Is Oklahoma overrated?
August 26, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier
The Sooners are seeking a third straight appearance in the College Football Playoffs this year, and fourth time in the last five years. Many of the preseason predictions say OU will return to the playoffs, although the Sooners face some question marks on both sides of the ball.
The offense is expected to be solid with the return of skill playmakers — Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks at running back, Cee Dee Lamb, Grant Calcaterra and Lee Morris in the receiving corps. The addition of Jalen Hurts transferring from Alabama will provide experience at quarterback. But protecting Hurts will be vital and only center Creed Humphrey returns to the front wall.
Last year’s O-line won the Joe Moore Award as the best in the nation, but four of the five 2018 starters either graduated or took early leave for the NFL. Guard Tyreece Robinson and tackle Adrian Ealy return with six games and five games experience, respectively. The transfer of R. J. Proctor from Virginia will help as he has experience in 32 games (12 as starter) in the past three years. Coach Bill Bedenbaugh has a bevy of talent to round out the starting lineup. Cohesiveness will be the greatest concern up front this season.
The defense remains the biggest head scratcher although the D returns a bevy of experienced players. Lincoln Riley hired Alex Grinch to take over as coordinator, and Grinch has the task of turning around the worst defense in OU history. The 38-yer-old Grinch turned around the defense at Washington State, and last year helped Ohio State as co-defensive coordinator. The Sooners’ defense was dead last nationally in defending the pass by giving up 294 yards per game. They also ranked 101 st in points allowed and 114 th in total yards allowed.
So far, the defense has been disappointing in preseason camp. Brian Odom, first-year assistant who tutors inside linebackers, told the Oklahoman that he wasn’t going to sugar coat any progress the defense might make.
“The real answer: We’ve got to get better … Are we where we want to be? Absolutely not. The first game, our first performance, does that mean we’ve arrived or not arrived? Are we terrible or great? No. We’ve got to continually progress and work to get to that next level. And what is that next level? The next level’s your best.”
Another big chore for the Sooners will be replacing Austin Seibert, who did all the kicking duties. Seibert set the school, Big 12, and NCAA records with 499 career points, and 315 career PATs. He also averaged 41.7 yards per punt, sixth best in OU history.
The Sooners are ranked fourth in both preseason polls. Many forecasters have them no worse than sixth. The questions will be answered September 1 when Oklahoma hosts Houston in the only televised football game that day.