Posted: Tuesday April 29, 2003 11:40 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 29, 2003 11:40 AM
SI.com's Luke Winn breaks down the Top 10.
Jason White AP
State of the Team:Tommie Harris and the Sooners' fierce defense was all the rage at the outset of last season (and on the cover of SI's preview issue), but they could actually be better this year, a scary thought. Harris is back to anchor the middle, hopefully in a more healthy condition; the linebacker unit of Lance Mitchell, Teddy Lehman and Pasha Jackson could be the best in the nation; and replacing Andre Woolfolk and Jimmy Wilkerson won't be a pressing problem. On the other side of the ball, the quarterback race between oft-injured senior Jason White and accident-prone Brent Rawls will rage on into the fall. Don't expect Stoops to lose sleep over it, though -- this is the third straight season the Sooners have had uncertainty behind center. Stoops was confident enough in the play of his offensive line to implement additional offensive sets and motion, in hopes of giving his QB -- whomever it may be -- more chances to make plays.
Sophomore Eric Bassey is making the move to cornerback, leaving open the position that produced Roy Williams just two years ago. Donte Nicholson looks more than ready to step in. The transfer from Mount San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif., was one of the top juco recruits in 2002, and Stoops was already singing his praises in the spring. "Donte was awfully impressive," Stoops said. "He's probably our most natural safety that we've ever coached, he's got great ability, great size and speed, but also has great understanding and picked everything up really quite easily."
Will the fates finally be kind to OU's quarterback? White has suffered through two straight season-ending knee injuries, while Rawls missed last season due to a concussion he sustained from falling out of a pickup truck. And who is the better choice for Stoops -- a fragile White or an untested Rawls with maturity issues? Lastly, no matter how good the defense is, how can it avoid late-season breakdowns like it had against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State?