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August 4, 2005So it's been said all summer, but even with the never ending flow of redundant catch phrases and hyperbole, there is still no question that this season figures to be the most interesting of Bob Stoops' tenure in Norman.
Through the years even when Oklahoma lost a starting piece of their offense or defense the heir apparent always seemed to be waiting in the wings. After the departure of Brandon Everage the emergence of Brodney Pool was nothing short of a foregone conclusion. When Rocky Calmus took his talents to the NFL, Teddy Lehman was already emerging as a future Butkus winner. The story remains the same for numerous Sooner greats replacing others.
Last fall when Pool moved on early to the green pastures of the NFL there was no obvious selection, a cast of talented players will fight for the spot.
OK, so maybe just maybe the new free safety isn't the first thing Sooner fans will have their eyes on when the 2005 Oklahoma Sooners hit the Rugby fields on Thursday afternoon. As such, SoonerScoop.com decided to take a look at some of the storylines to pay attention to as editor Carey Murdock covers fall practice.
Who is the next Heisman finalist?
Aside from 2001 and 2002 when Oklahoma seemingly couldn't keep a healthy quarterback on the field for an entire season The Sooners have placed a quarterback in one of the five most wanted seats in New York each December in three of the last five seasons. In 2003, Jason White of course claimed the most coveted individual award in sports, the Heisman memorial trophy.
Now that the class of 1999 has finally stopped producing conference title, national title, and Heisman trophy finalists it's time that a new group of quarterbacks accept the job's responsibility.
Of course the two main battling participants figure to be redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar and junior Paul Thompson. That's completely forgetting perhaps the most talented quarterback from a pure throwing standpoint on the Oklahoma roster, sophomore Tommy Grady.
As recently reported, Grady will miss some practices due to an intersession class in Norman during fall practice. Not the type of thing that is going to make a strong mark for a player looking to replace a statewide hero.
Bomar and Thompson are the two most obvious choices and seem to be a battle of Superman against Clark Kent. Bomar has all the physical tools that college coaches look for in top-shelf quarterbacks, but its Thompson who has spent years in the program earning the respect of his coaches and peers. Not to mention Thompson has jumped through every hoop every placed in front of him.
This one is too tough to call, and it's time for everyone to see what rigorous hours of summer work did for the two talented signal callers.
Who will be opposite of Walker?
With three senior cornerbacks filling the roster, it wouldn't seem there are many question marks at the position; however it's a sophomore that seems to have the only firm grip on a starting position.
Last year after one big play given up to the passing game after another, in consecutive weeks against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M true freshman Marcus Walker stepped in and took a spot at cornerback that he would never relinquish. The man he took the job from, senior Eric Bassey could be the opening day starter again in 2005.
Some feel that Bassey's problems could be well solved at the wide corner, where his great size and speed should make him a more natural fit than against some of the choppier action at short corner.
Battling Walker will be Mr. Vowel, Chijioke Onyenegecha. The big corner came in with a world of expectations and as of yet has only shown momentary glimpses of the player that was once called a 'sure fire first round draft choice'. If it can all come together, there aren't many more naturally talented players on the Oklahoma roster.
Behind Bassey figures to be sophomore and former running back D.J. Wolfe. Some would take the position move as an insult, but Wolfe seems to see it for what it is; a player being moved because his talent is too great to keep off the field.
Which freshmen will emerge as future stars?
Each year it seems the Oklahoma coaching staff pulls in a recruiting class that exceeds the greatness of the previous one. However, the argument could be made that it will be quite some time before Stoops and co. surpasses the depth and talent of the class of 2005.
While summer reports are always a mixed bag due to practices being closed to the public there are always whispers that seem to slip out and the summer of 2005 was no different.
Talk swirled about the top two players in the state of Oklahoma, Curtis Lofton and Reggie Smith, showing signs of being future starts at middle linebacker and cornerback, respectively. In fact Lofton could be the back-up to Zach Latimer as a true freshman, and Smith may push some of the veterans for duties at both corner and as a return man this year.
However, if there is one player that seems destined for glory as a freshman it's Longview, Texas product Malcolm Kelly. Aside from Quentin Chaney, Kelly is easily the biggest target on the Sooner roster and some have even mentioned that with a good fall he could find his way into the starting line-up by the time the season kicks off on Sept. 3 against TCU.
Several other freshman like Ryan Reynolds, Lamont Robinson, Ben Barresi, Eric Huggins, Demarcus Granger, Brian Simmons, and Brian Jackson could also find their way to the field as freshman. The number may seem large but that's just the type of talent the class possesses.
The never ending question of the offensive line
Well the experiment of Davin Joseph at left tackle drew mixed reviews after the spring, but after three years of being one of the nation's top right guards, it's fair to expect a time for adjustment. If Joseph can become the rock to guard the quarterback's, whomever he may be, blindside the rest of the line may come together nicely given a little time.
Of course at left guard is the ever reliable, ever unappreciated Kelvin Chaisson.
With those two three-year starters in place, the questions begin to take shape at the remaining three positions.
However, if ever there was a back-up that was more than ready to step into the starting line-up it's senior Chris Bush at center. He's contributed at each of the three interior positions along the offensive line over the past three years and has always been a solid player for line coach Kevin Wilson. This is yet another area that shouldn't be a tremendous problem for the Sooners.
Along the right side of the line is where the battles figure to take place this fall. At right guard Chris Chester is currently slotted as the man to beat but the battle to hold off emerging freshman Ben Barresi and the highly anticipated arrival of Brandon Keith from NEO only adds interest to the position.
At right tackle, it's not a question so much as a hope that Akim Millington can replace Sooner All-American Jammal Brown at least adequately. There is no doubting Millington's talent but he is finally being called on to live up to the potential. If he can, Oklahoma could have a star in the making, if not the position is the most obvious chance for trouble along the offensive line.
There are just some of the storylines to keep an eye on this fall, battles at wide receiver, strong safety, and along the defensive line could also turn out to be storylines that could make the difference between a solid season for the Sooners and another trip to the Big 12 title game.