With so much going on in other college sports, it’s easy to forget that spring workouts are starting to ramp up across the country. The Big 12 is no exception there, with multiple teams having already started practices.
As those teams commence their NCAA-sanctioned workouts, each Big 12 squad will try to find an answer to its respective question over the course of about a month.
Here, we’ll try to look into what positions will be up for grabs. Up next are the Oklahoma Sooners, who began practices this week.
Conference championships seem to be never-ending for the Sooners, who have won four consecutive Big 12 titles. There are no assurances that Oklahoma will hoist that trophy a fifth time, but they remain the class of the Big 12 until proven otherwise.
But reasons for skepticism certainly exist. The Sooners have a few unknowns in every phase of the game, so it might not be advisable for them to make reservations in Arlington just yet.
PRACTICE BEGINS: THU, March 6
SPRING GAME: SAT, April 13
LOCATION: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (Norman, OK)
Success on the offensive side of the ball can almost be taken for granted in Norman with Lincoln Riley at the helm. In 2019, he’ll face a few obstacles in trying to keep the offense humming.
Finding answers at quarterback seemed like more of a priority before the transfer market gave Oklahoma the security of an All-SEC talent.
The Sooners lost another Heisman winner to the draft, but they landed Jalen Hurts, the former multi-year starter for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He’ll get some competition from underclassmen Tanner Mordecai and Spencer Rattler, who were highly touted coming out of high school.
Dealing with the loss of four starters along the offensive line will probably be the biggest challenge for Riley this offseason. Sophomore Creed Humphrey is the lone returner at center, so the offensive staff will work to find new faces around him.
At running back, Oklahoma is all set, as Tre Sermon and Kennedy Brooks are both back. There will be a new starter at full back, but the Sooners have options at that position.
One position group that always seems to have options for Oklahoma is the wide receiver corps, where they’ll have to replace a couple of starters. Cee Dee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra will be back though, and will no doubt make this one of the best passing attacks in the country once again.
Newly hired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will have a group of experienced players to coach up from now until mid-April. The Sooners lose only two starters from last season’s defensive depth chart, and the majority of the returning players from the two deep will be juniors or seniors.
Linebackers Kenneth Murray and Caleb Kelly were both heralded as recruits, and together are probably the most seasoned duo on the defense. They struggled to find a position to fit their skill set under Mike Stoops, but that’s exactly the kind of problem that Grinch was brought in to remedy.
The secondary has been fairly maligned the past few years. A part of the problem was probably youth, but with everyone back from 2018, it’s reasonable to expect substantial improvement.
In addition, 2019 will be a do-or-die season for almost all the defensive lineman up front. Neville Gallimore and Kenneth Mann have struggled to consistently be among the Big 12’s best, but they, along with last year’s freshman sensation Ronnie Perkins, could breakout under a new DC.
Still, there’s no way to know what the post-spring depth chart will look like. With any hire, there are bound to be position assignments that differ from those of the previous staff. The moves that Grinch decides to make over the next few weeks will then be intriguing to follow.
Both sides of the ball, in fact, could see significant overhaul. Could some of those changes lead to slide out of the top spot for Oklahoma? It’s not out of the question, but we’ve yet to really see that under Riley. For now, it’ll be intriguing to see if any news comes out of Norman.
Until then, no news is probably good news for Oklahoma.