With kickoff of the 2014 season finally upon us, Jesse and I offer up some preseason awards for the Sooners and the Big 12.
2014 Oklahoma Preseason Awards
Story of the Year
Allen: Inviting upheaval
The Sooners were cruising along, minding their own business and enjoying a quiet offseason. That all changed around the Fourth of July when freakishly talented wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham joined the team. Then we found out more about what was going on with Frank Shannon. Then Joe Mixon got in trouble.
There’s just been a lot of noise around Norman in the last couple months. If OU falls flat this year, you can bet Bob Stoops will be fielding some questions about preseason distractions.
Jesse: The race for a playoff berth
Player on the Spot, Offense
Allen: Ty Darlington
Gabe Ikard was not only an All-American center, he was the face of the Sooners last season. He’ll undoubtedly go down as one of the program’s best leaders in the Stoops era.
In other words, Darlington has some huge shoes to fill. No one expects him to replace Ikard in the locker room, but he does need to show he has Ikard’s steady head to anchor the offensive line.
Jesse: Keith Ford
Player on the Spot, Defense
Allen: Quentin Hayes
Hayes drew the wrath of OU fans and message board denizens frequently a year ago. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, on the other hand, appears to have the utmost confidence in the veteran safety. With so many new faces in the mix, Mike is counting on Hayes to help orchestrate in the secondary.
Jesse: Julian Wilson
Key Newcomer, Offense
Allen: Michiah Quick
With Mixon nixed for the season, Quick becomes the easy pick here. The stud freshman will see action immediately at slot receiver, and he should give opposing defenses headaches by working the middle of the field on quick-hitters.
OU definitely lost some offensive weapons off of last year’s team. Quick stepping in right away would ease any concerns about how to replace that firepower.
Jesse: Samaje Perine
Key Newcomer, Defense
Allen: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
As Eddie Radosevich mentioned in our podcast earlier this week, Obo has received tons of praise from the coaching staff in fall camp. With Shannon unlikely to play this year, could the redshirt freshman see time at both the inside and outside linebacker positions?
Jesse: Steven Parker
Allen: Return game
This should probably be “return game?” Jalen Saunders, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch didn’t get nearly enough credit for the plays that they made returning punts and kicks last year. Hell, Saunders’ performance as punt returner might have been the difference in the Sooners’ final three games of the regular season.
Durron Neal and Alex Ross on kickoffs and Sterling Shepard handling punts are total unknowns. Not sure if that qualifies as a flaw, per se, but there is a lot of uncertainty in the return game.
Jesse: Secondary depth
Not a Problem
Allen: Running back
Sure, the Sooners lost a ton of production from last year’s backfield.
Running backs coach Cale Gundy is still one of the best recruiters in the country. Even without Mixon in the fold, he has two potential feature backs in Ross and Keith Ford to go along with change-of-pace players Samaje Perine and Daniel Brooks. All except for Brooks were four-star recruits out of high school.
No worries for OU here.
Jesse: Trevor Knight
2014 Big 12 Preseason Awards
Offensive Player of the Year
Allen: Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma
Bryce Petty would be the easy call as a repeat winner, but I'm all-in on Knight and the Sooners.
Jesse: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Defensive Player of the Year
Allen: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
The Wildcats' high-motor pass rusher isn't the best NFL prospect in the conference at his position – that would be Texas' Cedric Reed. Mueller is the best defensive player in the league, though.
Jesse: Eric Striker, LB, OU
Offensive Newcomer of the Year
Allen: K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor
I'd pick the Bears' explosive wideout on name alone. He's going to be a handful for defenses in Art Briles' high-powered offense.
Jesse: Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU
Defensive Newcomer of the Year
Allen: Terrell Clinkscales, DT, Kansas State
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Bill Snyder mined the juco ranks to find an immediate impact defender.
Coach of the Year
Allen: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Seeing as I've got OU making it through the season undefeated, this is an easy call.
Jesse: Bill Snyder