Oklahoma Sooners: Inside Slant

See what The Sports Xchange has to say about the upcoming season that begins this weekend in Norman.


Here begins No. 7 Oklahoma's quest for an eighth national championship. Bob Stoops has coached the Sooners to four national title games, beating Florida State for the 2000 crown, but losing to LSU in 2003, USC in 2004 and Florida in 2008.

But the little secret about this season, one that hasn't caught on among too many folks -- preseason magazine impresario Phil Steele aside -- is it really could happen for OU.

The Sooners lost five games last season, four of them by a touchdown or less, three of them by a combined five points. And amid a season of disappointment and injury, the one saving grace was all the experience so many Sooners received under fire. For this was to be OU's rebuilding season. Instead, it happened on the fly last season, the result of historically awful luck.

Quarterback Landry Jones grew up before everybody's eye. Against a backdrop of too many losses for too many people to notice, Ryan Broyles may have had the best season ever (89 catches, 13 touchdowns) by a Sooner receiver and DeMarco Murray ran and caught for 1,227 yards while splitting time with Chris Brown. All those guys aside from Brown are back.

Meanwhile, but for one game at Texas Tech, OU's defense was very good, while many very good players, even All-American type players -- DE Jeremy Beal; LB Travis Lewis -- are back.

Question marks remain, making what will happen anybody's guess. Still, what could happen is enough to make Sooner fans' heads spin.

For the first time since 2007, the Sooners enter the season coming off a Bowl victory. Spring practice was positive. Preseason drills have been as well.

Every season Sooner fans believe this year's the year. But this time around, such fans who engage in such talk have many legs to stand on.

It might be the year.

You never know.


--Several true freshmen will be seeing a great deal of playing time. Kenny Stills is atop the depth chart at the wide receiver spot opposite Cameron Kenney; Brennan Clay and Trey Franks figure to be the two deep Sooners Utah State will see when it kicks off; Trey Millard is OU's starting fullback in the formations that use a fullback; and Aaron Colvin is the No. 2 field CB behind Demontre Hurst, though Bob Stoops said Tuesday Colvin would definitely play Saturday.

--Senior DE Adrian Taylor suffered one of those injuries it hurts to watch when he broke an ankle at last year's Sun Bowl. Amid speculation the Sooners would be happy to have him back in time for the Texas game, it was announced Tuesday Taylor would play around 15 to 20 snaps against Utah State, making his comeback, perhaps, the feel-good story of the preseason.

--Bob Stoops was asked on the Dan Patrick radio show Tuesday if there was anything quarterback Landry Jones was better at than outgoing Sooner quarterback Sam Bradford. "Grow a mustache," was Stoops' reply. Later Tuesday, Stoops gushed about Jones, making the point how unfair it is to compare Jones with Bradford.

SERIES HISTORY: Oklahoma leads 4-0 (last meeting, 2007, Oklahoma 54-3).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The possibilities are endless and the question marks familiar. Landry Jones is coming off a very good but inconsistent season, one in which he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, while being intercepted 14 times. DeMarco Murray is an electric running back who can catch the ball and Ryan Broyles might be the best receiver in the nation. The offensive line, however, finally deep and healthy, remains very unproven. Another question mark is who might be the No. 2 receiving target behind Broyles. Brandon Caleb filled the role last season but fizzled out after mid-season and has lost his job to true freshman Kenny Stills. The difference in what might be if it all comes together and what will be if it won't is vast.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This is where many observers really believe OU will shine, barring injury. DE Jeremy Beal and LB Travis Lewis are All-American talents, as is Taylor at DT if he can regain his pre-ankle break form. The Sooners are experienced and strong at both safety positions, with SS Jonathan Nelson and FS Quinton Carter. The question marks are the corners, two new starters in junior Jamell Fleming and sophomore Demontre Hurst. The big losses to the NFL are DT Gerald McCoy and CB Dominique Franks, yet with those remaining a year better, OU may possess a dominant defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They're good and they're quick. They're pretty physical and they'll get after you for sure. It's definitely a challenge for us just watching them. (The game) is not something quite what people think it's going to be. They're a better team than what people think." -- Sooner tight end Trent Ratterree making the case of OU's Saturday opponent, Utah State.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Utah State (0-0) at No. 7 Oklahoma (0-0), Sept. 4 -- The Aggies are the only cupcake on the Sooners' schedule. It gets harder next week when Florida State visits Norman.

KEYS TO THE GAME: It may be a cliche, but not at OU after last season: the Sooners must stay healthy. Doing so gets them further away from last year's five-loss season and sets them up well for a tough stretch of non-conference games. That aside, keeping penalties and turnovers to a minimum should keep USU out of the game, where everybody expects the Aggies to be.


LT Donald Stephenson -- He did not play last season after playing seven games his freshman season, the result of academic issues. But he's back, protecting Landry Jones' blind side and part of an offensive line that could be the difference between an offense with big strike capability and an offense that exploits that capability with tremendous frequency.

RB DeMarco Murray -- Murray is completely healthy entering a season for the first time since his freshman year and the coaches want his touches to increase. Electric in the open field, as long his body doesn't fail him, Murray could have a huge season.

LB Tom Wort -- He would have played as a true freshman but was put on the shelf after a preseason ACL tear. Now he has a chance. Also, alongside Travis Lewis, should he emerge, the Sooners will be that much closer to claiming a dominant defense.


--The end of an era was announced Tuesday as Bob Barry Sr., the voice of Oklahoma football and basketball from 1961 to 1972 and again since 1991, let it be known the 2010 football season and the 2010-11 basketball season would be his final go-rounds as the voice of the Sooners. Around Oklahoma, this is bigger news than anything having to do with the Sooners' opener with Utah State. Barry is a legend and institution in the state.

--Mossis Madu, the senior RB/SR who's played vital back-up and occasional starting roles since arriving at OU straight from Norman High School, has been suspended for the season opener, the result of a pending DUI charge. Madu had been No. 2 on the RB depth chart behind DeMarco Murray.

--Justin Chaisson, who would be a redshirt freshman and was a very highly touted DE out of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman two years ago, has left the team. Chaisson's arrival was the subject of controversy, when he pleaded several felony charges down to misdemeanors, following his arrest after an incident with his ex-girlfriend. It was that plea agreement that allowed him to act on his verbal commitment and sign a national letter of intent.

--Matt Moreland, who kicked off for the Sooners last season, will miss the season, a result of academic issues that could not be resolved during the preseason.

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