Starters returning: 8
Starters returning: 7
A ground attack based on speed and a defense braced with strength again should be the norm at Norman, where, given a little luck with injuries, Coach Barry Switzer can count on a Lott.
"The best wishbone quarterback ever to play at Oklahoma," is what Switzer calls senior Thomas Lott, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry as the leading rusher for the team whose rushing average (328.9 yards) was the nation's best in 1977. Lott also tied for the Big Eight lead in touchdown passes—this isn't a passing conference—with four. Sidelined for most of three games in '77 with a bruised nerve in his leg, Lott has a simple goal for 1978. "The main idea," he says, "is for me to stay as healthy as I can and play in all our games."
Lott directs a breakaway backfield whose attack point again will be over Right Guard Greg Roberts, likely to be the first lineman taken in the NFL draft. Elvis Peacock is gone, but Switzer still has an experienced backfield with speedsters Freddie Nixon, Jimmy Rogers, Kenny King and David Over-street, who rushed for a 4.3-yard average as a freshman. Halfback Billy Sims, hurt much of last year, can be absolutely spectacular, while Kicker Uwe von Schamann is consistently so, having achieved a record 47 of 47 points after last season, 14 of 23 field goals (including the 41-yarder with three seconds left that defeated Ohio State) and a 39.3-yard punting average.
Defensively, the Sooners will again rely on Daryl Hunt and George Cumby, a pair of All-America linebackers who led the Sooners in tackles with 152 (71 unassisted) and 140 (73 unassisted) respectively. Switzer is also counting on the 20 yards of tape that encase Middle Guard Reggie Kinlaw's left knee to keep him sound for another season.
The obvious threats to Switzer's hopes for an unbeaten season are Texas and Nebraska. A more subtle factor is whether off-season coaching strife (three assistants quit) has had a demoralizing effect on the players.