We are a mere two weeks away from Oklahoma’s annual Red White game, which is set for April 12th, at 2 pm. The Sooners are riding high, after a successful 11-2 season, culminating in a Sugar bowl Championship. The game also made Bob Stoops the only coach in the BCS era to win all 4 BCS games, and a National Title.
Obviously, there are a lot of reasons to celebrate the accomplishments of 2013. Considering that many thought this would be a down year for Oklahoma. I thought 9-4 would be a great season for this team.
However, we need to look ahead to the 2014 season, and how this team has been developing during the Spring practices. These are some of the areas that I believe we should be looking at when the Sooners take the field for this annual scrimmage:
I’ll address the offensive side of the ball first. The offensive line, is in relatively good shape. The question mark would be replacing Gabe Ikard. He was the leader of this unit. He had such a command of the offense, it was almost like having a second quarterback on the field.
The responsibility of replacing him falls to junior Ty Darlington. He doesn’t have much playing experience under his belt, but the line around him does. Three seniors in Adam Shead, Darryl Williams, and Tyrus Thompson. Fellow junior Nila Kasitiati will also be on the line, who played in all 13 games, starting in seven, including the Sugar Bowl.
The four other players around him should aide him in becoming a suitable replacement for Ikard. Shead, and Williams are both continuing to recover from injuries, and will not play in the game. You also have quality guys including senior Dionte Savage and junior Derek Farniok, who both have starting experience off the bench.
The running backs, rank the highest in the amount of question marks. Last year players like Keith Ford and Alex Ross, were not featured as much due to having quality depth at the RB position – seniors Brendan Clay, Roy Finch, and departed Daminen Williams. Keith Ford did see the field some, mainly in short yardage situations. During the Sugar Bowl, Ford had only three carries, however, all three of those carries kept drives alive against a nationally perceived superior run defense that was the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Keith Ford certainly is the favorite at this time to be the starting running back. Alex Ross is fast, though we have not had a chance to see what he can do in the real world, this game will give him a chance to show us what he can do. You also have Joe Mixon who will be coming on campus this fall. He is expected to make an impact during the upcoming season. When talking about these running backs, to channel my inner T.O., “Get your popcorn ready.”
Another major question is about the group of tight ends, particularly Blake Bell. He is transitioning from quarterback to tight end for his final year. So far the coaching staff have been positive about his performance during the spring practices. He’s big, he’s athletic, and has significant playing experience in Oklahoma’s offense.
Fellow redshirt sophomore Taylor McNamara and new comer Isaac Ijalana, who transferred from the junior college level. All three of these players have questions. It will be interesting to see how Coach Heupel incorporates them. At the very least, Blake Bell will be featured during the spring contest.
Defensively, the team has the task of stopping that OU offense during the annual red-white game. The group I believe that has the most question marks are the secondary. Zach Sanchez, takes over as the premier corner with the departure of Arron Colvin. Freshman Stanvon Taylor and sophomore Cortez Johnson both have starting experience from the previous year and will be competing to replace the leader of the 2013 group.
The defense’s front seven is probably the most exciting part of this game to me. This group by far is the most experienced of all the Sooners on the field. I am looking forward to seeing what improvements Mike Stoops has made in stopping the run. This group was fairly effective last season overall, finishing 20th in total defense. You have Geneo Grissom, Charles Tapper, Eric Striker, Dominque Alexander, just to name a few impact players returning to this defense.
This group improved from its lack luster 2012 ranking, to become 24th in the nation in stopping the run. They still allowed big plays when facing the run. What better way to test that than against Trevor Knight, Keith Ford, and some possible tom foolery involving a Belldozer type play.
To recap, the things to pay close attention to, are the running backs, tight ends, corners, and the defensive front seven. This team should be improved from even a year ago, especially the defensive front. We could be looking at a national title winning team for 2014. These questions will begin to be answered on April 12th.
Whether its for their spring game or the upcoming season in the fall you can find all your Oklahoma football ticket needs here.