Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Big 12 Spring Football Preview: Oklahoma

When it comes to breaking down the Sooners spring practice I call upon myself. I asked the questions and then I answered them. This is an important spring for OU coming off their worst season since the turn of the century.

OU returns tons of talent on the offensive side of the ball including junior-to-be running back Adrian Peterson, who could be playing his final season at OU, and redshirt sophomore-to-be quarterback Rhett Bomar.

There was a bigger turnover on the defensive side of the ball but OU still has talent and the defensive ends could be the best in the Big 12. The linebacking corps will be the heart of the Sooner defense led by All-American and Butkus candidate Rufus Alexander.

What is the biggest question that Oklahoma needs to answer this spring?

The biggest question for the Sooners this spring is the offensive line. The unit got off to a horrible start last season with losses to TCU and UCLA and a struggle with Tulsa. In those games OU struggled in pass-protection as well as run blocking. They did gel as the season went on and finished solid but could have been much better.

The Sooners will still be young on the offensive line this season but every lineman will have had at least one season under their belt. That means not only learning the “system” but also working out in OU’s strength and conditioning program which is the best in the land.

There is no question that the OU offensive line has got to better this fall than it was last fall.

What will be the biggest position battle this spring?

Again I refer back to the offensive line. Gone from last season are Davin Joseph, Chris Chester, Chris Bush and Kelvin Chaisson. Enter new offensive line coach James Patton and a fare from bare cupboard of guys who can battle in the trenches. Chris Messner is the one full-time starter returning from last season but Branndon Braxton, started three games, “Duke” Robinson, Jon Cooper, started two games, and JD Quinn, started four games will all be back. They will all be competing against Ben Barresi and Cameron Schacht, along with newcomers Sherrone Moore and Chad Roark this spring for playing time but the line won’t be set until August when junior college standout Brandon Walker and four other newcomers will round out the competition.

Who is an unknown player that will emerge as a star this spring?

Lindy Holmes is a player that people may know from the offensive side of the ball but the former receiver has made the transition to defense and is doing well. At 6-2 191 pounds Holmes has the size for playing the corner position. In Saturday’s scrimmage Holmes recorded three tackles and an interception that he returned 35 yards.

Head Coach Bob Stoops said the Holmes had been one of the most consistent defensive backs this spring.

What can we expect to see different from the offense under new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson?

OU will run more of a spread offense under Wilson and will throw the ball deep more often than they did last season, if they get o-line protection. You will also see Adrian Peterson involved in more than just the running game as well as some “gadget” plays that haven’t been around in a while.

Look for quarterback Rhett Bomar to roll out of the pocket more often setting up various screens and middle patterns as well as the occasional deep throw. Bomar will also be able to tuck the ball and run at times something that Sooner fans saw too much last season. The difference is this season it will be planned and he won’t be running for his life.

Outside of Adrian Peterson, who is the biggest star on the team?

I have two! I can do that because it’s my website. The absolute biggest star other than Peterson will be senior linebacker Rufus Alexander. Alexander will be the heart of the OU defense and is a playmaker. He has the size to deliver the knock-out hit and the speed to rush the quarterback as well as drop back into pass coverage. He will be everywhere on the field and Sooner fans will be chanting RUUUUUUUUU!

Runner up to Alexander will be sophomore receiver Malcolm Kelly. The Sooners are stacked with talent at receiver and they are all young. Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson and Kelly all saw significant playing time last season and will all be sophomores in the upcoming season. They will be joined on the field by fellow sophomore Quentin Chaney who did not see as much action as the other three but is having a very good spring.

Kelly led the team last season in receptions (33) and receiving yards (471) and will be the go to guy again this season setting up the best receiving tandem since Mark Bradley, Mark Clayton and Brandon Jones.

2006 OU Football Schedule
Date Opponent Location
Sat, Sep 02 UAB Norman
Sat, Sep 09 Washington Norman
Sat, Sep 16 Oregon at Eugene, Ore.
Sat, Sep 23 Middle Tennessee Norman
Sat, Oct 07 Texas at Dallas, Texas
Sat, Oct 14 Iowa State Norman
Sat, Oct 21 Colorado Norman
Sat, Oct 28 Missouri at Columbia, Mo.
Sat, Nov 04 Texas A&M at College Station, Texas
Sat, Nov 11 Texas Tech Norman
Sat, Nov 18 Baylor at Waco, Texas
Sat, Nov 25 Oklahoma State at Stillwater, Okla.