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2019 Season

Big 12 Spring Wrap-Up: Despite Losses, Oklahoma Is Set Up To Defend Its Title

The Sooners are on a conference title streak, but they do have some questions. Find out where Oklahoma football stands headed into summer.

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Getty Images - Brett Deering

Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for them.

Oklahoma made history in so many ways in 2018, and proved that they’ll be the class of the Big 12 until someone is able to take the championship trophy from. them. They entered spring practices after an exodus of offensive talent to the NFL, though, and there are new faces aplenty on that side of the ball. 

But the Sooners rarely have a shortage of blue chip talent, and they’ve made significant moves in the off-season to position themselves to defend the Big 12 title once again. Now that spring practices have been over for about two weeks, we can begin to assess how the Sooners are positioned headed into sumemr workouts. 

Here we get into some tentative impressions of this year’s Oklahoma team, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the 2019 season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about the Sooners.

PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS
OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Jalen Hurts (Sr.) DE Kenneth Mann (Sr.)
RB Trey Sermon (Jr.) NG Neville Gallimore (Sr.)
FB Jeremiah Hall (So.) DT LaRon Stokes (So.)
WR CeeDee Lamb (Jr.) RUSH Ronnie Perkins (So.)
LT Erik Swenson (Jr.) MLB Kenneth Murray (Jr.)
LG Marquis Hayes (So.) WLB DaShaun White (So.)
C Creed Humphrey (So.) CB Tre Norwood (Jr.)
RG Tyrese Robinson (So.) SS Delarrin Turner-Yell (So.)
RT Adrian Ealy (So.) FS Robert Barnes (Jr.)
TE Grant Calcaterra (Jr.) CB Tre Brown (Jr.)
WR Charleston Rambo (So.) NB Brendan Radley-Hiles (So.)

Oklahoma May Only Have A Good Offense Next Year

That is as opposed to an historically elite offense. This season will present a unique challenge for head coach Lincoln Riley, who’ll have to work with a serious degree of offensive attrition. In particular, the Sooners will have to break in all but one new offensive lineman, and a starting five there may not be fully settled until fall. 

Yet, Riley’s got another transfer quarterback who seems poised to have the kind of year that would bring a third straight Heisman to Norman. Jalen Hurts, who’s played at a championship level at Alabama, looked at ease in the Oklahoma offense in the spring game

Not too mention, there’s depth at skill positions for the Sooners, including CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra. If the offensive line does slow down the offense, expect Oklahoma to have firepower nonetheless. 

The Running Back Room, Once Again, Is Stacked

No matter how many running backs Oklahoma seems to lose to transfer or the draft, they continue to have an embarrassment of riches. This season, Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, who are probably co-starters at this point, return and bring back 2,000 yards rushing combined from 2019. 

Riley will likely rely on them to carry the running game more this year – Hurts will provide yards from the quarterback position, but he’s not near the runner that Kyler Murray was last season. Still, expect the Sooners to be able to gain yards on the ground. 

What Kind Of Results Will Grinch Yield In His First Year?

When Alex Grinch was hired, it was reasonable to at least expect the same results he got the last time he was the lone coordinator at Washington State. Those defenses weren’t necessarily elite, but they were some of the better units in FBS.

There’s excitement now around his arrival in Norman, where Grinch has promoted energy and aggressiveness. There are lingering questions about what kind of rejuvenation he’s got on his hands, though. 

Some position groups seem poised to actually break out next semester, particularly the secondary, where there might be so much depth that transfers could coming in the next few weeks. With the issues that this defense has had, however, it will be difficult to believe it until we see it. 

The Sooners Can Still Win It All

Very little happened this spring to contradict the presumption that Oklahoma will once again be the justified favorite to win the Big 12. Granted, the 2019 squad has more uncertainty than any Riley’s had as head coach.

Still, there aren’t any teams in the conference that anyone would count as more than a slight favorite against Oklahoma. That’s because both recruiting and development seem to continue to hum along for the Sooners, despite any changes in the coaching staff. 

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