Oklahoma Preview

Every year, teams come up with slogans designed to pump up the fans and explain the way their team is going to look.

If Oklahoma (4-0, 0-0) could redo its slogan for 2010, it might read: "Dominant at times, but struggles to finish." Perhaps no team has shown a lack of killer instinct like the Sooners thus far, with three opponents rallying back from double-digit deficits to nearly clip Oklahoma at the end.

Against Utah State, Oklahoma was up 21-0, but failed to put the Aggies away, winning 31-24. It was the same story against Air Force: up 27-10, win by three. And the process repeated itself last week, with the Sooners taking a 24-9 lead at Cincinnati before holding on for a narrow 31-29 victory.

Other than one anomaly, a 47-17 blitzkrieg over then-No. 14 Florida State, the Sooners have looked brilliant early and shaky late, with a high-powered offense attempting to make up for an at-times not-so-hot defense.

Other than a poor showing against Utah State, Landry Jones has been one of the Sooners' more consistent standouts. In the opener, Jones completed just 17 of 36 passes for 217 yards while throwing two touchdowns and two picks. Since then, he's completed better than 69 percent of his passes and is averaging almost 335 yards passing per game with a 7-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Jones has had to be good, as the Sooners have struggled at times to run the ball. As a team, OU is averaging 120 rushing yards per game, but at just three yards per carry. Running back DeMarco Murray has had a solid year as a runner, averaging 109 yards per game, but his 4.2 yards per carry average is less than most elite backs. Oklahoma's only real running threat so far, Murray has scored seven touchdowns. Murray is also second on the team in receptions, and Oklahoma tries to get him the ball in space.

But the Sooners' real space player is slot receiver Ryan Broyles. The superstar has hauled in 41 passes in four games for 484 yards and four touchdowns. True freshman Kenny Stills, Cameron Kenney and DeJuan Miller have combined for another 30 catches for 423 yards and a score. OU uses two different tight ends, Trent Ratteree, who is more of a blocker, and James Hanna, a dangerous flexed-out receiver.

The offensive line has been just OK, though it has been better than last year's unit, and by year's end could be a solid group.

Defensively, the Sooners have struggled at times with both the run and the pass, and they're giving up 421 yards and 23.5 points per game, rare for a Bob Stoops-coached defense.

Still, it's not like the Sooner D is without playmakers. Defensive end Jeremy Beal has 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks so far. His end mate Frank Alexander has another two sacks. The interior, led by sophomore Stacey McGee, is both talented and inconsistent.

Linebacker Travis Lewis is among the Big 12's top defensive players. He hasn't made as many big plays this season, though he does have 35 tackles and an interception to his credit. Tom Wort mans the middle, and he's been a bit up-and-down, which you would expect from a young middle linebacker. Ronnell Lewis is a crushing hitter, but has just 11 stops on the year.

The Sooners are inexperienced at cornerback, with Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst serving as the starters. Tony Jefferson, a true freshman nickel back, is a budding star. All three are excellent tacklers, and have 9.5 tackles for loss between them. Safeties Jonathan Nelson (31 tackles) and Quinton Carter (24) are among the team leaders in tackles.

Oklahoma has been mostly down on special teams. Broyles is the punt returner, though he is averaging just 6.2 yards per return and has yet to break one. Kicker has been a revolving door, with Stoops publicly holding tryouts for the position. For now, Jimmy Stevens will be the guy. He's hit 3-of-4, with a long of 42, and has made all seven extra points that he has attempted. Tress Way is averaging 46 yards per punt.

OFFENSE

QB: 12 Landry Jones (6-4 219, So.)

RB: 7 DeMarco Murray (6-1 207, Sr.)

FB: 33 Trey Millard (6-2 246, Fr.)

WR: 6 Cameron Kenney (6-1 193, Sr.)

WR: 4 Kenny Stills (6-0 183, Fr.)

SL: 85 Ryan Broyles (5-11 183, Jr.)

TE: 47 Trent Ratteree (6-3 246, Jr.)

LT: 59 Donald Stephenson (6-6 309, Jr.)

LG: 64 Gabe Ikard (6-4 282, rFr.)

C: 61 Ben Habern (6-3 292, So.)

RG: 51 Brian Lepak (6-4 299, Sr.)

RT: 69 Eric Mensik (6-6 288, Sr.)

DEFENSE

DE: 44 Jeremy Beal (6-3 267, Sr.)

DT: 86 Adrian Taylor (6-4 302, Sr.)

DT: 92 Stacey McGee (6-4 275, So.)

DE: 84 Frank Alexander (6-4 251, Jr.)

SLB: 56 Ronnell Lewis (6-2 240, So.), OR 5 Joseph Ibiloye (6-3 215, So.)

MLB: 21 Tom Wort (6-1 225, rFr.)

WLB: 28 Travis Lewis (6-2 232, Jr.)

BCB: 32 Jamell Fleming (5-11 191, Jr.)

SS: 3 Jonathan Nelson (5-11 188, Sr.)

FS: 20 Quinton Carter (6-1 200, Sr.)

FCB: 19 Demontre Hurst (5-9 178, So.)

NB: 5 Ibiloye, OR 1 Tony Jefferson (5-11 198, Fr.)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: 17 Jimmy Stevens (5-6 167, Jr.)

P: 36 Tress Way (6-1 220, So.)

KO: 36 Way

KR: 7 Murray AND 17 Mossis Madu (6-0 197, Sr.)

PR: 85 Broyles

H: 5 John Nimmo (6-2 210, Sr.)

LS (punts): 86 James Winchester (6-4 205, Jr.)

LS (kicks): 50 Austin Woods (6-4 298, Fr.)


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