Sooners preseason grades by position
AUG 08, 2013 9:56p ET
How do the Sooners stack up so far? Here are the preseason grades by position:
Adam Shead, Gabe Ikard, Tyrus Thompson, Daryl Williams and Bronson Irwin are all back. All have started multiple games, led by Ikard, who was an All-Big 12 Conference First Team selection last year. The line is deep and talented and should be the strength of the offense.
Who knows at this point? While Blake Bell seems to be the starter to be, nothing official has been done yet. Kendal Thompson went down with a foot injury, leaving redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and freshman Cody Thomas as the back-ups. None of the quarterbacks, including Bell, have any experience throwing the ball.
While the Sooners feature returnees Damien Williams and Brennan Clay, neither has been named the starter and neither has any sustained success. Williams ran for 946 yards last year as well as 11 touchdowns, but suffered an ankle injury and had six games where he went for less than 50 yards. Clay has been part of the corps for three years and can be counted on for carries, but isn't the kind of runner who will turn many heads. He's reliable, though.
One name to mention is Roy Finch. Finch is ultra-talented and has eight starts in three seasons. He just can't seem to stay on the field, for whatever reason. For his career he is averaging more than 5 yards per carry and ran for 419 yards in six games two years ago. However, last year, Finch had just seven attempts all season. Electric when he gets the ball, Finch is special. He just doesn't play often.
The Sooners will need to get Trey Millard more carries. Coaches constantly say he's the most-talented player on offense, but hasn't really gotten the chance to shine. He was an All-Big 12 fullback last season. Daniel Brooks, Alex Ross, David Martin and freshman Keith Ford will likely all get touches, too.
There a number of players back for OU, so as a group, it's a strong-point. However, all will need to get used to a new quarterback. Gone is Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, leaving Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard as the primary threats. The two combined for 107 catches last season.
Trey Metoyer is the wild card. Highly recruited and much talked about a season ago, Metoyer didn't do much the second half of the season. He could be in line for a break-out kind of year. Senior Jaz Reynolds, who didn't play last year, due to a suspension, could get back in the rotation. Look for Durron Neal, Lacoltan Bester and Derrick Woods to all get a chance, too.
Uh, these guys were pretty much ignored last season. Brannon Green caught all of three passes and Taylor McNamara played in just two games. Millard did catch 30 passes. He will be in a number of different positions this season. Can't help but think there's going to be an improvement.
This is the area where the Sooners are definitely weakest. And thinnest. They lost five players from last year's team and are already down two players this fall, with injuries to D.J. Ward and Michael Onouha. Ward could miss the season with a spleen injury. Onouha is out until late September with a shoulder injury.
Chuka Ndulue is OU's most talented lineman, but he is moving from end to the interior at the tackle spot. He's put on nearly 20 pounds, but will be dealing with a new position as well as a new scheme as OU has experimented with a 3-4 heading into the season, so that will be a change, too. Either way, you have to figure the Sooners will need to improve on a rush defense that allowed more than five yards per rush a season ago.
Look for Jordan Phillips, Geneo Grissom, Chaz Nelson and Charles Tapper to be the names you hear a lot. They're just not names a lot of people know. It will make for an interesting season on the defensive line. New defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery has a lot of improvements to make.
The move to the 3-4 should definitely help as Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson are the most-athletic players on the defense. Nelson will be a senior and Shannon is versatile enough to play about anywhere. Freshman Jordan Evans could get on the field with Eric Striker and Aaron Franklin.
OU played with two linebackers in a number of games last season, hoping to defend better against the pass, but in turn, teams ended up having no problem running against the Sooners. That shouldn't be the case this year and Nelson and Shannon are good enough have All-Conference kind of years.
Gone are Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst, but Aaron Colvin is back. Colvin is the best NFL prospect on the defense. He is an All-Big 12 corner and has four career interceptions in 26 starts. Gabe Lynn is back. He started 10 games last season and moved from corner to safety last year.
There a number of names to watch, including freshman Hatari Byrd, who Mike Stoops said has worked at three positions already this spring. He was a four-star recruit along with L.J. Moore and Stanvon Taylor. Cortez Johnson, sat out last season, after playing as a freshman at Arizona. He's expected to start at a cornerback spot.
The defensive back position is filled with a number of high-energy players. We just don't know how good they are yet.
Michael Hunnicutt was 17-of-21 last season and made 11 in a row at one point. For his career he is 38-for-45 and made a 53-yarder against Kansas State his freshman year. Hunnicutt has become reliable. He's also six-for-eight in his career on attempts longer than 40 yards.
OU will have a new punter after the departure of Tress Way. Way became the Sooners career leader in punting average, so filling in for him will be tough. It will be either Jed Barnett, Jack Steed or Dylan Seibert.
Clay and Finch will likely be the return men on kickoffs and Saunders will see action on punt return. Finch had a 100-yard return for a TD last year against Kansas. Saunders had an 81-yard punt return for a score against Oklahoma State.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK