Three Sooners storylines that will dominate the start of fall camp
There are rare uncertain times for Sooner Nation. Mostly because these trying days have come so soon after the glorious 2014 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama seemed to point the OU arrow straight up.
That arrow came crashing down with last season's offensive inconsistency, defensive breakdowns and an 8-5 record. Coach Bob Stoops responded by firing his offensive coordinator and shuffling his staff, changing offenses and moving brother and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops from the sideline to the press box.
Three key storylines have emerged from the wreckage and those will be all the talk when the players convene for camp in August.
College football blogger Ryan Gerbosi of the Dallas Morning News examined each one:
1. Who will win the quarterback derby, Trevor Knight or Baker Mayfield?
Gerbosi's take: The great Trevor Knight-Baker Mayfield debate will be in full swing through the summer and fall. If there was any thought that this would be more than a two-horse race, Cody Thomas ended that with his play last season, and Justice Hansen confirmed it with his transfer announcement last month. Knight returns as the opening-day starter the previous two seasons, but injuries and inconsistency have left many looking for a better option. Mayfield, finally eligible after transferring from Texas Tech, has performed successfully in the type of offense installed by new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and might have the upper hand as OU tries to shake an 8-5 finish. There likely won’t be many answers until the opener, but the battle will be one of the more interesting ones to watch in the Big 12.
2. How will the players adjust to the new Air Raid offense?
Gerbosi's take: While it was parts of the defense that were among the worst in the nation last year, Bob Stoops chose to dismiss his offensive coordinators and revamp the other side of the ball. By bringing in Riley, OU is getting back to a style similar to how it played under Kevin Wilson, Mike Leach and other coordinators of the Stoops era, but this personnel grouping wasn’t exactly designed for that. Besides the issues at quarterback, the Sooners’ best way to move the ball in 2014 was some form of Samaje Perine rush, not launching 30-40 yards downfield. While it’s helpful to have a strong running back group, OU’s receivers haven’t shown they can handle the type of workload and responsibility that will be handed to them in this setup. Fortunately, the Air Raid style has become commonplace enough in high schools that many have a good understanding of the system already. Still, finding ways to get the ball in the hands of OU’s best players will be a challenge for Riley in his first fall camp.
3. Which young player emerges in the secondary?
Gerbosi's take: The Sooners pass defense was a major struggle in 2014, allowing 300 or more yards through the air on six occasions. Changes were made on the coaching staff with Mike Stoops giving up some responsibility to newcomer Kerry Cooks, but the personnel is largely the same. Aside from proven cornerback Zack Sanchez, Cooks needs to find a balance of veterans who underperformed and youngsters trying to develop in real time. Among the vets are safeties Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas, both of which need to get better to avoid being passed. Returning underclassmen Steven Parker and Jordan Thomas should be improved, but a strong incoming group of freshmen might provide Cooks a viable option in 2015. Whether it be a guy like Parker or a newcomer like Will Sunderland or Kahlil Haughton, someone needs to separate himself in the secondary.
(h/t Dallas Morning News)
Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports