During the next two weeks, Sooners Illustrated will look back on the 2015 Oklahoma football season: Evaluating each possession group, recapping key moments, reliving the biggest surprises and assigning an overall grade for the year.
We’ll start with quarterback play and end with the kicking game.
Summary: Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson weren’t just cornerstones of the offensive line or the offense last year, they were cornerstones of the Oklahoma program during their long careers. Replacing them was going to be a tough task – one made even tougher when Kenyon Frison was suspended from the team and eventually kicked off altogether. The Sooners didn’t have a clear replacement before the start of camp, but redshirt freshman Orlando Brown became the obvious choice by the season opener against Akron. True freshman Dru Samia started alongside Brown in the opener – the first time in program history that two freshman started in a season opener. Josiah St. John stepped in briefly, but Oklahoma really hit its stride when it went young and trusted its freshman combo.
Best player: Brown was the best tackle Oklahoma had this season, and moving forward, there’s a good chance he remains the Sooners’ best offensive tackle for the next three years – or as long as he wants to stick around. Brown had a nasty streak and sometimes it got the best of him, resulting in drive-killing personal fouls. Although, Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has made a point of saying that you can teach nasty. Williams had it. Thompson had it. All of the great Oklahoma tackles have had it. And so does Brown.
Biggest surprise: Samia might have been the only person that expected him to make an impact for Oklahoma as soon as he did – let alone in the season opener. Bedenbaugh said he hasn’t seen a lineman grasp the game mentally the way Samia did in his freshman year. Samia isn’t a giant on the field but has excelled because of his willingness to prepare by watching tape and self-scouting himself all season. It was hard to imagine Oklahoma playing without Samia near the end of the season.
Best moment: With every tipped play against Texas by St. John, Oklahoma’s tackle situation became more and more of a problem. That was until the Sooners threw in the towel on veterans and went with the freshman duo full time. Whether it was a vote of confidence for Brown and Samia or a lack of better options, it fueled the resurgence in the Sooners’ run game. Oklahoma rushed for at least 230 yards in each of its final seven games of the regular season. From there, Samia and Brown turned into a formidable tandem.
Biggest weakness: Oklahoma biggest weakness from last season will be the offensive tackle position’s biggest strength moving forward. The group was inexperienced this past year but has a lot of room to grow. There were times this season when the youth shined through – missed blitz pick-ups and bad communication. But Sami and Brown will learn. In all likelihood, they have made all of their freshman mistakes. They should be together for another three years or so. That’s the whole point of a baptism by fire. It hurts when it happens, but it makes teams and players drastically better very quickly.
Final grade: B