September 3, 2010

Fearless 20: Freshmen Ready to Roll by Dallas?

As we now approach the start of Oklahoma's 2010 college football season it's time to dive into your annual '20 fearless'. For's new members the '20 Fearless' is a scary look inside Associate Editor Josh McCuistion's mind mixed with a few opinions on just what might take place this season. And as excitement mounts to a degree that even a Utah State home game is worthy of countdown we'll count down five predictions each day leading up to the game. Today we continue the countdown with talk of some surprising starters come the Texas game as well as yet another predicted record falling.

20. Landry Jones will post a 3-to-1 TD:INT Ratio
Analysis: I know some of you are going to be surprised to hear this from me as I've always been a bit tougher on Jones than others but with this group of receivers and a young emerging tight end I think there is a lot of reason for faith in him. I also think he'll benefit from a collection of Big 12 defenses that with few exceptions seem pretty soft. I also expect Jones to be much more comfortable and less hurried and as such make better decisions from start to finish this season.

19. No OU RB outside of Demarco Murray will have more than 500-yards rushing.
Analysis: Oklahoma's staff has gone out of their way to confirm how committed they are to Murray having a big senior season and one can't help but wonder if it's related to his somewhat surprising return for his senior season. Whatever the reason with Oklahoma's mixed bag of talent at the position and Murray's functionality in almost every aspect of the offense it's just hard to see a player being on the field enough, consistently enough, to really make a big splash as the No. 2 back. Add in that Jonathan Miller, Jermie Calhoun, and Brennan Clay will all take carries away from each other and be a collaborative No. 2 rather than a singular player.

18. Stephen Good will be the deciding factor in a solid line and a very good one.
Analysis: Good is the player that is making all the pre-season all conference lists and while I'm still a believer in his talent some of his struggles last season make one wonder if he'll be able to live up to the humongous expectations that arrived with him a few years ago. I see a lot of quality pieces of this puzzle but Good is a huge part of whether or not the unit can be an elite group and start to make steps to being like the group of 2008 or the units led by Jammal Brown and Davin Joseph.

17. Austin Haywood will end up among the top three on the team in receptions.
Analysis: I realize that right now this looks like a long shot with Haywood currently third on the depth chart at tight end and some good talent at receiver to take some of his catches. However Haywood seems in a situation that would be perfect for him to take some catches as the season goes on with two tight ends in front of him that don't seem ready to present the same kind of offensive threat he is capable of being. Haywood could quickly turn into a nice safety valve for a young quarterback growing up behind an even greener offensive line.

16. Tyler Evans will emerge as the next great interior OL.
Analysis: Those who have been listening known that I was always pretty high on Evans, dating back to his first workout in Norman prior to his junior year in high school. That being said he has exceeded even what I thought was possible for him already. I think as time goes on Evans will continue to surprise people and could really be a special guard for the Sooners, second probably only to Davin Joseph among Sooner interior offensive linemen in recent years. Those who remember my fascination with Joseph know what bold praise that is.

15. Jonathan Nelson will be OU's best safety since Brodney Pool.
Analysis: It's been my opinion for a while now that Nelson was the difference in the pass defense in the latter half of the season. Perhaps it's his working knowledge of the cornerback position that has made him so able to help out the men on the edge of the pass defense, either way expect serious numbers from him and a serious imposition being placed on the passing game of opposing offenses.

14. Tom Wort or Ronnell Lewis will weekly end up in every OU highlight nation wide.
Analysis: I'm not sure in the entire time of Bob Stoops that Oklahoma has had a pair of hitters at linebacker the likes of these two. Obviously 'The Hammer' has made himself somewhat known nationally but it's Wort that is going to shock some people with his physicality at the point of attack. Regardless of who it is I expect one or the other of this pair of class of 2009 prospects to make your Saturday night highlight reels just about every week.

13. Jeremy Beal will double Frank Alexander in sacks.
Analysis: I've been a big fan of Beal since his film popped up on just before he committed to being a Sooner, that said this is one part my admiration for Beal and another part my doubts over just where Alexander fits in as a pure pass rusher. I feel he is a quality defensive end but I've yet to see a lot of moves or the type of upfield explosion that most associate with the great pass rushers. It's not to say that Alexander can't be that guy but it's just an admission he has a long way to go to equal the All-American senior.

12. Drew Allen will still not take any meaningful snaps.
Analysis: There is ample reason to think that this policy will change but there are 11 seasons of Sooner football to make one think that we'll see more of this same this year. Allen completed his redshirt year and by all accounts has made significant strides in the last year however it's just unlikely that Oklahoma will change it's policy of getting quarterbacks into the game at any point other than handing it off, regardless of down and distance.

11. Ryan Broyles will break each of Mark Clayton's 2003 receiving records.
Analysis: He already owns the receptions record (89) but now it seems possible, perhaps even probable, that he'll reset the mark there as well as placing his name at the top of the list in yards and touchdown catches. To catch Clayton's historic 2003 season he'll need to better his receiving yards by 306-yards. If he were to break his own record and set the record for yards and scores in a season from the receiver position, he'd also become Oklahoma's leader in all three receiving categories.

10. By the Texas game four true freshmen will be starting.
Analysis: So obviously in the case of Kenny Stills this one seems pretty obvious, with what I expect Oklahoma to throw at Texas you'll see Trey Millard and Tony Jefferson among the starting line-up. Another player I expect to have taken the job at his position by the biggest point in the season is Austin Haywood. While it may be scary to have this many players with such youth playing in two cases the players are situational and Stills and Haywood should have half of a season of experience by the time the Sooners head to Dallas.

9. Defensive ends will decide the success of the defense.
Analysis: I know many of you are focused on the play of the defensive tackles but based on the reality that Oklahoma has always been more than adequate in run defense I think maybe too much is being made of that. The same can not always be said of Oklahoma's pass defense, even during years when Oklahoma's defensive line was a complete, and highly functional, unit. With all of the attention that we know Jeremy Beal will receive Frank Alexander, David King, and R.J. Washington need to step up to help out a young set of cornerbacks.

8. Look for a surprising style of game with Florida State
Analysis: With all of the offensive weapons on both sides of the ball I realize that a lot of people are expecting Oklahoma and Florida State to turn into a match-up between the Earps and Ike Clanton's bunch but for some reason I just foresee this early season match-up as two teams shaking off a bit of rust and the Seminoles, with a questionable defense, playing more ball-control than some may expect. And when it comes to Oklahoma's offense I suppose I expect Mark Stoops' knowledge of the Sooners system to help come up with a few stops that even the most heartened Noles fan don't seem to be expecting.

7. Oklahoma will stumble either in Stillwater or College Station.
Analysis: I lean a lot more towards College Station on this prediction than I do in Stillwater, however it's hard to ignore Oklahoma's struggles in Northern Oklahoma the past decade. That being said, Oklahoma tends to find a way to win in both situations but that must be weighed against the reality that they seem to often find a way to lose a game that they, seemingly, have no business slipping up in. Maybe this is the year they prove the 'one they shouldn't lose' prediction wrong, but so far it's been spot on for several years.

6. Jeremy Beal will break OU's career sack record, grabbing at least 11.5.
Analysis: I predicted this career record to fall once before when Dan Cody had a shot at it and he fell short of the mark; proving just how hard it is to collect sacks when an offense has it's gameplan set around you. That said, I've gone on record that I think Beal is the finest defensive end of the Stoops era and may end up going down as one of the two or three best in the program's rich history at the position. To quote Bob Stoops, 'in the end' I think the interior of the line will keep him from completely being stonewalled through games.

Tommorrow: GAMEDAY, oh…and the final five.

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