Last season was supposed to be the year Bob Stoops finally won his coveted, second national title. It was supposed to be the year that Sooner nation celebrated its’ championship. It was supposed to be everything that OU fans had been dreaming of, after beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, the season before.
But it wasn’t.
Instead, the Sooners tucked tail, and limped into the offseason, only after suffering arguably the worst season under Stoops’s tenure. In 2012, the OU faithful began the rumbles of calling for Bob’s head.
In 2013, they were singing his praises after an unlikely, and improbable upset over an SEC power.
And in 2014, they were calling for his head once more. Nothing more than mere rumblings, but unrest most certainly has a presence in Norman, Oklahoma Still, the winds of change have come to the prairie. New coaches, new players, leave OU fans thirsty for what is to come this season, hopeful that calmer seas are on the horizon.
To discuss these changes and what 2015 might have in store for the Sooners, we sat down with our friend Allen Kennedy from Blatant Homerism. His insight is fantastic, and if you’re looking for more on the Sooners, you definitely check them out!
Oklahoma heads into fall camp with many question marks, but none might be as big as to who is going to lead the Sooners’ offense. With a new offensive coordinator, and entirely new system, who is most likely to be under center next fall, and is that person the right one for the job?
The consensus among the members of the media who cover the team is that Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield is the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job. That makes sense in so far as Mayfield has experience in new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid system and put together a solid freshman season in 2013 with the Red Raiders.
It’s difficult to say if that’s the right call without seeing what Mayfield, Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas are doing in workouts and practices. Thomas probably has the best tools of the three candidates, and he looked best to me running a scaled-back version of the offense in the spring game. It’s a mystery to me as to why we’re not hearing more about him right now. Knight took an undue amount of criticism for OU’s struggles last season, but I do think it’s fair to assume this scheme doesn’t play to his strengths.
The Sooners start off the season with a tune-up against Akron, then head to Knoxville, to take on a much improved Tennessee Volunteers squad. How important is that game for OU and their outlook on the rest of the season?
This game will present a real test for the Sooners as much for what it means to the Volunteers as the quality of Tennessee’s team. All indications are that UT has circled this game on the calendar as a chance to prove to the college football world that the Vols are back. I don’t doubt that Knoxville will be rocking. I suspect this match-up won’t command the same level of focus from OU, which should worry Sooner fans.
A win — big or small — would be nice for OU, but I wouldn’t view it as some kind of launching point for the rest of the year. UT is a year away from being that kind of team. If the Sooners get trounced, however, Bob Stoops might be looking at a long year.
Oklahoma has lost five players to transfer since the end of the 2014 season. Is that a real cause for concern with Sooner fans, or does it answer some questions about the future of this program?
Very good question. Individually, none of the transfers would have had a chance to make a mark on the 2015 season. From a broader perspective, though, OU’s attrition in the last five to six years has been disturbingly high. It doesn’t speak well of the recruiting evaluations being made by position coaches.
The effect on the defense, in particular, stands out.
Joe Mixon missed last season to suspension, but enters 2015 with high expectations. Will Mixon have an immediate impact, and if so, how much of one should fans expect?
Mixon is the real deal and is a great fit for the new offense. Lately, however, it has become clear that he will face serious distractions away from the field as a result of the incident that led to last season’s suspension. I don’t know if anyone can accurately predict how that will impact his production.
He could turn into OU’s best offensive weapon by the end of the season, but that will mean keeping it together while dealing with some rigorous scrutiny.
Semaje Perine had a record-breaking freshman season, and enters 2015 as a possible Heisman trophy candidate. Is he an actual contender, or will there be a significant sophomore slump?
As an offensive coordinator, Riley has never enjoyed anything close to the stable of running backs at his disposal this fall. That makes projecting Perine’s sophomore output difficult. We’ll just have to see how often the offense feeds him the ball.
As of right now, I don’t view him as an actual Heisman contender – I just don’t think OU will have the kind of team success that a Heisman winner generally needs. Furthermore, replacing three starters on the offensive line means the unit could need some seasoning early in the year, which could be a drag on Perine’s stats.
OU had many problems in 2014, but none probably more glaring than those on the defensive side of the ball. With coaching changes, and roles switching in the booth, and on the field, what can OU fans expect from the defense this season? Can any of the issues that plagued the Sooners be fixed this season?
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops threw out familiar coordinator talk this spring about a desire to be more multiple on D. That apparently means blending in some 4-2-5 looks with the 3-4 scheme that OU implemented in the last two years.
Tweaking the D won’t matter if the Sooners can’t learn how to cover. Mike schemed all year in 2014 to compensate for an overmatched secondary, which just created more holes for opposing offenses to exploit. A new secondary coach, Kerry Cooks from Notre Dame, could help there.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism in the front seven. Linebacker has transformed from a gaping hole into a relative area of strength with the development of Jordan Evans and return of Frank Shannon on the inside. Eric Striker remains as disruptive as ever on the outside.
Additionally, ex-DL coach Jerry Montgomery left successor Diron Reynolds with a host of talented prospects to hold down things up front. That group includes former all-Big 12 pick Charles Tapper at defensive end and promising newcomer Neville Gallimore, who can shift between a 3-technique and 4i defensive end.
And of course, what’s your prediction for 2015?
I did a podcast recently in which I went through the schedule and ended up with OU at 10-2 in the regular season. That definitely feels a little optimistic, given the program’s momentum at the moment.Yet, OU’s implosion late in the season overshadowed the fact that the team was very close to getting 10 wins in ’14. I don’t think that’s out of the question this year, and I’d look at anything worse than 9-3 as a big disappointment.