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2021 Season

Big 12 Spring Wrap-Up: Sooners Set Up For Best Season Yet Under Riley

The expectation is usually for Oklahoma to win the Big 12. This year, they could beyond even that.

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Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2021 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some tentative impressions of all the teams, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations.

Year-in and year-out, Oklahoma continues to dominate the Big 12, and under head coach Lincoln Riley, that doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon. Last year serves as a prime example – many considered 2020 to be “down year” for Oklahoma, and in that season the Sooners scored 43 points per game and reeled off eight wins in a row after starting Big 12 play 0-2 for the first time in over 20 years.

The Sooners now eye this upcoming season as one where they could accomplish something that has yet to happen under Riley, and find themselves competing in the national title game in January of next year. Is this Oklahoma team built to do that? Below, we go over some thoughts and observations from spring to try and answer that question.

Projected 2021 Oklahoma

Depth Chart

OFFENSEDEFENSE
QBSpencer Rattler (So.)DEIsaiah Thomas (Sr.)
RBKennedy Brooks (Jr.)NGPerrion Winfrey (Sr.)
H-BKAustin Stogner (Jr.)DTJalen Redmond (So.)
WRTheo Wease (Jr.)MLBDaShaun White (Sr.)
LTErik Swenson (Sr.)WLBBrian Asamoah (Jr.)
LGMarquis Hayes (Sr.)RUSHNik Bonitto (Jr.)
CRobert Congel (Sr.)CBWoodi Washington (So.)
RGTyrese Robinson (Sr.)SSDelarrin Turner-Yell (Sr.)
RTWayna Morris (Jr.)FSPat Fields (Sr.)
WRDrake Stoops (Jr.)CBJaden Davis (Jr.)
WRMarvin Mims (So.)NBJeremiah Criddell (So.)

Who Will Be The Next Big Name Level Skill Guy?

If this is really a year where Riley’s squad takes another step, they’re probably going to need elite-level production from someone in the skill positions. There’s no doubt that Oklahoma recruits guys on a perennial basis who can do exactly that, so a name is sure to emerge here with plenty of highlights by season’s end. One of those candidates could be Kennedy Brooks, who returns after opting out of 2020 at running back. He’ll have competition in junior Eric Gray, who transferred from Tennessee, where he averaged 5.1 yards per carry over two years. Brookes churned out 1,011 yards in 2019, though, so even if the Sooners go a with a committee approach, this could be one of the best running back rooms in the country.

Wideout Marvin Mims is the most likely player to be the next “big name” player on the outside for Oklahoma. Mims was Second Team All-Big 12 last season, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. Junior Theo Wease could also step up there, as he was the second-leading receiver for Oklahoma last season. Former five star freshman Mario Williams, an early enrollee, has received his share of buzz in spring, and could also sneak into that conversation.

The Defense Is Getting Closer To The Offense

By all appearances, Oklahoma’s defense has progressed to the point where it is almost on par with the offense. The Sooners held opposing rushing attacks to 105.1 yards per game in 2020, as the defensive line stepped up for Oklahoma last season. This year, with Jalen Redmond back after opting out of 2019, and five starters in the front six returning, the Sooners should be stout in stuffing the run once again.

Pass coverage is really the missing piece of the puzzle for Oklahoma. Fixing that has been the task of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch since he got on campus, and last season showed mixed results. The Sooners tied for most interceptions (12) in Big 12 play, but they were also ninth in average yards given up per game through the air with 261. They don’t lack too much for experience in the secondary, and the Sooners added transfer Key Lawrence from Tennessee, who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school. Whether Oklahoma can have its best season yet under Lincoln Riley may depend on how much better they get in that back end.

The Ceiling For This Team Looks High

The Sooners are in position to have a special year, even by their standards. That would entail not only winning the Big 12, but possibly even running the table in the conference. Oklahoma’s yet to do that since Lincoln Riley’s been in charge, but this is the most complete team he’s had yet. There are a few unknowns with this team, but most of those are on the offensive side of the ball, where the staff at Oklahoma has shown a penchant for developing up-and-coming talent. The Sooners are definitely the favorite to win the conference, but they’ve got a shot to go beyond that in 2021.

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