Last year Sam Bradford had one of the best freshman seasons in college football history when he passed for 3,121 yards and 36 touchdowns, but it was his 176.53 pass efficiency rating that really turned heads. He will enter the 2008 season with whole lot more experience and a veteran group of receivers and linemen clearing the way up front, so it would be categorized as a disappointment if he is not able to at least produce similar results.
Joey Halzle showed that he could be a plausible back up in his mop-up role, and when he filled in for Sam after he went down with an injury in the Texas Tech game. He ended up passing for 454 yards and three touchdowns in nine games of service. By all accounts he has looked pretty strong throughout the pre-season.
The running back spot could be viewed as a three-headed monster, but DeMarco Murray will be the feature back. He brings a certain pizzazz to the table that not many running backs possess. Last year he tied an OU freshman record by scoring 15 touchdowns. He is not a traditional every down back, but rather a player who plays well in space and brings a certain excitement level to the table, whether he is the back field or split out wide.
Chris Brown may be the most under-hyped player on the OU offense. He rushed for 638 yards and nine touchdowns in ‘07. If you were explaining a solid running back, you would describe Chris Brown. He hits the whole hard, and usually hits the right hole, which is half the battle in and of itself. He definitely showed that he is an effective red zone weapon. I expect him to opens some eyes to his overall potential as a premier type of back.
Mossis Madu, Justin Johnson, and Jermie Calhoun should make some semblance of being the third back. Madu will have a hold on the job initially, but in today's press conference Bob Stoops said that he expects Justin Johnson to play. Both Johnson and Madu had an extended look this spring. If the young guys do not red-shirt then the plan would seem to include them earning some action late in games.
Juaquin Iglesias is the man at receiver. He was a little overlooked in '07 by many people throughout the 2007 season, but accounted for 907 yards and five touchdowns. He also led the OU offense with 68 receptions. "Wick" and Bradford clearly have a great feel for one another and they should have plenty of connections again this season.
Manuel Johnson has always been a solid and dependable player during his time at OU, and that is kind of what is expected out of him this year. He should have some nice moments, but if he can do what he is supposed to do away from the ball then things should open up nicely.
Quentin Chaney earned the starting job at receiver after battling back from a disappointing 2007 season where he was held under 200 yards, but he could definitely be a vertical threat down field with his size and speed.
The first guys off the bench will be Ryan Broyles and Adron Tennell. Broyles has been one of the most talked about guys throughout his practices at OU, and many are just waiting to get his first look at him in an actual game. "Pooh" Tennell has had some bad luck so far at OU, but he has had a strong fall camp. It would not surprise me any to see him get a starting job at some point this season. Brandon Caleb, DeJuan Miller, and Jameel Owens could also seem some extended action.
Jermaine Gresham is the real deal. He had what amounted to a breakout season in '07 when he caught 37 passes for 518 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the complete package at the position. He can block well and he is a weapon in the short, intermediate, and long passing game. Not many defenses will have an answer for what he brings to the table.
Brody Eldridge is also the real deal, and it is quite a luxury to have two difference makers at the tight end position. He is an outstanding blocker and a team leader, which was evident when he was nominated as a captain. He not play a huge role to the team's statistical efforts, and you may not hear his number called, but when a big play does go down you can count on the fact that Eldridge played his role.
It is better to talk about this group as whole unit, because that is the way that they have been playing. Jon Cooper provides leadership and steadiness in the middle of the line at center. Phil Loadholt is a prototype tackle. Duke Robinson, Branndon Braxton, and Trent Williams are very versatile and athletic. All three guys can play tackle or guard. Braxton dropped 30 pounds to show his dedication to the program. Brandon Walker may not get as much publicity as some of the other linemen, but he is has been a dependable lineman.
Brian Simmons, Jason Hannan, Stephen Good, Cory Brandon, Ben Habern, Donald Stephenson, and Alex Williams will all be vying for playing time to help hammer down a potential starting spot in 2009. That is some pretty good motivation to be prepared to play well when/if they are inserted in to the lineup.