3 Oklahoma football players who should be replaced on the depth chart for 2024

FanSided college football writer Josh Yourish sees three spots for the Sooners to improve the team just by making changes on the depth chart.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Retzlaff (12) runs from Jaren Kanak (7)
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Retzlaff (12) runs from Jaren Kanak (7) / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
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After it beat Texas in the Red River Rivalry, Oklahoma looked like a College Football Playoff contender, but it turns out that Dillon Gabriel was papering over a lot of issues with Brent Venables’s roster. Back-to-back losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State left the Sooners out of the Big 12 championship game in their final season before leaving for the SEC. At 10-3, it was a disappointing season, but it won’t be easy to get back to 10 wins in the new conference. 

For a defensive coach, the identity of the Sooner hasn’t changed much under Venables from the high-powered offensive team that struggled to get stops that it was with Lincoln Riley. The defense finished the year 112th against the pass, 80th in total defense, and 51st in yards per play. 

The defense will be even more important in 2024 because offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby went to Starkville to take over the Mississippi State program and Gabriel is playing out his final year of eligibility as an Oregon Duck. 

There is one big change that Venables needs to make to the defense, one he started to make at the end of last season, and two tweaks to his offense that can keep it humming with new OC Seth Littrell calling plays for five-star sophomore Jackson Arnold, who struggled in his bowl game debut. 

Junior. . . Jaren Kanak. LB. player. 464. Jaren Kanak. 7. Jaren Kanak

The sophomore came to Oklahoma as the No. 1 player in Kansas in the 2022 class and his high school pedigree, more than his on-field production, kept him on the field this past season. There were plenty of weak points in the Oklahoma defense, but Kanak was chief among them. 

Kanak started the first nine games of the season and then began to get phased out in weeks 10-13 with his snap count dropping from 67 in Week 9 against Kansas to 27 in Week 10 against Oklahoma State. 

The first requirement of a middle linebacker is to be a reliable tackler and Kanak already misses the mark on Step 1. He finished the season with 62 tackles, 27 of them solo, but he also missed 22 tackles or 22.2% of his attempts, including a season-high three missed tackles against Kansas. 

At 6-foot-2 232 pounds, Kanak needs to be solid against the run because he’s a bit oversized compared to modern linebackers. A modern middle linebacker needs to be able to survive in pass coverage and play sideline-to-sideline, Kanak just can’t. 

In coverage, he was targeted 25 times and allowed 16 catches for 220 yards and 162 of those yards came after the catch when he failed to make the tackle. The middle linebacker is the heart of the defense and Oklahoma needs a transplant. 

Venables decided to move away from Kanak at the end of the year, but he played 38 snaps in the Alamo Bowl, which could indicate that he’s back in the coaching staff’s good graces. That’s bad news for the Sooners.