By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Sooners went into the 2009 campaign with an abundance of talent and the kind of confidence needed to challenge for both the Big 12 and national titles. Unfortunately, an injury to former Heisman-
winning QB Sam Bradford in the opening game, a 14-13 loss at home to BYU, sent
coach Bob Stoops and his staff back the drawing board as it was evident that
the team was going to need a new gameplan.
Enter freshman QB Landry Jones, and while he certainly made his share of
mistakes, he led Oklahoma to an 8-5 record, of which five wins came in
conference. Of the team's five losses, only one came by more than seven
points, that being a 41-13 setback at Texas Tech in late November, which says
quite a bit about OU's ability to remain competitive even in the face of
The Sooners knocked off Stanford in the Sun Bowl, 31-27, setting the stage for
this new season. With expectations once again high, Stoops is aware of what it
is going to take for his team to succeed.
"We're excited coming into the year. I really believe, going through a year
ago, losing the number of seniors that we did, that we gained experience that
you didn't want at the time. That will definitely give us -- make us a better
and stronger team coming into this year. More experienced team maybe than we
would have been." He continued, "We're optimistic that we have a chance to be
back and hopefully compete for championships again."
OFFENSE: Oklahoma prides itself on being able to win regardless of who is
running the offense, as evidenced by the fact that during Stoops' 11 years at
the helm, his teams have won six Big 12 titles with five different
quarterbacks. Jones was thrust into the spotlight in 2009, and he responded by
throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 TDs. He did toss 14 INTs, so cutting down
those mistakes will be important for his development.
Stoops likes the things Jones has done to assert himself and make this 'his
"Coming into this season and even walking into spring ball, you can tell he's
just in command. You can tell how confident he is and sure of what he's doing.
It's obvious to everyone. So he's progressed well. He continues to mature and
develop. He's a great worker. He's very similar to the guys we've had that
have had success here. Very grounded guy, confident, great worker."
Helping take some of the pressure off the young signal-caller will be one of
the top RBs in the Big 12, senior DeMarco Murray who rushed for 705 yards and
eight TDs last season. Murray has undeniable talent, but a history of injuries
have kept him from reaching his full potential. Still, he has amassed more
than 4,600 all-purpose yards and 45 total TDs to this point in his career.
The OU receiving corps boasts the return of speedy junior Ryan Broyles (89
catches, 1,120 yards and 15 TDs), but isn't all that deep and will need to
have someone else step up.
A retooled offensive line will be the obvious key to keeping Jones upright and
giving Murray the breathing room to make things happen in the run game.
DEFENSE: The key to keeping Oklahoma in games this season will be how well the
defense plays after a year in which it ranked in the top three in the Big 12
in nearly every major statistical category. The Sooners were particularly
tough against the run (92.9 ypg), ranking eighth in the country, and they were
downright stingy when it came to allowing points (14.5 ppg) to rank seventh.
The return of senior linemen Jeremy Beal and Adrian Taylor will solidify
things in the trenches, and Beal is coming off a year in which he logged 11
Outgoing junior LB Travis Lewis was credited with 109 tackles in 2009, and he
will be the anchor in the middle of the field as he helps take some of the
heat off of a couple of new starters. Lewis has developed into the kind of
leader Stoops likes to have on his team.
"He's what you want and how he works and his toughness and attitude in playing
and taking it seriously. But he also, when it's time for somebody to chuckle,
he's quick to do it. So he's fun. He's fun to coach, fun to be around, and fun
in the locker room for the guys."
Shifting to the secondary, safeties Sam Proctor and Quinton Carter are back
for another go around, and senior CB Jonathan Nelson will be counted on to
raise his level of play after coming up with three picks a year ago.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Finding a consistent placekicker is vitally important for
Oklahoma this season, and the Sooners hope they have just that in sophomore
Patrick O'Hara. Of course, the proof will be in how well he performs in games.
Fellow sophomore Tress Way was one of the better punters in the country last
year, averaging a Big 12-best 45.7 ypp. In the return game, Broyles is a
threat to take it the distance on every touch.
OUTLOOK: Stoops won't have to wait long to get a read on how his team will
likely fare this season as non-conference games against Florida State, Air
Force and Cincinnati present interesting challenges. The conference opener
against rival Texas on October 2nd appears to be the Sooners' toughest clash,
as overall it is likely to be a down year in the Big 12.
Stoops has led his Sooners to a bowl game every year during his tenure at the
school. There is no reason to expect anything other than another highly
successful campaign as Oklahoma will certainly be in the mix for both the Big
12 and national championships.