Traditionally, I've started these position previews with the offensive and defensive lines. The big uglies sure ain't sexy, but it only seems appropriate to get things cracking with the guys who really make things go.
So, why kick it off with quarterbacks this season? Because to me, Landry Jones is one of the more compelling stories to come through Norman in a while.
Jones has had the misfortune of succeeding the best quarterback to ever play for one of the best programs in college football history. Timing assured that he'd be held to impossibly high standards, and plenty of Sooner fans – myself included – have lived up to that end of the deal.
Yet, even though Sam Bradford was undoubtedly the goods in college, the reality is that he never had to overcome the obstacles that the Sooners' current signal caller has faced down.
In his first two years as a starter, Bradford played behind one of the best offensive lines in college football, a unit that featured four NFL draft picks. Bradford also benefited from a veteran corps of receivers as well as a running game that averaged nearly 5 yards per attempt in 2008. Bottom line: As great as Bradford was, he had a ton of help.
Jones? Well, he has had to make due with just a little less. Don't forget that the o-line in front of Bradford in his third year as starter nearly got him killed. That just so happens to be the offensive line meant to protect Jones in 2009 when he got Matt Saracen'd into duty. The one that was supposed to fend off Ndamukong Suh and Sergio Kindle and Allen Bailey and Von Miller.
To make matters worse for the 'Stache, the Sooners' running game has sputtered the last two years. That has often left Jones flinging the ball left, right and center in an effort to keep OU's offense from stalling. Yet, he has still put up gaudy stats and has a conference title to his credit.
Jones may not be Bradford, but as last season proved, he's no Nate Hybl, either. He can do far more than just shepherd the Sooners to safety. He has shown that he has the skills to carry the Crimson and Cream when called upon, and he'll be one of the first quarterbacks taken whenever he decides to make himself available for the NFL draft.
Luckily, the collection of talent surrounding Jones on both sides of the ball is national championship-caliber. He doesn't have to play out of his mind for 13 games to take OU to the Promised Land.
Having witnessed Jones' growth in the past two years, though, Sooner Nation should feel confident that Jones has developed into the kind of quarterback who could win plenty of games on his own. Even if he doesn't need to.