After a disastrous 40-6 drubbing by Clemson in the Bowl game last year, the Oklahoma Sooners didn’t stay pat for the upcoming 2015 season. Head Coach Bob Stoops fired offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and hired East Carolina’s Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley to revamp an offensive that at times sputtered with inopportune turnovers that cost the team wins. Other coaches were let go and new blood has been incorporated into the Sooner staff. An 8-5 record following #6 ranking the year before with a win over Alabama didn’t bring the expected results hoped for. Two things are brought to the stadium in 2015. OU has quality first line players at many positions and with a lack of some respect from the prognosticators, the Sooners are a dangerous team that has a schedule that could bring them back to a high ranking in the National polls. A Final Four birth would be hard to achieve, but the last time OU was rated pre-season so low, 19th, they won the National Championship. OU could surprise this year.
Lincoln Riley, a former quarterback at Texas Tech under Mike Leach, who was the offensive coordinator at OU when Coach Stoops came to Norman in 1999, hopes to bring the Leach offense back to Norman with Baker Mayfield as the starting quarterback. Mayfield has played in the Leach offensive at Lake Travis High School in the Austin area where he won a State Title. He also was the freshman player of the year in the Big 12 in 2013, playing in that same passing system for Coach Kliff Kingsbury at Tech, (the one Kingsbury played for under Leach on the South Plains in Lubbock.) It is clear that OU’s new look will take us back to the one that OU used to win their last National Championship in 2000. Riley has the intent to develop an offense that will consume the Sooner’s opponent defenses in a way that Tech did in the past and the way Baylor does today.
Mayfield will start with Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas in backup roles. They will have some excellent talent to throw to. Sterling Shepard and DeDe Westbrook will start with reserves Duron Neal, KJ Young, Jeffery Mead and John Humphery all expected to see action. With Samaje Perine, Alex Ross, and Joe Mixon, the Sooner’s running backs rank with the best in the country.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Joe Mixon learned his lesson after a yearlong suspension for punching a female student. Brandon Wade Star-Telegram Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/college/big-12/article28059442.html#storylink=cpy
Some notes: Shepard, an all Big 12 and possible All-American; DeDe Westbrook, a JC transfer that has opened eyes since he stepped foot on campus; Jeffery Mead, at 6’6 who has excelled in pre-season camp; Durron Neal, starter from last year; and K.J Young and John Humphery as added depth. Dimitri Flowers as a blocking fullback and a revamped o-line, give the Sooners a potent running game. Mixon might be the best of the group as he has shined in pre-season practice. Another big back, like Perine, Mixon is more elusive and is an outstanding pass receiver. Riley will play Mixon (6’2 220) and Perine (5’ll 240) together, giving Mayfield a great duo of all-American type backs. Ross and Flowers will see significant time.
Last year the young defensive secondary was not bad, it was pitiful. And that was even with the talent in the name of Zach Sanchez. Sanchez is a big play corner that will have a chance to play on Sunday’s. He has taken 3 of 8 lifetime oskies back for scores. Coach Mike Stoops has indicated the two most important players on defense will be the other starting corner Jordan Thomas and free safety Stephen Parker. It if is true that significant improvement has been made by these two sophomores who started as freshmen, the Sooner defense will stiffen up. OU recruited some excellent talent for the defensive secondary and are pushing the starters for playing time. Look for improvement in that area. OU will field a stronger defense with the improvement of the secondary and a veteran and excellent front seven at important positions. The pass rush and run stoppers are not the problem, with Eric Striker leading the way at linebacker in a revampted 4-3 line up, different from the 3-4 in 2014. Returning backers Dominique Alexander, a junior that started as a freshman, Jordan Evans, another junior starter, and returning backer Frank Shannon, off a one year suspension for female abuse, gives the Sooners quality and depth. These three are of Big 12 all-conference quality with Shannon the key. Coming in overweight, he should be in fine shape by the Texas game. Striker will be a first team All-American at best, and a 2nd team at worse. Charles Tapper will anchor the defensive line, and he is a superior run stopper. The other defense line starters will be good and OU will stop the run “in a good way.” The pass rush, with Striker and Tapper will be a strength.
Alex Ross has made some pre-season all-American teams as a kickoff returner. Kickoff specialist Nick Hodgson continually puts the ball in the end zone and is making a strong case to be the placement kicker. The punter will be Jack Steed or Austin Seibert, a freshman. Seibert could be the field goal/extra point man if Stoops decided to go that way and Hodgson’s way.
OU can win a lot of games this year if Baker Mayfield can play effectively and the Sooners don’t make the big mistake on offensive. That basically cost Trevor Knight his job. No team in the league will match the lineup of Perine, Shepard, Westbrook, Flowers, Ross and Mixon. Especially Mixon. Remember the freshman year of Perine last year? The freshman year of Adrian (All Day) Peterson? Mixon could be as productive. Look for OU to challenge for the Big 12 championship in 2015. Baylor and TCU does not own the league yet.