Monday, January 7, 2008

Looking Ahead to 2008

Amidst all the weeping and gnashing of teeth about the Sooners bowl woes of late, let's take a moment to look at the coming year.

Returning Starters:

Offense: 8. Malcolm Kelly just declared for the NFL draft. He can catch anything, and we wish him well. We also lose Joe Jon Finley and Allen Patrick. These two guys have been great contributors for the Sooners, but they've also just taken reps from Jermaine Gresham and DeMarco Murray. So, IMO, that's effectively 10 starters returning. Not a real problem there. If I may digress, Colt McCoy suffered more than anyone expected during his sophomore year primarily because he lost three lineman to the NFL. Barring an ill-advised early declaration for the draft, the Sooners will return all 5 o-line starters, and as a result, I don't anticipate Bradford suffering from the sophomore slump.

Defense: 7. We take some shots on defense. We lose D-lineman Alonzo Dotson, LB Lewis Baker, DBs Marcus Walker and DJ Wolfe. If Granger gets out of the doghouse - I mean big house -, we should return a very good defensive line. Clearly, Curtis Lofton will need some help at LB (Ryan Reynolds will be year two after knee surgery, so that should help). In the defensive backfield, the Sooners will be young next year. Assuming Reggie Smith returns, that leaves Reggie and Nic Harris as the elder statesmen of the group. Harris as your seasoned DB scares me. I love the intensity and the way he hits, but I also believe that he epitomizes the challenges that the Sooner D seems to have in big games of late...the unchanneled intensity results in overpursuit, poor tackle angles, and an overzealousness toward stuffing the run that leaves the back of the field exposed unnecessarily.

Special Teams: The Sooners lose PK Garrett Hartley, as well as one of the punters, Mike Cohen. Coehn was the stronger of the two punters (Knall was the short field punter). Hartley will most likely be replaced by budding gymnast Jimmy Stevens, a 5-5, 147 lb behemoth from Heritage Hall HS in Oklahoma City who was a Parade All American. Allen Patrick was one of our kick returners, but when Murray was healty, Murray split time with Iglesias, and both return.

Coaching: For now, the Sooners have only lost Kevin Sumlin, Co-Offensive coordinator and WR coach. A replacement for Sumlin or reshuffling of the coaching staff has not been announced. Many internet pundits are stumping for Heupel to take another step up. This may be premature, and it also doesn't solve your need to have someone to be the position coach for the WRs. IMO, the Heupel's time can best be served by continuing to coach and mentor Halzle, Bradford, and Nichol. Many folks are stumping for the staff to be shaken up after another poor bowl showing, but who are you going to get rid of? Who's the problem? We can't bring in Bo Pelini now, and while Kevin Cosgrove is available, I don't think we want him. B Orange mentioned Mack Brown asking other coaches about their bowl prep, and that it's tough to see Stoops doing that. I find it difficult for the LandThieves crystal ball to project a clear image of the HeadVisor going around Visor in hand asking other folks about how they prepare for games. I do think Stoops is enough of a competitor that he'll rethink it in some form or fashion.

Here's a small sampling of the way too early projections for 2008, as far as Oklahoma goes:
Stewart Mandel,, 3rd.
Mark Schlaback,, 2nd

Ok, I didn't think it was going to be that small. Didn't find anything on the MSNBC site or the Sportsline site; USA Today sez we'll be "in the mix" for the national title.

A genius on MSNBC, a gent named John Tamanaha wrote, while predicting Ohio State would be in the national champ game, "you’d be hard pressed to find a returning group better than quarterback Todd Boeckman, tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells and wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline." Well, I would take Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and two members of the Spirit Squad, for starters. Since Quentin Chaney and J Iglesias are already on the team, I'll stick with them, I guess.

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