HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops, 149-37 (14 years) |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Josh Heupel, Jay Norvell |
DEF. COORDINATOR: Mike Stoops
Rarely under Bob Stoops has Oklahoma been so uncertain at quarterback, or so unclear on the direction of the offense. Yet also under Stoops, Oklahoma always seems to produce positive answers.
Gone is Landry Jones, whose 39 career wins were the most in the rich history of the program. His top two receivers are gone, too.
And a buzz about a move to more of a read-option offense hovered around the team in the offseason, with the combatants in an ongoing quarterback competition — Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson — all logical fits for such an attack.
Now, that’s not to say the Sooners will abandon the air-it-out attack that has produced double-digit win totals in 11 of Stoops’ 14 seasons.
“We will never give up anything as far as our quarterbacks having the ability to pass,” says co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “That’s our primary focus first. We have great skill guys, and we want to make sure we’re able to distribute the ball to those guys. But certainly the guys we have on campus are a little bit different than Landry.”
Bell has experience, having played key moments in 20 games. Yet most have come in the “Belldozer” package, designed to utilize him in the short-yardage run game. It’s a role Bell has flourished in, scoring 24 touchdowns on 104 rushes over two seasons. But the former 5-star prospect has more rushing TDs than pass attempts (20) and must prove he’s capable of succeeding as a thrower as well as a runner.
While Bell is the only quarterback with game experience, the competition was on in the spring, with Thompson and Knight very much in the mix.
A line that returns four starters and is anchored by first-team All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard should be a strength in aiding OU’s transition.
And there are proven skill players in place, with running back Damien Williams, receiver Jalen Saunders and hybrid fullback/tight end Trey Millard all capable of all-conference seasons.
A major makeover is taking place on the defensive side of the ball. Just four starters return overall, leaving major questions along the front seven. Even in the secondary, where experience exists, position shuffles and shaky previous performances linger among several of the starters.
Aaron Colvin is the headliner, a shutdown corner who produced four interceptions and a team-high 11 passes defended a year ago, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. Beyond Colvin in the secondary, the Sooners are banking on a cast that includes everything from transfers to a player coming off suspension to true freshmen.
Defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue, linebacker Corey Nelson and safety Gabe Lynn are the other returning starters. Everywhere else, there’s a need for players to develop — and do so quickly.
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Aaron Colvin, CB – Lockdown corners are a lifeline in the Big 12; in Colvin, the Sooners have one of the nation’s best.
Damien Williams, RB – A breakaway threat, Williams should thrive in his second season in the system. Had four 100-yard games in 2012.
Gabe Ikard, C – The versatile Ikard is smart and savvy, the brain stem of the offensive line at center.
Jalen Saunders, WR – His quickness and sure hands in the slot will provide comfort for the next Sooner quarterback. Closed regular season with three 100-yard games.
Trey Millard, FB – Whether he’s at fullback or tight end, Millard is a physical presence.
Michael Hunnicutt gives the Sooners a reliable weapon in the kicking game. He made 17-of-21 field goals a year ago. Coaches are hoping junior college transfer Jed Barnett fills the void at punter. The return game is solid.
For a change, the Sooners aren’t considered Big 12 favorites. All the question marks and a rugged schedule that includes trips to Notre Dame and Kansas State as well as rival Oklahoma State create a major challenge for a team in transition.
Oklahoma remains a contender, surely capable of claiming another conference crown — there’s plenty of talent on the roster — yet the Sooners seemingly need so much to go right on both sides of the ball to hang another championship banner.
“It doesn’t change anything whatsoever,” Stoops says. “We’ve never put much stock or cared where we were or weren’t picked.”
Brown came to Norman as a defensive tackle but after switching to the O-Line as a sophomore, he quickly emerged as — arguably — the best blocker in Sooner history. The two-time All-American paved the way for a record-breaking offense in 2004, winning the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman. He did not allow a sack or a QB hurry during that season and led the team with 130 knockdown blocks. He won multiple Big 12 Championships and helped push the Sooners to the BCS National Championship game. Brown was the 13th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.
There is little doubt that Bradford is the best quarterback to ever suit up for the Sooners. He owns all three yardage records: single game (468), single-season (4,720) and career (8,403). He owns the single-season (50) and career passing touchdown records (88). He posted the two most effecient seasons in OU passing history in both completion percentage (69.5 percent in 2007, 67.9 percent in 2008) and quarterback rating (180.84 in 2008, 176.53 in 2007). He became only the second underclassman (albeit a redshirt) to even win the Heisman Trophy and led his team to the national championship game against Florida. He also set a NCAA freshman record for touchdown passes with 36. Oh yeah, and he did all this in only two seasons — both of which ended in a Big 12 Championship. Bradford threw only 69 passes his junior season after sustaining an injury that ended his college career. He declared for the NFL Draft and was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2010.
One of the most dominant linemen in OU history helped lead the Sooners back to the promised land when he guided the Sooners win the 1985 National Championship. In 1984, Casillas was a first-team All-American. In 1985, he became the only the second Sooner to win the Lombardi Award given to the nation's best lineman. He also earned his second All-America honor as well as the UPI National Lineman of the Year Award and Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year. Casillas finsihed his career with 213 tackles and 18 sacks and became only the second Hispanic member of the NCAA Football Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2004.
Owens rumbled his way into the Sooner history books as one of the most prolific rushers in school history. He became the second Sooner to win the Heisman Trophy award in 1969 when he rushed for 1,523 yards and 23 touchdowns (still a school record). The previous season, Owens had set the single-season OU rushing mark with 1,649 yards (since broken). His 958 carries are still a school record, and he owns the top seven spots on the single-game carries list, including a record 55 against Oklahoma State in 1969. Owens also set the career rushing touchdown record with 57. Those 57 TDs were a total touchdowns record until 2010 when DeMarco Murray broke it. He topped the 100-yard mark 23 times in his career, won two conference championships and is a member of the NCAA Football Hall of Fame. He was the 19th overall pick in the first round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
One the hardest hitting safeties to ever play the game at any school, Williams helped lead OU back to prominence as a key member of the 2000 National Championship team. As only a sophomore, he started every game and set a Sooner record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12). As a junior, "Superman" was immortalized by his flying game-changing tackle of Chris Simms in the Red River Shootout. Williams won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back and the Nagurski Trophy as the country's top overall defensive player. His 22 pass deflections in 2001 are a Sooner record and his 44 career deflections rank second all-time. Williams was the eighth overall pick 2002 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Arguably the most complete tight end in NCAA history, Jackson played primarily in a wishbone offense yet still averaged over 23 yards per catch for his career and was named an All-American in each of his final two seasons. He helped lead the Sooners to the 1985 National Championship. Oklahoma was 42-5-1 during Jackson's time in Norman, and he finished with 62 catches for 1,407 yards. Jackson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and was later named the OU Offensive Player of the Century. He was the 13th overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The "Boz" has to be the best linebacker to ever suit up for Oklahoma — despite all of the off-the-field drama. Bosworth, the only two-time winner of the Butkus Award, was at his best in big games. His 413 career tackles rank seventh all-time in school history in only three years of action. The two-time All-American and three-time all-league selection was linked to anabolic steriods but was also an Academic All-American. Bosworth was selected in the first round of the 1987 Supplemental Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
With 4,118 yards, Sims is the Sooners' all-time leading rusher. He also owns the most coveted trophy in all of sports — the Heisman Trophy (1978). Sims set a conference rushing mark with 1,896 yards and led the nation by averaging over 7.0 yards per carry. That year, Sims almost set the single-season OU rushing touchdowns record, but missed by one score with 22 trips to paydirt. However, he tied fellow OU Heisman winner Steve Owens for that very record the next year when he capped his stellar career with a 23-TD season —giving him 45 rushing scores in two seasons. Sims topped the 100-yard mark 20 times and scored 53 total touchdowns in illustrious career. He played very little — 15 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns — during his freshman season due to injuries, but Sims was still a part of the 1975 National Championship team. He was taken with the No. 1 overall pick of the 1980 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
It didn't take long for Peterson to establish himself as a star. He set an NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards and led the nation with 339 carries in 2004. Peterson helped lead the Sooners to the National title game and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Despite missing four games as a sophomore, A.D. still managed to top the 1,200-yard mark. As a junior, Peterson injured his collarbone in a flukey dive into the end zone after a 53-yard touchdown run. Even though he missed big chunks of time over his final two seasons, Peterson still managed to rush for the third highest total in school history with 4,045 yards. He "fell" to the Minnesota Vikings at the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
They don't come much better than Selmon. Playing alongside two of his brothers, Loucious and Dewey, for his first two seasons, Selmon blossomed into a star on the defensive line. By 1974, he was the key cog in one of the most dominant Sooner defenses in history and helped OU to two straight National Championships, in '74 and '75. He claimed the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman. He finished his career with over 330 tackles and what would have been a school record 40 sacks (the stat technically did not exist until 1982 and was loosely kept since 1963). The all-time great was drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft.
Top-ranked Oklahoma used its “fast-break” offense to score three second-half touchdowns and overcome number-three Maryland, 20-6, in the Orange Bowl to claim the national championship. It was the 30th straight win for the Sooners and the second number-one finish in three seasons.
After spotting top-ranked Nebraska a 14-0 lead, number-two Oklahoma stormed back to earn a 31-14 win, snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Huskers and ending NU’s 13-game winning string. QB Josh Heupel threw for 300 yards and a touchdown, and linebacker Rocky Calmus registered 17 tackles.
This one was all about the defense. Oklahoma held Penn State to 103 yards rushing and picked off four Nittany Lion passes in a 25-10 Orange Bowl win that secured OU’s sixth national crown. Linebacker Brian Bosworth had 13 tackles, and QB Jamelle Holieway and tight end Keith Jackson connected on a 71-yard TD.
The Ohio State crowd was chanting, “Block that kick!” so Sooners kicker Uwe von Schamann decided to play along. After “directing” the cheers, he drilled a 41-yard field goal that gave Oklahoma a dramatic 29-28 win over the Buckeyes.
Earlier in the day, top-ranked Ohio State had lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, so if the Sooners could knock off Michigan, they would be national champs. Thanks to touchdown runs by Billy Brooks – on an end around – and QB Steve Davis, OU earned a 14-6 victory and its first national crown under Barry Switzer.
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There are many different ways to value sports broadcasting jobs, but Athlon Sports has tried to rank the best national sports broadcasting jobs in the industry today.
HEAD COACH: Gary Patterson, 116-36 (12 years) |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Jarrett Anderson, Rusty Burns |
DEF. COORDINATOR: Dick Bumpas
Technically, TCU returns five starters on offense, but a more accurate number would be eight.
Not only has quarterback Casey Pachall returned, but so has former leading rusher Waymon James and projected starting tight end Stephen Bryant. Both James and Bryant were sidelined with season-ending injuries in 2012, and Pachall returns after missing the final nine games when he left school to seek treatment for substance abuse.
Pachall has been given the chance to earn his starting job back from Trevone Boykin, who filled in admirably as a redshirt freshman. Boykin is talented and does a better job improvising, but Pachall has a stronger arm and a firmer grasp of the offense. Now a senior, Pachall could be the story of the year in college football if he stays healthy — physically and mentally — and helps TCU compete for a Big 12 title.
James’ return is as big as Pachall’s. He led the Frogs in rushing in 2011 and was off to a good start before injuring his knee in Week 2. If TCU’s line can shore up its depth issues, the Horned Frogs could emerge as the team to beat in the Big 12.
Nine starters return to a TCU defense that ranked first in the league and 16th nationally.
The two losses are big — defensive end Stansly Maponga and linebacker Kenny Cain — but the Frogs have been at their best in the Gary Patterson era when their secondary is deep and experienced. And that’s the case in 2013. Led by strong safety Sam Carter and All-America cornerback Jason Verrett, TCU intercepted 21 passes last season and helped slow down the wide-open offenses of the Big 12.
Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields recorded 18.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks coming from the right edge, but he will have operate this fall without Maponga coming from the left side. Fields leads a deep and talented defensive line that should be one of the league’s best.
The one area of concern is linebacker, where Marcus Mallet and former walk-on Joel Hasley will likely start. Hasley and Mallet showed they could stop the run in ’12, but too often were beaten in coverage. Former safety Jonathan Anderson moved to linebacker in the spring and could bring an element of speed.
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Casey Pachall, QB – Leads all active quarterbacks with a career passing efficiency rating of 163.1.
Waymon James, RB – Led TCU in rushing with 875 yards in 2011 and was averaging 9.9 yards per carry in 2012 before going down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.
Devonte Fields, DE – The Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year led the league with 18.5 tackles for a loss and was third with 10 sacks as a true freshman.
Jason Verrett, CB – An All-American who led the Big 12 with six interceptions and 22 passes defended.
Brandon Carter, WR – Consistently provides a big-play threat and is TCU’s leading returning receiver with 590 yards and six touchdowns.
Both kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry performed well as true freshmen in 2012. Oberkrom made 22-of-30 field goals, including all six attempts in a triple-overtime loss to Texas Tech, one shy of tying an NCAA single-game record. Perry’s 44.5-yard punting average is the second-best all-time at TCU and the best average since 1981. Deanté Gray’s career opened with a bang when he returned his first punt 70 yards for a score in the 2012 season opener, finishing with a TCU-record 160 return yards. Gray, Verrett and Brandon Carter could all be used on punt and kick returns.
There’s a tangible sense of optimism surrounding TCU as it prepares for its second season in the Big 12.
Patterson has a veteran team — as many as 15 of the projected starting 22 players are juniors or seniors. That wasn’t the case in 2012, when TCU fielded one of the youngest teams in the country.
“This is finally a year where we’re a little bit older,” Patterson said during spring camp. “The last two years we’ve been young, so the guys know what they’re doing.”
But two big areas of concern could cause TCU a lot of problems. The offensive line is thin and inexperienced. The linebacker corps, long a steady cornerstone of the Frogs’ defense, is dreadfully lacking in depth. If Patterson can solve these two problem areas, TCU should find itself in position to win a conference title.
HEAD COACH: Gary Andersen, First Season |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Andy Ludwig |
DEF. COORDINATOR: Dave Aranda
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig could face significant challenges in his first season at UW because of personnel issues. Ludwig should have several playmakers at his disposal, including tailbacks James White and Melvin Gordon, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen. However, the starter at quarterback won’t be determined until camp, because junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy isn’t set to join the program until the summer.
McEvoy, who redshirted at South Carolina in 2011 before transferring to Arizona Western College, has three seasons of eligibility remaining. He’ll likely battle Joel Stave and Curt Phillips. Stave, a sophomore, took over in Week 4 last season and started six games before suffering a broken collarbone. Phillips, a sixth-year senior, started the last five games in 2012. He has battled through multiple injuries to his right knee but remains a legitimate running threat.
Also, injuries left UW with only eight healthy linemen in the spring, and the staff acknowledges that the overall depth isn’t close to where it needs to be.
Lastly, the wide receiver position beyond Abbrederis remains full of unproven players. UW needs to find a second threat, and no one emerged during spring ball.
Not long after he was hired as UW’s defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda talked enthusiastically about the variety of fronts he planned to use and how he hoped to attack opposing quarterbacks with blitz packages. “I am a big believer in that,” he said. “I’m a big advocate of attacking protections.”
Aranda, who plans to use three-, four- and five-man fronts and use zone blitzes liberally, should have the personnel in the front seven to get after opposing quarterbacks and ease the burden on a secondary that will be green with only one returning starter (safety Dezmen Southward).
UW has a surplus of experienced linemen, and Aranda’s flexibility and desire to attack appears to be a perfect fit for players such as Brendan Kelly, Vince Biegel and Tyler Dippel — all of whom will see time at end/outside linebacker — along with senior linebacker Chris Borland. Opponents know about Borland’s playmaking ability, but Biegel, who played in two games last season before a broken foot forced him to redshirt, could be an outstanding pass-rusher.
UW suffered a blow in April when senior David Gilbert, who had been hampered by injuries to his right foot in each of the last two seasons, announced he was leaving the program.
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Chris Borland, LB — Veteran should be disruptive as the Badgers employ multiple fronts and blitz packages.
Dezmen Southward, S — Fifth-year senior will be the lone returning starter in the secondary. UW needs him to be solid.
Jared Abbrederis, WR — UW’s only legitimate threat at wide receiver, the fifth-year senior averaged 17.1 yards on his 49 catches in 2012.
Kyle French (10-of-16 field goal attempts) and Jack Russell (0-of-2) were inconsistent last season, which led to uncertainty for most of the season. French was outstanding in the spring, but will that carry over to the fall? Punter Drew Meyer (41.5-yard average, 14 punts of 50-plus yards) was solid as a redshirt freshman but must improve his hang time.
New UW coach Gary Andersen needed only four seasons to transform Utah State’s football program from dysfunctional to dynamic. Last season the Aggies won 11 games and secured the school’s first bowl victory in 19 years, and in the process passed Utah and BYU to take over the No. 1 spot in the state.
Andersen wasn’t actively looking to leave Utah State in December when Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez offered him the coaching job — Andersen had already rebuffed overtures from California, Kentucky and Colorado — but he was intrigued by the opportunity to coach on a larger stage and respected the UW program.
Andersen believes UW can compete on a national level, and the players who return in 2013 believe a fourth consecutive Big Ten title is a realistic goal.