Oklahoma is halfway through the regular season. The 4-2 record is not what fans were hoping at this point of the season, but the Sooners appear to be getting back on track as winners of their last three games.
It’s the midway point, which means it’s time to evaluate how OU has fared in the first half of the season. Sooners Illustrated will examine the offense, defense and special teams all this week.
MVP: WR Dede Westbrook
Understand most of the production has only been done in the last three weeks but also understand it’s some unprecedented production going on right now in Norman. For the season, Westbrook has 43 catches for 728 yards and eight touchdowns with all eight touchdowns occurring during Big 12 conference play. He’s just bringing that missing element from OU’s offense during the non-conference part of the schedule. You need a home run threat when you have a quarterback as confident to go deep as Baker Mayfield. Now he has that guy he wants to test defenses with, and it’s paying off in spades for Westbrook. For all the talk of his speed, thought Bob Stoops made a great point in saying it’s Westbrook’s route running that is contributing a lot to the success.
Breakout performer: OG Ben Powers
Say it all the time that you have to be ready when your number is called. Powers was. With injuries to Jonathan Alvarez and Cody Ford, you saw Erick Wren go to center and Powers become the man for the Sooners at left guard. It has worked much better than most people ever would have thought. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley had a weird way of praising Powers saying he doesn’t look all that big and strong when you see him, but he’s a tougher player on the field. That’s obviously better than looking the part and not playing it. Powers was a late juco find for the 2016 class and has two more years of eligibility after this season so the interior looks pretty set for the Sooners.
Biggest surprise: Offensive line consistency
Even in losses to Houston and Ohio State, Riley and Bob Stoops were quick to point out the offensive line played pretty dang well. And they have. Bill Bedenbaugh now coaching his guys he recruited to Norman, has got this group humming right now. Injuries? So what, next man up comes in and does the job. Rotating between guard and tackle for Dru Samia? No problem. Relying on redshirt freshman Bobby Evans at right tackle? Made the right call. The quintet right now of Orlando Brown, Powers, Wren, Samia and Evans has been sensational for OU. The Sooners are averaging 525 yards per game (323 passing, 202 rushing). Can’t ask for much more than that.
What to watch: Running back depth
Ruh roh. OU started the season with five scholarship running backs. Then Rodney Anderson suffered a season-ending neck injury. Then Daniel Brooks retired because of concussions. Now Samaje Perine is going to be out at least 2-3 weeks with a slightly pulled muscle. All that is left is Joe Mixon and true freshman Abdul Adams. Just like that. Mixon is the one to really watch because he hasn’t shown the ability to be a No. 1 guy just yet. It’s a different mindset than being the guy who sees some action compared to being that workhorse. And he’ll have to be that workhorse until Adams shows he can be as consistent as possible at the spot. Running is fine. It’s the blitz pickup and pass protection assignments that will be worth watching when it comes to Adams. OU doesn’t really have a bag of tricks to go into at running back so staying healthy will be paramount.