no question. Hodgson has been really good, too.
Needs-improvement player - No really, has anyone found the player formerly known as Alex Ross. Blocking has something to do with it, but he’s been a pretty consistent no-show through the first three games.
Biggest surprise - Knew Seibert would be good. Didn’t know he’d be this good, this early.
What needs to change? - Shepard needs to clean up the punt return. He’s had a few big ones called back, but if he can just improve his decision-making, then Oklahoma will have a pretty skilled punt-return unit.
What needs to stay the same? - Seibert needs to keep making kicks – keep doing what he’s doing.