#9 Oklahoma Football 2014 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners

Overall Rank: #9
#1 Big 12

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Oklahoma has a ton of momentum heading into 2014. After finishing the regular season 10-2, the Sooners earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl to take on Alabama. Quarterback Trevor Knight was back in the starting lineup against the Crimson Tide after suffering through a knee injury for most of the regular season. Knight threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl, leading Oklahoma to a 45-31 win. With that win, the expectations are that the Sooners will win another Big 12 title and seriously compete for a spot in the new four team playoff.

2013 Record: 11-2, 7-2
2013 Bowl: Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama (W 45-31)
Coach: Bob Stoops (160-39 at Oklahoma, 160-39 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Josh Heupel, Jay Norvell
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Stoops

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Trevor Knight, QB, 445 yards
Passing: Blake Bell, QB, 1,648 yards
Receiving: Sterling Shepard, WR, 603 yards
Tackles: Frank Shannon, LB, 92
Sacks: Eric Striker, LB, 6.5
Interceptions: Julian Wilson, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Durron Neal, OL Daryl Williams, LB Dominique Alexander, S Quentin Hayes, DE Charles Tapper, CB Zack Sanchez, DL Geneo Grissom, DL Chuka Ndulue, K Michael Hunnicutt

Key Losses: RB Brennan Clay, RB Damien Williams, RB Roy Finch, WR Jalen Saunders, WR Lacoltan Besler, OL Gabe Ikard, S Gabe Lynn, CB Aaron Colvin

As good as Knight was in January, it was the defense that got this team to the Sugar Bowl in the first place. The unit ranked first in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing just over 350 yards per game. Coordinator Mike Stoops’ 3-4 scheme wants to attack with his defense and this group is getting really good at doing just that. Ends Charles Tapper and Chuka Ndulue will spend plenty of time in the opponent’s backfield from their end spots. Linebacker Eric Striker led the team with 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles-for-loss. Striker will be joined by Geneo Grissom, who is another player who made a big splash in the Sugar Bowl. Frank Shannon and Dominique Alexander are the two middle linebackers and combined for 172 tackles in 2013. Promising sophomore corner Zack Sanchez is ready for a breakout year and he will be joined by experienced senior Julian Wilson. Sanchez broke up 13 passes and recorded two interceptions as a freshman. Quentin Hayes is a big hitting free safety who is great at helping the cornerbacks in the pass heavy Big 12. This was a strong defense in 2013, but the unit should be even better this time around.  

Despite Knight’s success in the Sugar Bowl, he is still a relatively inexperienced sophomore. Knight does have receiver Sterling Shepard back to help in the passing game. Shepard was second on the team to the now departed Jalen Saunders with 51 catches for 51 yards and seven scores. Tight ends Blake Bell and Taylor McNamara add some new options in the short passing game. Bell was the team’s quarterback for most of last season, but moved to tight end after it became clear that this was Knight’s team. Leading rushers Brennan Clay and Damien Williams are gone, but OU has plenty of options to join Knight as a rushing threat out of the backfield. Keith Ford is a bruising back who rushed for 134 yards a year ago. Freshman Joe Mixon may be the most talented running back in this class and sophomore Alex Ross is an amazing athlete with potential. The experienced and very talented line should make it pretty easy for this team to find a quality ball carrier or two.

The Bottom Line:
Oklahoma should be 6-0 when they head to Dallas to take on Texas. They will be looking for revenge after losing 36-20 in the rivalry last season. The Sooners get Baylor and Oklahoma State at home and if this team can get past Texas, the mumblings of a perfect season will begin. The Big 12 does lack another top tier team outside of Oklahoma, but top to bottom, this is a tough conference. Any team on any given week, for the most part, can give this Sooners team trouble. That will make it extremely difficult for OU to get through the season without a blemish or two.

Projected Bowl: Cotton Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 223.9 (18th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 199.1 (90, 9)
Total Offense: 423.0 (52, 4)
Scoring Offense: 32.8 (40, 5)
Rushing Defense: 137.6 (25, 2)
Pass Defense: 212.5 (30, 1)
Total Defense: 350.2 (20, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.1 (22, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.62 (21, 3)
Sacks: 2.54 (28, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (12, 2)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#26 Daryl Williams
#47 Dorial Green-Beckham
#98 Tyrus Thompson

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#23 Joe Mixon
#63 Michiah Quick
#89 Mark Andrews
#131 Steven Parker
#161 Justice Hansen


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