Since Oklahoma's disastrous blowout loss in the Cotton Bowl to Texas A&M, the program has lost:
- Three fired assistant coaches, which is pretty much unheard of since Bob Stoops became head coach 15 years ago;
- A four-year starter at quarterback;
- Its two leading receivers;
- Both starting safeties, including the leading tackler from a year ago;
- A left tackle who might be among the first 10 picks in April's NFL draft;
- Three defensive linemen with starting experience;
- A three-year starting cornerback;
- A three-year starting linebacker;
- And, for good measure, an elite punter.
That massive turnover provides the backdrop against which the Sooners will start spring practice on Saturday. The sentimental types among Sooner Nation may lament the loss of a number of accomplished stars. The more demanding among us could view it as a chance to inject some new blood into a program that has been good-but-not-quite-good-enough for four years, an eternity in Norman time.
Naturally, though, that kind of upheaval leaves plenty of questions to be answered as the young bucks assemble for spring ball. Chief among them:
3-4 or 4-3?
During OU's media availability on Thursday, Mike Stoops indicated that he's looking for more adaptability from the Sooner D. Apparently, that will include tinkering with a 3-4 look. Just how much OU goes with the three-man front will depend in part on how well the personnel takes to it in the course of the next 15 practices.
Is Bell dozing?
OK, I admit – that's a terrible pun. As the clubhouse leader for the starting job this fall, I doubt the junior quarterback has been slacking since the end of the year.
However, the buzz around redshirt freshman Trevor Knight grows louder almost daily. Bell has precious little margin for error this spring and into the fall camp.
How safe is the safety position?
Tony Jefferson was the clear-cut best defender on Oklahoma's roster a year ago. Javon Harris took more than his fair share or criticism, but he frequently made big plays in the secondary. Now, both are gone, and OU is essentially starting over.
As of now, senior Gabe Lynn and junior Quentin Hayes occupy the first lines on the depth chart. With exciting newcomers like Hatari Byrd joining the fold in August, Lynn and Hayes would be well-advised to stake their claims to their starting positions now.
Is Corey Nelson?
With Travis Lewis gone to the NFL, 2012 was thought to be the year that Nelson would come into his own at linebacker. By the end of the season, he was rarely stepping onto the field.
Will Nelson snap out of the funk that appeared to consumer him throughout lat season? He is the most talented defender on the roster, and his continued deveopment will be pivotal to OU's defensive performance this fall.
I feel like I've hammered this point so far this offseason, but the play of the Sooners' defensive line last season simply con't cut it. Hopefully, new DL coach Jerry Montgomery is ready to light a fire under some asses this spring.