The Norman Transcript

August 26, 2013

Sooners still have solid game plan

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The quarterback has been selected and game week arrives for Oklahoma beginning today. Only five more days of practice remain before Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.

OU coach Bob Stoops was breathing a sigh of relief last week. Outside of the quarterback competition dropping from a two-man battle from the scheduled three due to Kendal Thompson’s foot injury, the Sooners emerged from the preseason unscathed.

“It’s probably one of the more healthy spots we’ve been in in the last couple of years,” he said.

It’s important for more than just getting established starters into the season as healthy as possible. The Sooners have gone through a lot of changes since the 2012 season ended.

Obviously, Trevor Knight taking over for Landry Jones at quarterback is one. But the offense OU’s spent the last six months installing is going to be a major change. The quarterback is going to run the ball this year. OU made that decision following last season. Knight can do it. Blake Bell has already proven he can and the Sooners’ coaching staff expects the same from Thompson when he returns to the practice field.

“It’s different just because the set of skills of the guys behind us now,” center Gabe Ikard said.

The offensive line has bulked up and focused more on drive blocking coming into the season. Getting the preseason without a major injury has allowed the depth of the group, which was a major issue last season, to shine through.

The receivers also made it to game week intact. Outside of sophomore receiver Trey Metoyer being slowed for a week with a sprained ankle, the group OU thought it would have at the beginning of August is ready to go.

A defense that needed help in the front four was finally able to get the impact player it desperately needed when juco defensive tackle Quincy Russell began practicing last week. Though injuries to freshman defensive end D.J. Ward (splenectomy) and sophomore defensive end Mike Onuoha (shoulder) could have ramifications, the Sooners seem to have a two-deep chart they can work with.

Linebackers are going to be re-emphasized this season. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops wants weakside linebacker Corey Nelson and middle linebacker Frank Shannon to be every-down players.

“I feel like it is allowing us to be playmakers on the field,” Nelson said. “It also helps us be the leaders and the core of the defense.”

Nothing happened in the preseason to change that tract.

The secondary has concerns with new starters jumping in a three of the four spots. But getting All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin through it all safely means the Sooners have their pillar to build around.

These were all plans OU’s had in place for months. Everything they’ve done since spring practice has been geared toward taking this team in a slightly different direction than previous teams.

It may not be different than any other season. But often, plans get scuttled because the preseason forces changes. That doesn’t appear to have been the case this year.

OU enters its first game week still on the course it has mapped.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn