2004 Oklahoma Sooners Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> Bob Stoops (55-11)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 12-2 (1st place in Big 12 South Division, AP No. 3)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2004 Sugar Bowl (21-14 loss to <A HREF=http://louisianastate.TheInsiders.com>LSU</A>)<br><br><b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 18 Oregon, Oct. 9 Texas, Oct. 16 @Kansas State, Oct. 30 @Oklahoma State, Nov. 6 @Texas A&M, Nov. 14 Nebraska.

Star Power: QB Jason White, WR Mark Clayton, OT Jammal Brown, DE Dan Cody, DT Dusty Dvoracek, LB Lance Mitchell, S Donte Nicholson.

Notable Additions: RB Adrian Peterson, Palestine, Texas; DT Remi Ayodele, NEO JC; Chijioke Onyenegecha, San Francisco CC.

Notable Subtractions: CB Derrick Strait, DT Tommie Harris, LB Teddy Lehman and S Brandon Everage.

Notable Returnees: WR Brandon Jones, WR JeJuan Rankins, WR Will Peoples, FB J.D. Runnels, RB Kejuan Jones, OL Wes Sims, OL Kelvin Chaisson, OL Davin Joseph, OL Vince Carter, FS Brodney Pool, LB Gayron Allen.

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04Bowling Green
09/11/04Houston
09/18/04Oregon
10/02/04Texas Tech
10/09/04Texas
10/16/04@Kansas State
10/23/04Kansas
10/30/04@Oklahoma State
11/06/04@Texas A&M
11/13/04Nebraska
11/20/04@Baylor
Offensive Overview: Heisman trophy quarterback Jason White and wide receiver Mark Clayton are back, and so are eight other starters from an offensive unit that ranked third nationally in scoring offense at 42.9 points per game last season. Junior running back Kejuan Jones returns after rushing for 925 yards a year ago, but all eyes will be on true freshman running back Adrian Peterson during two-a-days. He arrived on campus in early June to get an early start learning OU's system and the word from Norman is that the Texas native already has the size, speed and game-breaking ability needed to take the Sooner running game and offense to another level. The only question is how quickly can he learn the offense and most importantly, the blocking schemes and techniques, needed to protect White in passing situations? However, OU's running backs will have plenty of help as the Sooners return all five starters on the offensvie line.

Defensive Overview: Is it really possible that the major question mark facing a Bob Stoops coached team is the defense? Sure, the Sooners don't have six starters from last year's defense, including Outland winner Tommie Harris, Butkus winner Teddy Lehman, Thorpe winner Derrick Strait and co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops (now head coach at Arizona), but don't expect Oklahoma's defense to drop off much in 2004, if at all. More than capable replacements are waiting in the wings and that includes on the coaching staff, where former Nebraska defensive coordinator Bo Pelini replaces Mike Stoops. Senior linebacker Lance Mitchell, who led the team in tackles last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, returns to fill the gap left by Lehman. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who actually recorded more tackles and sacks than Harris a year ago, is a star in the making and junior safety Brodney Pool is finally ready to step into a full-time starting role at safety to ease the departure of Brandon Everage. Pool led the Sooners with seven interceptions last season. The only major question mark heading into two-a-days is who will replace Derrick Strait at cornerback?

Special Teams Overview: Don't look here for a weakness. The Sooners return kicker Trey DiCarlo, punter Blake Ferguson and punt returner Antonio Perkins. The senior cornerback set NCAA records a year ago for touchdown returns in one game (3) and punt return yards in a game (277) last season against UCLA. He is also one punt return TD shy of the tying the NCAA career mark of eight, set by Texas Tech receiver Wes Welker.

The Sooners can win the Big 12 title if... they can find a suitable replacement for Strait at cornerback and develop a more consistent rushing attack. There are plenty of candidates to replace Strait, including former junior college All-American Chijioke Onyenegecha, juniors Eric Bassey and Jowahn Poteat as well as true freshman Marcus Walker. Yet the jury is still out as to just how well they will be able to fill the shoes of the former four-year starter. As for the running game, Oklahoma ran just enough to keep the defenses honest, except in their two losses to Kansas State and Louisiana State. The Sooners averaged 146.7 yards per game, but only mustered 83 yards on the ground against the Wildcats in the Big 12 title game and 52 against the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl.

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