Five positions where the Sooners need answers
SEP 12, 2013 12:23p ET
Maybe, rightfully so. The Hurricane is just 1-1 and has been un-impressive in a loss to Bowling Green and an overtime win over Colorado State.
The focus is on Oklahoma. Rightfully so. There are a number of issues, starting at the quarterback spot. The Sooners face Tulsa this week, have an off-week and then go to Notre Dame on Sept. 28.
Starting Saturday, here are five positions where the Sooners need answers
By now, you know the storyline, but what you probably aren't appreciating is how fluid the situation still is. There's a really good chance the Sooners still don't know who they want at quarterback. They'll start Blake Bell, but at this point, it's because they have to. Kendal Thompson, the back-up this week against Tulsa, has gained a lot of momentum, despite the fact he hasn't played a game and despite the fact he's gone through one week of practice since spring ball. Thompson has been out with a fractured foot.
The fact is, neither Bell or Knight has thrown well enough in practice or in games to comfort the coaching staff and the quarterback position will shift under Bell to a game-manager type position.
The good news for OU is even sub-par quarterback play should be good enough to get by Tulsa, however, Bell needs to have a good game to get his confidence going. It would be too much to ask for Thompson to get his first snaps or first start at Notre Dame on Sept. 28. Watch the Sooners try to spread things out this week and employ a lot of quarterback keepers – similar to what Kansas State did with success last season on the way to the Big 12 title.
Knight is out for this week's game and could return for Notre Dame, Stoops said. The best-case scenario is OU gets out to a good lead, gets Bell some positive momentum which would allow Thompson to get into the game and get some experience.
2. Running Back
Back to back weeks with more than 300 rushing yards definitely takes a lot of the pressure off of the quarterback situation, but it's OK to be curious to see how and if the Sooners are able to maintain a dominant running game. Here's why:
If Oklahoma continues to struggle with the pass, teams are going to keep cheating in more and more. That will put a lot of emphasis on Bell, Thompson or Knight to complete passes – something that hasn't really happened yet.
Brennan Clay (170 yards last week) has been great, however we'll see if he can sustain it for more than a few games. OU will definitely need Damien Williams and Roy Finch to contribute, especially if the Sooners continue
Down the path of being one-dimensional.
So far, the position has been a plus for Oklahoma. Zack Sanchez and Cortez Johnson have played well. Now, we'll have to see if Aaron Colvin isn't back at full strength.
Colvin hasn't practiced this week, due to reportedly getting his head kicked resulting in a cracked molar against West Virginia. Stoops said Colvin is "Close" and should be ready by Saturday. Again, OU probably doesn't need Colvin, thanks to Sanchez and Johnson having gotten off to good starts, but the Sooners will definitely need Colvin when they head to Notre Dame in two weeks.
Also consider, OU hasn't faced great passing teams yet. Not that Notre Dame is, but playing a team on the road is a lot tougher than facing West Virginia's Paul Millard and an overmatched ULM team.
4. Defensive Line
Speaking of the defensive line, it's the position most have been surprised at this year. OU has gotten great production out of Charles Tapper and Jordan Phillips and has rotated in a lot of new faces in new spots.
Certainly OU's defensive line, as active as it's been, has helped out the young cornerbacks. More defensive pressure up front makes life better for everyone.
OU is allowing just more than 100 yards per game rushing and only 173 yards per game passing. No FBS team has allowed fewer than OU's seven points and OU leads the Big 12 in total defense, third-down defense and is second in rushing defense.
In the next few weeks we'll see if OU has fixed its issues of the past few years defensively or if the start was a combination of bad opponents and good timing. Notre Dame will tell us a lot.
5. Wide Receiver
A group that is widely considered the strong suit of the offense hasn't been able to show us why. Part of it has to do with the fact quarterbacks have completed just 41-of-80 passes and teams not respecting the passing game, but Jalen Saunders leads the team with just seven receptions. That's not huge production.
OU features Saunders, Sterling Shepard, Trey Metoyer, Jaz Reynolds and more. It looks like it's becoming increasingly more difficult to get them the ball. There are a bunch of guys who can make plays, but if OU continues down this same path, they may not be as effective as we thought they could be. The chances for Oklahoma's receivers to become playmakers down the field is decreasing rapidly. Look for the offense to change to more of a play-action, short-passing operation.
If the OU receivers are going to make plays, it will have to be after the catch, because they won't be beating people down the field.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK