As college football continues to try and ramp up athletic activity for the upcoming season, we turn to looking more closely at what to expect from each Big 12 team come fall. As the summer rolls along, we’ll preview the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.
The story of 2019 felt like a re-run for the Sooners on offense, who once again fielded a Heisman trophy chandidate at quarterback, and led the Big 12 in most statistical categories. Surprising for many was the rapid development of their defense into an upper tier unit in the Big 12 by newly hired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Oklahoma held nine teams under 30 points to mark that progress, and once again won the Big 12 title after an upset to Kansas State handed the Sooners their only conference loss.
Of course, once they made the College Football Playoff, Oklahoma ran into juggernaut LSU, losing by 35 points to a team that would go on to win the national championship. Now, offensive stars like CeeDee Lamb and Jalen Hurts are off to the NFL, as is stand out linebacker Kenneth Murray. Despite losing a handful of headliners, however, the Sooners come into the 2020 season with a load of starters back. This year’s team will look to see if they can not only stave off taking a tiny step back, but elevate their level of play to be victorious in December.
Projected 2020 Oklahoma
|QB||Spencer Rattler (R-Fr.)||DE||Ronnie Perkins (Jr.)|
|RB||Kennedy Brooks (Jr.)||NG||Perrion Winfrey (Jr.)|
|H-BK||Jeremiah Hall (Jr.)||DT||LaRon Stokes (Sr.)|
|WR||Theo Wease (So.)||MIKE||Bryan Mead (Sr.)|
|LT||Eric Swenson (Sr.)||WILL||DaShaun White (Jr.)|
|LG||Marquis Hayes (Jr.)||RUSH||Nik Bonitto (So.)|
|C||Creed Humphrey (Jr.)||CB||Jaden Davis (So.)|
|RG||Tyrese Robinson (Jr.)||SS||Delarrin Turner-Yell (Jr.)|
|RT||Adrian Ealy (Jr.)||FS||Pat Fields (Jr.)|
|WR||Trejan Bridges (So.)||CB||Tre Brown (Sr.)|
|WR||Charleston Rambo (Jr.)||NB||Brendan Radley-Hiles (Jr.)|
Oklahoma Offensive Outlook
Don’t be surprised if the running game is even more of a focus of this year’s offense for the Sooners, who return all five offensive lineman and two running backs in Kennedy Brooks and Rhamondre Stevenson, a pair that wracked up over 1,500 yards last season. The 2019 Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year Creed Humphrey will be the leader along Oklahoma’s offensive line, and All-Big 12 Second Team selection Adrian Ealy returns at right tackle. With 88 starts coming back along the line overall, expect the Sooners to have one of the best offensive lines in college football.
The Oklahoma quarterback will be a new face for the third year in a row in 2020, and redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler – who was a five star recruit coming out of high school – is projected to be the next great signal caller developed under Riley. Don’t expect the Sooners head coach to confirm that until well into camp, as redshirt sophomore Tanner Mordecai also has some experience under his belt.
Exactly who will be catching passes for the Sooners is a bit more of a question. Junior Charleston Rambo amassed 743 yards receiving last year, and looks like he could pass 1,000 yards next season. Outside of Rambo, there are few proven receiving options, although Jeremiah Hall was a stalwart part of the offense in 2019, and will be back to start at the H-back position.
Oklahoma Defensive Outlook
After developing the Sooners’ defense in to one of the best in the Big 12 in 2019, Alex Grinch will have an experienced group to work with once again this season. Fewer “big names” will be on hand to power the defense in Grinch’s second season, but anticipate the emergence of some new faces.
Most position groups don’t lack for returners, but some spots will need to be filled. Nose guard is one such position, but JUCO signee Perrion Winfrey has a good shot there. At defensive end, look for returner Ronnie Perkins to have another good year after logging five sacks and eleven tackles for loss in conference play last season. DaShaun White and Nik Bonitto will be back at the linebacker spots, and both had solid performances last season. The “Mike” linebacker spot will need a new starter, and senior Bryan Mead is a strong candidate to make the first team.
Expect the secondary to be improved in the fall, with four of five starters back. Senior Tre Brown and junior Brendan Radley-Hiles are both multiyear starters, which should provide increased consistency in the back end. The only spot to be filled is cornerback, and sophomore Jaden Davis, who was a backup there last season, is a name to watch there.
Oklahoma Special Teams Outlook
The Sooners look strong at special teams with All-American sophomore Gabe Brkic helming the punting and kicking duties once again. The real question for Oklahoma will likely come in their return game, where they’ll need to find someone to return punts. Overall, the third phase of the game should be a strength for Oklahoma in 2020.
If there is any dropoff in Oklahoma’s offensive production next season, it’ll likely be minimal. The Sooners have set the pace on the offensive side of the ball in the Big 12 since Riley came to Norman, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. Add to that mix the fact that Alex Grinch has made definite progress defense since he showed up at Oklahoma, and it’s tough to find any noticeable weaknesses on this team.
The lack of recognizable star power on this year’s Sooners squad might provide reason to doubt whether they finally are ready to hang with a Clemson or an Alabama, but it’ll be challenge for anyone who wants to take the conference crown away from Oklahoma. Barring any major setback on the injury front, the Sooners should justifiably anticipate playing in the league title game once again.
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