When OU has had an utterly disappointing season like 2011, it's easy to criticize everyone down to the water boys for the predicament the team is now in. Sooner Nation has gone into a meltdown trying to place blame. It's frustrating for us as fans, but in the name of sanity, it's wise to remember the old adage: Things are never as good or as bad as you imagine them to be. Actually, I don't know if it's an old adage, but I liked the sound of that when I first heard it.
Nevertheless, I'll start off with what I feel needs to be changed in regards to the most important part of the team, the quarterback.
Now, it is my assumption that Landry Jones will stay for his senior season. I feel his draft stock is not first-round quality and he still has much to learn from the college game. I do believe that 2011 left a bad taste in his mouth and that despite his dearth of emotion, he wants to end his college career on a better note. The deal-breaker is that his fiance, OU women's basketball player Whitney Hand, will also be in her senior season next year. These two have dreamy puppy love. I can't see them not spending their last college year together.
Lots of blame has been placed on Jones for decline of the Sooners during the last part of the season. However, there really isn't much difference from Landry of 2011 and Landry of 2010. Yes, his numbers were slightly off from 2010, but the numbers don't tell the complete story. A big reason for the drop in TD passes was the Belldozer formation, which took away scoring opportunities in the red zone. Let's not forget he also lost the greatest receiver in Sooner history in the middle of the season. Ryan Broyles was Landy's security blanket, and Jones never really got in a rhythm after the injury.
The fact is, Landry is who Landry is. He is very close to his ceiling as a quarterback. There was little improvement, if any, from 2010. His nerves are unshakable, but the poor decisions he made last year continued to be on display this year. He still tends to force balls into tight places. Sometimes he gets away with it, sometimes he doesn't. He won't lose you a game by himself, but he is not able to put the team on his back. He can be deadly accurate. When he's complemented by great play around him, the Sooners soar. If not, they stumble.
Landry is not, and never will be, an X-factor. The coaches must place him in the correct situations to facilitate the offense, not spark it. His improvement curve is reaching that asymptote and is leveling off. The coaches must realize this.
So, for 2012, there must be less dependence on Landry Jones and the quarterback position. Like I said in the spring, the running game must be improved to lessen the reliance on the passing game (a future post).
Additionally, there must be more of a dual-threat option from the quarterback position. Now, Landry should start, no doubt. His passing upside can not be overlooked, and neither Blake Bell nor Drew Allen can achieve Landry's proficiency during the off-season. Using Blake Bell in short-yardage situations was a great move. This must be expanded on.
I've always hated the rotating quarterback philosophy, but if utilized correctly, it can work. It fails when you do it in the Texas fashion of splitting snaps 50-50. However, if we were to use it more in a 75-25 split, not unlike Florida did in 2006 with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, I see it greatly enhancing the versatility of the OU offense.
Bell needs to develop into more of a passing threat. When he's in the game, the opposing defense should not automatically think OU is going to run. This is important not only for the 2012 season, but increased reps on passing situations will bode well for the Sooners in 2013 when Bell takes over. Bob Stoops has never played his backups enough, much to my chagrin. He must get Bell ready, and this is his chance to do it. He's too talented of an athlete to just let him do spot duty. It's time to start grooming him.
Drew Allen will have to remain as the backup, which is not ideal for him. I fear he may transfer at some point if Jones stays or Bell gets a vice grip on the starting quarterback position. I wish he would keep chugging and getting better just in case something opens up, but I wouldn't blame him if he left.
So in a nutshell, don't blame Jones, but don't count on him to be the man. Bell is the future, and the future starts next year.