College football picks against the spread for week one of the 2013 season.Read More
Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.
A successful summer and impressive fall camp enabled redshirt freshman Trevor Knight to steal the starting quarterback job away from heavy favorite Blake Bell.
A look at the future of media rights packages and broadcasting in the Big 12.Read More
Everybody else is doing the alternative uniform thing; why not the Sooners?Read More
Previewing what's in store for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2013.Read More
Previewing what's in store for the Kansas State Wildcats in 2013.Read More
CLICK HERE to download.
Eddie and I discuss:
*The general mood around the program with practices underway;
*The effect of the new additions to the coaching staff;
*The strength of Blake Bell's grip on the quarterback position;
*Mike Stoops' comments about realistic expectations for the defense;
*The potential for immediate impact from some newcomers;
(CLICK HERE to download the podcast. Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)
CLICK HERE to download.
Fall camp is well underway in Norman as Oklahoma heads into a season full of questions about the immediate future of the program. The Skinny joins Homerism for a podcast to sort out the answers.
The Skinny and I touch on:
*Bob Stoops' feisty offseason;
*The supposed quarterback derby;
*Mike Stoops' effect on the defense;
*Answers on the defensive line;
(CLICK HERE to download the podcast. Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)
Previewing what's in store for the Iowa State Cyclones in 2013.Read More
UTEP comes into this season with what could be one of its best teams in the past few years. The Miners lost their three leading rushers from last year, but every other unit is at least as experienced as last year or better. Senior quarterback Nick Lamaison is a former offensive junior college player of the year and started most games last year after overcoming an injury in the second game and missing four starts. He has three of this top five receivers and nine of this top 10 offensive lineman back.
On defense, the Miners return five of their top eight tacklers, and there's experience and depth at the defensive line, secondary and at linebacker. Eighth-year head coach Mike Price has always emphasized great special teams, and this year will be no different. Punter Ian Campbell is on the Ray Guy Award watch list, and Price returns his starting kicker and punt returner.
The Sooners have solid experience across the board, with only the receiver position questionable. Junior Kenny Stills is the lone receiver on the depth chart to have caught a pass for the Sooners. As I wrote earlier this week, the success of this season largely depends on this crew coming through. The Sooners will also have to stay healthy, as the offensive line and linebacker position quality drops rapidly after you look past the starters.
This is a good initial test for the Sooners against a team playing at home with high hopes for the season. Winning is not a total assumption like most non-conference games, but it doesn't bode well for the Miners that their passing game will have to go against the strength of the OU defense – a secondary that is the most experienced in years.
Additionally, with its inexperience at running back, UTEP most likely won't be able to take advantage of a Sooner linebacker crew that lost team leader and leading tackler Travis Lewis to graduation.
The Sooner defensive line stalls the UTEP running game and puts enough pressure on Lamaison that the Miner offense can never get in a rhythm. UTEP is unable to keep the Sooner offense off the field. With plenty of chances to get in a rhythm, the Sooners are able to assert theirwill. The talent advantage comes through with a solid running game that opens up room for the receivers to get in the groove. Stills and Penn State transfer Justin Brown get plenty of catches. Trey Metoyer shows signs of brilliance. T
here's room for improvement, but the signs look promising that the Sooners can pull together an outstanding season for 2012. Sooners roll, 38-17.
The Miners are gamers and start their season off with solid effort. Their experience at the secondary and defensive line keep Landry Jones and the passing game off rhythm at the perfect times. Meanwhile, Miners' passing attack has some decent success against a Sooner secondary that has yet to totally come together.
However, the UTEP run game doesn't provide enough drives that take time off the clock. The Sooners have enough short-yardage opportunities with running back Dominique Whaley and backup quarterback Blake Bell to move the sticks when it's necessary. The Sooners pull it out, 34-23, with many questions to answer if they expect to win an eighth Big 12 title.
Oklahoma Sooners at UTEP Miners
Sept. 1, 9:30 p.m. CT
Sun Bowl Stadium (El Paso, Texas)
Vegas Line: OU -31
Texas-El Paso will be a good test for the Sooners Saturday night. Sure, the Miners finished 5-7 a year ago, but Oklahoma will be playing away from the friendly confines of Owen Field. Plus, OU has some questions that need to be addressed.
- How will the offensive line perform after losing two starters (Ben Habern and Tyler Evans) to injury?
- Will the running game be solid with the return of veterans Dom Whaley, Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and the addition of Damien Williams, a junior college transfer who is expected to see a lot of action?
- Will the receivers perform as well as expected?
- How will Landry Jones play against a heavy pass rush?
- Will Mike Stoops' return restore the defense to its previous glory?
The Sooners have been pegged as 31-point favorites, and they should blow out the Miners like they did in 2000 (55-14) and 2002 (68-0).
ABOUT THE MINERS
UTEP's starting quarterback, Nick Lamaison, returns. He completed 130 of 224 passes (58 percent) for 1,718 yards with 12 TDs and 10 INTs for a 131.2 QB rating. His main target will be back, too. Mike Edwards caught 50 passes for 657 yards (13.1 yards per catch) and 3 TDs. The O-line returns four to the front wall and will need to replace the right guard from last year. Center Eloy Atkinson (6-3, 300) was an honorable mention all-Conference USA selection in 2011 and will be the leader of the line.
The Miners' biggest concern could be the running game. The top three rushers from a year ago have graduated, and that leaves tailback Nathan Jeffrey as the heir apparent to handle the biggest share of the carries. As the teams' fourth-leading rusher, he rushed 26 times for 166 yards (6.4 per carry avg.) and 1 TD a year ago.
The UTEP offense finished 2011 ranked 64th in total offense and 62nd in scoring offense.
The defense returns half of its front four. End Horace Miller should be a force as he started only six games in '11 and recorded 36 tackles, 8 for loss, 5 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries.
Only one part-time starter returns to the three-man linebacking corps. Josh Fely started in four games, saw plenty of action in others and finished third in tackles a year ago with 61 stops.
Safety DeShawn Grayson returns to lead the secondary. He finished second on the squad with 67 tackles. He also had 2 INTs and broke up five passes. The Imers do need to replace the strong safety and left corner from last year's squad.
The D was ranked 104th in total defense and 86th in scoring defense in 2011.
On special teams, UTEP will have all of its kickers back this year. Punter Ian Campbell, an all-conference honorable mention pick in '11, averaged 46.1 yards per kick, and one-third of them landed inside the 20-yard line. Dakota Warren hit 32 of 34 (94.1 percent) of PATs, but only 13 of 22 (59.1 percent) of his field goal attempts. His longest was 47 yards.
Edwards will return punts this year. As a backup last year, he returned 8 for 82 yards and no TDs.
Both teams had dismal defenses in 2011... UTEP gave up 441.5 yards per game (6.3 per play)... The Miners yielded nearly 252 passing yards per game... Landry Jones should have success versus a secondary that has to replace two players... OU's receiving corps will be one to watch... Kenny Stills needs to step up and be the leader of the group... Justin Brown's transfer from Penn State will bring needed experience... The others are talented, but have yet to step onto the college gridiron... TE Geneo Grissom should be a good addition after switching to the position in fall camp... The Sooners have turned to Mike Stoops again to rectify a defense that was Jekyll & Hyde in 2011... The D yielded an average 548.4 yards against Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma State... Two-thirds of those yards came through the air... The defense gave up 268.5 yards per contest versus the other 8 opponents, (164.4 passing per game)... OU's O-line did a decent job of protecting Jones last year and should be able to do so again in 2012 despite losing two starters... Gave up only 11 sacks and had 8 false starts and 3 holding penalties in '11... But, the big question is can they open some gaping holes for the running backs?... The Sooners have some talented RBs, but they will only be as good as the line will let them... Look for improvement on the ground... OU's defense should be better from front to back... Linebackers are solid, secondary should be improved, and the DEs are talented and have experience... The biggest concern could be the D-Line's interior... Casey Walker is reliable and Jamarkus McFarland should be improved... Stacy McGee is suspended, but DE David King sliding into the position will be a positive... Jeffrey will challenge OU's front four... Nick Lamaison will be good enough to challenge OU's secondary... This should be a practice game for the Sooners, but if they think that way, they could be in for a long night.
- OU's season opening record is 88-22-6 (78.4%).
- UTEP's season opening record is 42-46-4 (47.4%).
- OU's record opening on the road: 32-11-2 (73.3%).
- UTEP's season opening record at home is 35-17-3 (66.4%).
- Bob Stoops is 11-2 (84.6%) in season openers.
- Mike Price is 5-2 in season openers at UTEP.
- OU's record at Sun Bowl Stadium is 3-0 (all in bowl games).
- OU is 2-0 on Sept. 1st (44-3 vs. Air Force in 2001 and 79-10 vs. North Texas in 2007).
- UTEP is 1-4 on Sept. 1st.
- Stoops and Price met in the 2003 Rose Bowl when Price was head coach at Washington State. OU won, 34-13.
It's a new year in college football and a new format for a few people's favorite handicapping contest. (And by "few," we mean our mom.) We're talking about "Picks Trying Not to Suck," the weekly prognostications from Homerism and his brother, The Skinny. This year, we'll be doing a weekly picks podcast. As always, a Christmas Day chocolate martini from The Brook in Tulsa is on the line for the winner at the end of the season.
Homerism and The Skinny give their favorite plays of the week, including picks on:
- BYU-Washington State
- And more.
(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)
|"Anybody catch Royal Pains last night?"|
The University of Texas-El Paso, the Oklahoma Sooners' season-opening opponent Saturday, has had so many characters coach its football team that the USA Network should broadcast Miner football games.
Mike Price is entering his ninth year as UTEP's head coach. Most Sooner fans may remember that he coached Washington State in the 2003 Rose Bowl when OU blasted his Cougars, 34-13. Prior to the Rose Bowl, Price had accepted the coaching job at the University of Alabama. He returned to coach in the Rose Bowl before talking off for a full-time gig at Tuscaloosa.
Six months after taking the 'Bama job, Alabama officials discovered that Price spent $200 on cocktails, private dances and tips at a strip club in Pensacola, Fla. The next morning, an unidentified woman staying in his hotel room – not his wife – charged about $1,000 in food and drink on Price's credit card. Price was fired without coaching a single game for the Crimson Tide.
Luckily for Price, he seems to have stayed out of trouble since being hired at UTEP in December 2003.
Gary Nord, the Miners' head coach from 2000 to 2003, made plenty of enemies in the Sooner Nation. He was Howard Schnellenberger's offensive coordinator during that infamous year of 1995.
Prior to that season, Nord had spoken to a roomful of dentists and commented about some of the Oklahomans he had met: "I thought the damn Kentucky people were hicks, but these people win hands down. I should've taken a dentist with me. I didn't see a full set of teeth the whole time I was on the road. Rednecks."
Sooner fans, not ones to forget that comment, heckled Nord during the OU-UTEP game in 2000, but no major incidents occurred. Prior to the game's kickoff, the video board at Owen Field displayed the message: "You have nothing to fear as long as you have coverage ... major medical and dental."
Yet, perhaps no coach angered Sooner fans more than Bill Michael. He coached the Miners from 1977 to 1981. He also was Chuck Fairbanks' assistant at OU from 1967 to 1972. Michael altered the transcripts of Jerry Jackson and Mike Phillips to make them eligible to get a scholarship to play for the Sooners.
Michael resigned, and the NCAA slapped Oklahoma with probation. Jackson had played sparingly in 1972, so the NCAA forced the team to forfeit three conference games and the Big Eight crown in 1972. The NCAA also declared Jackson ineligible for a year, disallowed the Sooners from playing bowl games for two years (1973 and 1974) and instituted a television ban for two years (1974 and 1975).
|Remember his signing day ceremony? No?|
With so many changes to Oklahoma's 2012 recruiting class, let's re-evaluate the newcomers based on the info gleaned from August camp. To do so, we'll compare grades from National Signing Day in February in terms of quality and quantity with how the class would grade out now.
Trevor Knight – 6-3, 200, 4.7
Quality (Feb): A; Quantity (Feb): A
The buzz on Knight is maybe just a little higher than signing day. The main reason is that he is already a leader on campus and for his class. He's the scout team QB this fall and will challenge for backup duties next spring.
*Quality (Aug): A; Quanity (Aug): A
Damien Williams – 6-1, 210, 4.45
David Smith – 6-0, 200, 4.5
Alex Ross – 6-2, 205, 4.4
Daniel Brooks – 5-10, 180, 4.4
Quality (Feb): A-; Quantity (Feb): A+
OU badly needed to replenish the RB position, and all signs from August are "mission: accomplished." Williams is going to challenge Dom Whaley for starter-type carries. Ross looks like he could be a great power back in the mold of Mike Gaddis. Finally, position coach Cale Gundy's raving about David Smith, a big back with home run speed. Daniel Brooks is redshirting and rehabbing his knee injury.
*Quality (Aug): A; Quantity (Aug): A+
Connor Knight – 6-5, 215, 4.7 (walk-on)
Taylor McNamara – 6-5, 235. 4.7
Brannon Green – 6-4, 260, 4.8
Sam Grant – 6-7, 235, 4.7
Quality (Feb): B+; Quantity (Feb): A+
McNamara and Green are providing depth this fall, but they have been a bit overshadowed by former defensive end Geneo Grissom. McNamara is making some plays in the passing game; he just isn't quite big enough for every down blocking. Green is showing his blocking skills, but struggling in receiving. Grant is redshirting.
*Quality (Aug): B-; Quantity (Aug): A
Ty Darlington – 6-3, 285, 5.0
Kyle Marrs – 6-6, 310, 5.2
Quality (Feb): B+; Quantity (Feb): B+
No position has suffered more since signing day than offensive line. Darlington looks like he will be OU's next all-conference center. He's everything that was projected. As expected, Marrs needs to redshirt and develop. The loss of JUCO transfer Will Latu seemed manageable with OU's depth at tackle, until Tyler Evans and Ben Habern got hurt. Even if he couldn't crack the OT rotation, Latu could have been a player inside to provide depth. The loss of John Michael McGee really hurts, too, as he was the best lineman signed in the last two years. With Dylan Dismuke being forced to quit, the lack of athletic OT prospects becomes even more of an issue unless Nathan Hughes' move to OT takes off completely.
*Quality (Aug): B-; Quantity (Aug): C-
|Beat the rush...|
Sterling Shepard – 5-10, 180, 4.4
Durron Neal – 6-1, 190, 4.4
Lacoltan Bester – 6-3, 205, 4.5
Justin Brown – 6-3, 210, 4.5 (Penn State transfer)
Derrick Woods – 6-1, 185, 4.45
Quality (Feb): A+; Quantity (Feb): A+
Considering that OU lost three wideouts after signing day, these five new receivers have taken on even more importance. I'm counting Justin Brown in the class, since he's basically taking Courtney Gardner's spot. I'm not counting Jalen Saunders from Fresno State for now. All in all, the WR class looks great. All three high school kids are as advertised, with Shepard the best best for a big role this fall. Bester is the JUCO addition out of nowhere who will provide depth at the outside WR spots. Justin Brown brings a veteran presence to go with Stills and Metoyer in the starting rotation.
*Quality (Aug): A+; Quantity (Aug): A+
Quantity (Feb): F - 55%; Quality (Feb): Inc./F
The best thing that can be said about the DT class is that it looks like Jordan Wade will redshirt to basically become a DT from the 2012 class. Right now, the inability to add any talent and depth at DT from the 2012 class is a concern. A JUCO DT to provide more depth would have been a great addition in retrospect. The pressure on Jackie Shipp to hit some home runs with the 2013 class is intense. I'm giving the quantity grades a percentage to reflect how much a JUCO DT would have helped.
*Quantity (Aug): F - 25%; Quality (Aug): Inc./F
Eric Striker – 6-0, 200, 4.6
Quantity (Feb): Inc./F; Quality (Feb): Inc./F
Okay, the coaches say Striker is going to be an OLB/WILL in the OU scheme and are raving about his potential to be a difference-maker. Once Javon Harris graduates, could Striker find himself at strong safety? Let's call him a LB for now. The linebacking corps only has two underclassmen right now in Aaron Franklin and Franklin Shannon. There's very little depth. Another high school LB or two would have been ideal in hindsight.
*Quantity (Aug): F - 50%; Quality (Aug): B+ for Striker
Michael Onuoha – 6-7, 235 4.6
Charles Tapper – 6-4, 255, 4.6
Chaz Nelson – 6-3, 240, 4.7
Quantity (Feb): A; Quality (Feb): B+ (A+ potential, but bust potential is high as well)
I left the description in there for a reason. The potential is already showing up in Norman. Tapper and Onuoha are not going to redshirt. Tapper, in fact, could play a lot. Both kids are elite-looking DEs. Tapper could be a bigger, faster Frank Alexander. Onuoha looks like he could be an Aldon Smith-type pass rusher. Chaz Nelson is hurt right now; it could be a wasted year for him.
*Quantity (Aug): A; Quality (Aug): A+ (OU may have signed two five-star kids at DE)
Gary Simon – 6-2, 180, 4.5
Zack Sanchez – 6-1, 170, 4.5
Kass Everett – 5-11, 185, 4.5
Quantity (Feb): B; Quality (Feb): B
Simon and Sanchez are already making noise on the depth chart. Simon is basically the backup CB at one spot. Both kids will play this year to get ready to provide more depth next year. Simon could easily start opposite Colvin at CB next year. Everett is off to a slow start, but he should provide depth. With all the defections, this class really needed a safety. If Derrick Woods does eventually move there, it will fill a big gap in terms of numbers and likely changes the letter grade to an A. That's three potential secondary starters from one class.
*Quantity (Aug): B; Quality (Aug): A
Quantity (Feb): A-; Quality (Feb): B
So, after six months is this class still as good as it was on signing day?
Overall on signing day, I'd have given this class a B+ for quality and an A- for need/quantity. In some areas, it's better or the same – QB, WR, DE, DB, RB. In some areas, it's worse – LB, DT. And in one area, it's really taken a big hit – OL.
In addition, while OU suffered some academic setbacks JUCO-wise, the prep kids all enrolled, including a number of kids who did have some issues (Tapper and Simon). The benefit of getting them on campus cannot be understated.
The overall quality of the kids that enrollled is much better than initially projected by the services, especially Tapper, Simon, Sanchez, Onuoha, Smith, Damien Williams, Bester, Striker. In other words, the bulk of the three-star kids in the class. OU again has done a great job of scouting and evaluating kids.
The number of kids who will play this year speaks to the overall talent. Now, I think I'd give the class an A- for quality and a B for need/quantity. Why the big quantity drop? The class is missing two or three offensive linemen. In particular, there's no left tackle prospect in either of the last two classes (and then factor in the injuries at OL in general). There isn't a high school or JUCO DT or a MIKE LB to help with depth in the future. It's really concerning, given that OL, DT and LB are also the areas where the 2013 class are currently weakest in terms of numbers.
*Quantity (Aug): B; Quality (Aug): A
No team can overcome losing its best wide receiver and best running back. With the loss of Ryan Broyles and Dominque Whaley last year, OU was doomed in its hunt for the national title. The fact that the Sooners still accomplished my worst case prediction in wins last year tells you how good OU could have been. Now, it's a new season and time to get back in the groove and prognosticate the outcome for our beloved Sooner heroes.
I have to tell you that I'm nervous about the passing offense. Nobody is really proven except QB Landry Jones. Although having a proven quarterback is a slam-dunk positive, for this Sooner offense to hum, ironically Jones and the passing game should be relied on less. This was my prescription after last season, and I still believe that.
Landry Jones cannot carry the Sooners. The receiving corps is a big question mark, with only Kenny Stills being consistent during the offseason. Reinstated Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds must be considered unreliable until they prove otherwise. Penn State refugee Justin Brown is a wild card. Trey Metoyer is potential only. Jones needs great playmakers, not merely Stills and bunch of hope and promise.
I feel the loss of offensive linemen Ben Habern and Tyler Evans hinder the passing game more than the running game. If the Sooners try to do what a Sooner offense historically does – complement a stellar pass offense with a servicable running game – this year's Sooners have no chance of winning a national title. The season will be great, but a trip to Florida will not be in the cards.
If OU is going to have a puncher's chance for the BCS title, the Sooners must trust the ground game. I'm banking on Dominique Whaley and his heart. Roy Finch and Brennan Clay are proven veterans. Fullback Trey Millard is the best offensive player at his position outside of Jones. Oh, and let's not forget backup QB Blake Bell and the extra dimension that his legs give the offense. I prayed last year before Bedlam that we would focus on the run and keep the ball out of Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden's arm. We all know how that turned out. I'm begging offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to see it my way and build a powerful running foundation for a new starting quarterback next year, but I fear he'll stick to what he knows – and we'll sputter. We've been spoiled by an elite passing game, but I fear this season's version will not measure up. It could be a long, frustrating season.
I just don't see OU being a run-first team in 2012, but perhaps Stills, Franks, Reynolds, Brown and Metoyer will knock our socks off. Additionally, the ground game will need to repeat last year's output and net at least 160 yards per game. We'll have to be mentally tougher than last season and not get bit by an unexpected loss. Despite losing Travis Lewis, Jamell Fleming, Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops injects the edge back into a defense with a lot of returning experience to make up for those losses.
Despite pulling out hard-fought, early victories against Kansas State and Texas, the Sooners can't escape a late season loss at either West Virginia or TCU. OU wins the tiebreaker for the conference title and goes to the Fiesta Bowl against an SEC team, finishing 12-1 and coming away with the Sooners' best postseason victory since the national championship season of 2000.
We'll get more of what we saw the last half of the season: a passing game that fails to produce consistently. Heupel refuses to run more than 35 times a game. Jones has his worst passing season since 2009 as the receivers fail to gel. Whaley is not the same player he was last year, and Finch is unable to be the feature back. Bell is underutilized in passing situations and doesn't get enough experience to be dominant in 2013. The defensive play keeps a lot of offenses at bay, but is still susceptible to incredulous big plays.
An early loss to Kansas St. is a harbinger of two more losses. The Sooners repeat last year's result with a win in a lower-tier bowl and a 10-3 finish.
They say the only depth charts that matter are the ones in a coach's head. (And, yes, that's a lame cliché that actually isn't even a cliché anyone uses.)
Bob Stoops' approach to putting together the first and second lines bears that out. Even so, the release of a Sooners depth chart provides nice fodder for conversation and speculation. Let's do our part and pontificate in absolutes a little about the latest edition.
*Stacy McGee's indefinite suspension left OU scrambling on the defensive line, but apparently the talk of moving David King inside from defensive end wasn't just a case of the coaching staff blowing smoke. King is listed as the starter at DT alongside Casey Walker, a surprise in and of itself. If Walker is healthy enough to play with the first team, why put returning starter Jamarkus McFarland on the bench and move King out of the DE group?
I just don't get it, which is, I'm sure, how Bob wants it.
*Bob apparently wasn't kidding about his confidence in Dom Whaley coming back from a nasty leg injury. Whaley is running with the first team at running back. Also, JUCO transfer Damien Williams must have made a lasting impression in August. All things being equal, count on Williams and Whaley leading OU in carries this season.
*Word out of camp was that Tyrus Thompson had overtaken Lane Johnson as the starter at left tackle. This says otherwise. Honestly, I suspect who starts at OT doesn't matter much, as Johnson can rotate between the two spots.
*OU will be leaning heavily on its youth. The two-deep includes nine true freshmen, versus 14 seniors. Just nine seniors in the starting lineup.
*I'd say you can take the absence of Jalen Saunders as a pretty clear signal that the coaching staff has given up hope that he will play this season.
*Looks as though Mike Stoops now views the nickel as OU's true base D, listing a starting nickelback, as opposed to a SAM linebacker.
My prediction: Frank Shannon will sub in for the nickel to play strongside linebacker against heavier personnel groupings.
*Honestly, even if their suspensions from playing in games are lifted, what makes anyone think Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds will see the field this season? In particular, I strongly doubt Franks will ever see meaningful playing time again now that he has moved to defensive back.
Kickoff for the Oklahoma Sooners' 2012 season is finally just days away. OU expert Josh McCuistion of SoonerScoop.com joins Homerism for a podcast to take an in-depth look at some of the Crimson and Cream's biggest weaknesses heading into the fall.
Josh and I cover:
- Offseason upheaval in OU's program.
- Why do the Sooners seem to suffer so many injuries?
- Landy Jones' development.
- A talented, but thin, offensive line.
- Red flags for the defensive front four.
- Tony Jefferson's potential in Mike Stoops' defense.
- And more.
(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)
|C'mon - it wasn't that bad.|
Guerin Emig, the Tulsa World's Oklahoma beat reporter, had an item about the Sooner D in his blog last week that drove me nuts.
Emig compared OU's pass defense from 1999 to 2003 when Mike Stoops first served as defensive coordinator with the period after he left (2004-2011). It's a good idea, especially given all the painful memories of the sSoner secondary getting torched all too often last fall. Unfortunately, Emig used OU's rankings in passing yards allowed as his baseline statistic for comparison, which provides a highly skewed picture of how the defense performed against the pass under Brent Venables since 2004.
Mike's first stint as defensive coordinator predates the spread revolution in the Big 12, which naturally inflated those aggregate passing stats for offenses and to the detriment of defenses. Here's a very simple illustration of how the shift in offensive strategy has played out using Big 12 stats from 2003 and 2011.
|Year||Avg. Pass Attempts||Yards per Attempt|
On average, Big 12 teams threw five more passes per game in '11 than they did in '03. They did so with essentially the same effectiveness per attempt as they did back in the day. Even if you don’t believe the quality of offensive play has improved across the league since 2003 - they have - the sheer fact that the number of passes thrown per game rose almost invariably results in an increase in total passing yards allowed. That also doesn't account for the growing number of teams outside the Big 12 running the spread that have shown up on OU's nonconference schedule.
If the name of the game is just cutting down the total number of yards allowed through the air, there are a number of measures OU could take to accomplish that. The defense could loosen up and invite teams to run the ball all day. The offense could slow down its pace and run the ball more frequently. OU could stop winning so much, which forces opponents to throw the ball more when trailing.
The Big 12 has shifted to a pass-oriented conference. That doesn’t excuse Venables’ shortcomings, but they certainly haven’t been as glaring as misleading stats such as this would have you believe. In fact, some quants would have you believe OU’s pass D has been damn good in the last eight years.
Mike Stoops still carries his folk hero credentials in the Sooner State thanks to his work with OU’s defense. That was more than a decade ago now, though. Teams are going to throw the ball more and roll up more yards through the air as a result.
If you’re expecting to look through OU’s box score and see the same kind of defensive stats that everyone grew accustomed to in the early part of the decade, you’re setting yourself up for massive disappointment in Mike’s second defensive regime.
Well, here we are.
Start of a new football season.
Even better than the start of the actual games, that means the start of hypothetical beauty pageants.
Much like Lane Kiffin, I have been entrusted with a sacred responsibility. Once again, I'll be voting in the SB Nation BlogPoll, probably the most authoritatively arbitrary ordering of teams you'll find anywhere.
Check for my preseason ballot below the jump.
Blatant Homerism Ballot - Week 19
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide||--|
|6||Florida St. Seminoles||--|
|8||Ohio St. Buckeyes||--|
|13||South Carolina Gamecocks||--|
|14||Michigan St. Spartans||--|
|15||West Virginia Mountaineers||--|
|19||Virginia Tech Hokies||--|
|20||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||--|
|21||Oklahoma St. Cowboys||--|
|22||Kansas St. Wildcats||--|
|24||TCU Horned Frogs||--|
|25||Boise St. Broncos||--|
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »
A few notes:
*I try to do my preseason rankings as a reflection of objective team strength. One way to think about it is who would be favored on a neutral field if they played tomorrow. I'll take Alabama over everyone. I'd favor Oregon over everyone save Alabama. And on down the line.
*Alabama is an easy No. 1 for me. I realize that the Crimson Tide lost a ton on defense, but given the coaching and overall level of talent in Tuscaloosa, I have to lean to 'Bama as the top team.
*'Bama now holds the same elite position within the college football world that USC used to have. Initially had the Trojans at No. 2 behind the Tide, but the injuries on the defensive side of the ball have tempered my enthusiasm for Southern Cal. Looking at Chip Kelly's overall track record in Eugene, I'm gonig to give the edge to the Ducks there.
*Yes, I know that USC beat Oregon last year – just like LSU. I have doubts about the Bayou Bengals, though. That team lost a lot of quality talent from the defense of a year ago, and that was pre-Honey Badger's dismissal. I also have to hedge my bets on a quarterback transition.
*The teams ranked in spots 5-7 could really be in any order and I wouldn't object. I ranked OU ahead of Florida State and Georgia based on consistency. I put Georgia at No. 7 in light of the depth issues on the roster.
*I'm buying Florida and Texas both being improved just based on recruiting. It's hard to have that much elite talent on your depth chart and not get better by sheerly outclassing opponents. It helps that these will probably be two of the best defenses in the country, of course.
*I have Michigan considerably lower than most ballots you'll see. I just don't think that team was nearly as good as its record indicated a year ago. The Wolverines won a number of close games and got a ton of fortunate bounces in 2011. That's a recipe for overachieving that gave an impression of a team that wasn't nearly as good as its record indicated.
Two weeks to go until OU takes on UTEP. Let's take a quick look at some of the big stories of camp as two-a-days end and classes start up.
*What's the real injury story on the offensive line?
OU has lost three OL to injuries and two defections/academic issues. Three (McGee, Latu and Dismuke) of the losses are a recruiting problem for Bruce Kittle and James Patton for signing day. The actual lineup/depth loss is Tyler Evans. OU knew all spring and summer that center Ben Habern might not go this year. Even at Big 12 Media Days, Habern was talking about playing 20 snaps per game at most. Habern's absence means Gabe Ikard's back at center, just like spring and half the season last year.
Evans' loss has a bigger impact. It means Bronson Irwin moves up to starter and Nila Kasitati moves up to back up both guard spots instead of backing up Ikard at center. OU is fine at tackle with Daryl Williams, Lane Johnson, Tyrus Thompson and Derek Farniok. OU will have to play Ty Darlington to field a true second-team OL.
On the positive side, Austin Woods' cancer recovery is going so well that he should be able to provide reps at guard and at center this fall. If OU can keep the core nine (Williams, Thompson, Johnson, Shead, Irwin, Ikard, Kasitati, Woods, Farniok) healthy, the the OL can still be a strength for the offense.
*What's going on at tight end?
Why is Geneo Grissom starting? OU needs the TEs to force their way onto the field, otherwise OU will go with more two-back looks with Millard and maybe Ripkowski.
Brannon Green is the best blocker, but he does not present a big passing threat. OU will likely try to redshirt Sam Grant. Taylor McNamara presents the best passing threat, but is still pretty light blocking wise at 230 and apparently has had a hard time keeping weight on in the brutal summer of Oklahoma.
Grissom (6-4, 255) is as big as Green and a much better athlete with excellent downfield speed. The only question is can he catch and learn the passing game. Apparently so, as Grissom has started making some plays in scrimmages. It will be an interesting development to follow. The last DE that moved to TE for the Sooners was Adrian Cooper back in the day, and on the field, that worked out very well.
*DE position seems to be in great shape.
RJ Washington and David King had great camps. Chuka Ndulue is threatening for starting reps. Rashad Favors' move to DE is really clicking, and the two frosh DEs, Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha, look like stars of the future.
While Stacy McGee serves his suspension, King is able to play more inside at DT due to the talent and depth at the position.
*RB depth looks very good.
Dom Whaley is healthy. Brennan Clay is healthy and having his best camp ever and looks to be in great shape. Damien Williams is starting to show why OU signed him and will probably share most of the reps early with Whaley. Alex Ross, although raw at RB, reportedly has a big highlight run every scrimmage and might not redshirt. David Smith also has looked good, but should redshirt unless the injury bug hits RBs again.
*The WR panic can be dialed down a little.
The addition of Justin Brown, the development of Trey Metoyer,and the reinforcements of Lacoltan Bester, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard have solidified the previous sucking void at WR. Kenny Stills should play the slot with Brown and Metoyer flanking him.
The second wave of WRs should be Shepard in the slot with Bester and Neal on the flanks. Derrick Woods will likely redshirt, and, unfortunately, Jalen Saunders probably won't get an NCAA waiver. If Metoyer and Brown meet the coaches' hype, OU's WR corps should be as good as 2007 or 2003.
The linebacker corps looks good after an uneven spring. Corey Nelson has focused now on playing WILL and has started to re-emerge as the playmaker that he's been projected to be since last spring. Tom Wort has the middle covered, and Joseph Ibiloye is the SAM LB. Franklin Shannon and Aaron Franklin have had excellent camps, a positive sign for the future of Sooner LB'ing. Finally, Eric Striker is looking like an excellent OLB or nickel LB.
*The QB position looks strong.
Landry Jones by all reports is having a great camp. The work with NFL QB guru George Whitfield and his summer conditioning makeover are making him a better QB in the pocket, and he apparently looks more mobile.
Blake Bell appears to have taken over the back-up QB spot, and the coaches will continue to use him in the Belldozer role. The Belldozer continues to be unstoppable in scrimmages and practice.