Coach: Bob Stoops (7th season, 67-12) 2004 record: 12-1 (Lost to USC in Orange Bowl) Big 12 finish: 8-0 (1st South) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 16th (208.4 ypg) Passing: 27th (253.7 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 6th (94.6 ypg) Passing: 48th (204.4 ypg)
at Texas Tech
%Kansas City, MO
Depth Chart: Offense
7 returning starters in red
Joe Jon Finley
Depth Chart: Defense
4 returning starters in red
C.J. Ah You
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Before Oklahoma could start to look forward to 2005, it had to look back. And the scene -- a 55-19 debacle against USC in the Orange Bowl -- was better viewed through parted fingers. Still, the Sooners watched the horror show. They had to. "We watched it and we learned from it," said co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "Now we have to move on."
It's time to see if lessons were learned from the setback. OU has the same expectations -- a Big 12 championship and a national title. The first goal appears well within reach, but the '05 Sooners have some work to do before being considered strong candidates to return to the BCS title game. This, after all, is a team without a proven quarterback, only one veteran receiver, a mix-and-match offensive line and a defense devoid of first-team All-Americans.
Not that any of that matters to head coach Bob Stoops. "I was tired of seeing those guys," Stoops jokes about the 15 departing seniors. "But everything has its time. We have some strong guys coming up that can step in and perform well."
The Sooners' first order of business is finding a starting quarterback. Junior Paul Thompson, sophomore Tommy Grady and freshman Rhett Bomar battled for the job in the spring, but a starter will not be named until fall camp -- possibly as late as 10 days prior to the first game.
Whoever ends up taking the snaps will have a security blanket named Adrian Peterson. The '04 Heisman runner-up set an NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards last fall.
The three-man quarterback race was the hot topic of spring ball. Thompson, Grady and Bomar are competing to replace Jason White, but none separated from the pack. Bomar was considered the most well-rounded of the bunch, but he lacks any game experience. Thompson has game experience and didn't do anything to hurt his chances. Grady has the biggest arm, but coming out of spring, he looked to be the odd man out.
The quarterbacks' efforts were hamstrung slightly by an inexperienced receiving corps. Travis Wilson (50 catches, 11 touchdowns in '04) will be expected to take on an even larger role this fall. Freshmen Lendy Holmes and Quentin Chaney came on strong in the spring but will have competition from some of the newcomers.
At running back, Peterson is as good as any runner in the country and should take the heat off of whoever ends up starting at quarterback.
The line remains a work in progress. Davin Joseph may be the best of the group at tackle. Chris Bush has found a home at center. Kelvin Chaisson should be solid at guard, but the other two spots will have to be settled in the fall.
Dusty Dvoracek returned to the Sooners in January after being kicked off the team last September. Then he was promptly lost again. This time a torn left biceps is to blame. Dvoracek, a senior and probable first-day NFL pick, is the heart of the defensive line. He may return by the third week of the season against UCLA. With Dvoracek commanding double-teams in the middle, speedster Larry Birdine should have room to do some damage coming off the edge.
Linebacker may be the Sooners' strongest, yet thinnest, position on the defense. Clint Ingram, Zach Latimer and Rufus Alexander make up a formidable crew, boasting a solid mixture of speed, athletic ability and intuitiveness. But the only player with experience behind those three is sophomore Demarrio Pleasant.
The secondary got a new coach, Bobby Jack Wright, and a new lease on life. This group was roasted by fans and toasted by opponents last season. Marcus Walker provides a lockdown corner on one side. Chijioke Onyenegecha, who at one time was a heralded junior college recruit, finally appears to be catching on to what it means to play zone coverage. At safety, Darrien Williams takes over for Donte Nicholson. The other safety position is up for grabs between Jason Carter and Lewis Baker. Newcomer Reggie Smith could also figure into the mix somewhere.
Punter Cody Freeby struggled throughout the spring, and there were hints another player might be brought in to give him some competition. Garrett Hartley, who took over the starting kicker job in the final regular-season game last year, had a solid spring and nailed a couple of 50-plus-yard attempts.
The Sooners have comparable talent to the teams of previous years, but the spring proved they are still a work in progress. A quarterback will have to emerge, and both the receiving corps and offensive line have some holes. Defensively, there is plenty of talent, but there are issues anytime so many players are being thrust into new roles.
An early-season trip to UCLA won't be easy, and a strong Texas team will be a major stumbling block in OU's quest to return to the BCS title game for the third straight season. Once again, the Big 12 North doesn't appear to have a serious contender for the conference title.