BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 11-3; BIG 12: 7-1
Lost Fiesta Bowl vs. Boise St. 43-42 (OT)
LOCATION: Norman, Oklahoma
STADIUM: Memorial (82,112)
HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops
OVERALL: 86-19 (8 seasons)
AT OKLAHOMA: 86-19 (8 seasons)
Last season the Sooners won their fourth Big 12 Title in the last seven seasons, as Bob Stoops found a way to win despite losing his quarterback Rhett Bomar just a few weeks before the season started, as well as all everything tailback Adrian Peterson for the stretch run. As much as any program, the Sooners are about a team effort, which is why year in and year out they are among the top contenders to make a BCS Bowl, if not make a run for the title (three BCS Championship appearances under Stoops).
WHEN THE SOONERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Kevin Wilson (7th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Adrian Peterson, Paul Thompson, Chris Messner
Redshirt freshman Sam Bradford has taken the keys to the car from Coach Stoops and this is no jalopy, the Sooners offense is a sports car all the way. Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly is among the most underrated pass catchers in the nation, who could flourish with a top-flight pocket passer. Kelly brings size and speed -- two commodities the OU receivers have an abundance of. Juaquin Iglesias is the perfect compliment, great after the catch, with Manual Johnson a pure blazer and sophomore Adron Tennell (6’4”) coming on. As if that wasn’t enough, the Sooners are three deep in talented tight ends as well, with true sophomore Jermaine Gresham possessing boundless potential. They’re not done yet, as running back may be their deepest position, with senior Allen Patrick combining pure power and great straight line speed, joined by redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray, a playmaker in the mold of Reggie Bush. If running back is their deepest position, the offensive line is their most seasoned, as six players have starting experience during their OU careers, with possibly the most talented second string in America. Everything is there for Bradford to succeed or not screw it up depending on your perspective.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Malcolm Kelly (JR), 2) George Robinson (JR), 3) Jermaine Gresham (SO), 4) DeMarco Murray (FR), 5) Allen Patrick (SR), 6) Branndan Braxton (JR), 7) Joe Jon Finley (SR), 8) Brandon Walker (JR), 9) Juaquin Iglesias (JR), 10) Brody Eldridge (SO), 11) Phil Loadholt (JR), 12) Trent Williams (SO), 13) Garrett Hartley (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Brent Venables (9th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Rufus Alexander, Zack Latimer, CJ Ah You, Larry Birdine
The last line of defense for the Sooners could be the best in all the land, could be the best we have seen at OU, which is a major statement as the defensive backfield is always a point of emphasis for Coach Stoops, often the landing spot for some of the team’s top athletes. Former highly touted offensive recruits such as Lendy Holmes and D.J. Wolfe are now key cogs in the secondary. Their top talent is skilled cover man Reggie Smith who is just as capable of starting at safety, while hybrid Nic Harris -- part safety/part linebacker could be their most productive defender. I have not even mentioned All Big 12 performer Marcus Walker (CB) or free safety Darien Williams, who despite being high on many pre-season 2008 draft lists, is not assured of a starting job this season. The front seven will have to pick it up, they lack the experience but not the potential and it all begins inside. Sophomore DeMarcus Granger and redshirt freshman Gerald McCoy were considered the best at their position coming out of high school and the expectations are that JUCO Mike Reed will be able to step in and contribute after enrolling in the spring.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Reggie Smith (JR), 2) Marcus Walker (SR), 3) Nic Harris (JR), 4) Lendy Holmes (SR), 5) Gerald McCoy (FR), 6) DeMarcus Granger (FR), 7) Curtis Lofton (JR), 8) Steve Coleman (SR), 9) D.J. Wolfe (SR), 10) Darien Williams (SR), 11) Mike Reed (JR)
With instate rival Oklahoma St., out of conference foe Miami, up and coming Big 12 South opponent Texas A & M, as well as the dangerous Missouri Tigers from the North all coming to Norman this season, the Sooners could set themselves up for a fourth trip to the BCS Championship game in the last eight seasons. Therefore, the game of the year, the Red River Shootout, will be the game of the year and may end up as a de facto national semi-final as the Sooners could very well be a touchdown favorite or better in every other contest this season. After Boomer Sooner laid the boom on the Horns five straight years, Texas has Hooked ‘Em in the last two. Last season they showed they could still win the conference with a loss to UT, however in all likelihood a potential run at the National Title would be out of question.
With the best defensive backfield in America and possibly the top offensive line, as well as the most dynamic special teams in all the land the only reason the Sooners are not ranked higher is the lack of a proven commodity at the quarterback position. Stoops has won his four conference titles with four different signal callers making him the Joe Gibbs of college football, nevertheless we cannot downplay the importance of the quarterback position. If Bradford does not make mistakes the Sooners will win ten games, if he can play like another freshman quarterback did in the Big 12 South last season, the Sooners might just win them all.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Outside of Southern California, it is hard to find a more talented roster than Bob Stoops has assembled in Norman and if they had a proven leader under center there is little doubt they would be the number-two team in the country. If speed kills then they do not lack ammunition. Of course, they must also avoid the odd year jinx, as all of Stoops’ Big 12 Titles have come in even years (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006). The Sooners found a way to win with a first year starter at quarterback in 2006 and they will do so again in 2007.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #3 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown