Coming off a 10-3 season with a share of the Big 12 title, Oklahoma enters 2013 looking to replace key contributors on both sides of the ball.
The loss of quarterback Landry Jones comes to mind first. Though Jones got a bit of a bad rep (in my mind) for being the guy after Sam Bradford, he still departs OU with more wins than any other quarterback. Jones’ 2012 understudy, Blake Bell, has unofficially been tabbed to succeed Jones. After the Sooners’ spring game on Saturday, there is more legitimate reason to believe that will be the case.
It wasn’t just that Bell had a solid day completing 14-of-23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, it was his command of the offense and poise in the pocket that separated him from Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. Both Knight and Thompson had flashy moments, but not like Bell. Of the two, Thompson looks like he could readily be the No. 2 guy with his ability to extend plays and take off running.
Also departed is wide receiver Kenny Stills. Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders returns after a strong debut for the Sooners last year with 829 yards receiving and three touchdowns and figures to be an important role player this year. But OU’s deep threat could come from sophomore Trey Metoyer, who led all receivers with 122 yards. Metoyer had a lot of hype in 2012, but ended up getting buried in a deep group of receivers. As talented as he is, Metoyer needs to have a breakout year in 2013.
On the other side of the ball, defensive line and the secondary were two areas where new names could emerge. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops commented before OU’s spring game on Fox Sports Southwest that, overall, experience was lacking. After the game, head coach Bob Stoops pointed out a few individual names who did well in the secondary.
“Ahmad (Thomas) and Quentin (Hayes) have really fit in nicely at the safety position. Cortez (Johnson) has showed signs that he can be a quality player in this league,” Stoops said.
While there was no rush from the defensive front, Stoops said he was pleased with what he saw.
“We’re starting to show signs of consistency and that’s what we need,” Stoops said. “We need to continue to develop playmakers in our defensive front — that’s going to be a premium moving forward.”
There’s a lot to replace for OU, and even more names could get into the mix once this year’s recruiting class, which features six defensive linemen, gets onto campus. But the Sooners don’t want that to translate into a “rebuilding” year.