The State of Oklahoma: OU's Offensive Skill Positions

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Now's a good time as any to move on with the position breakdowns.  Personally, I don't see if there's much to gain from analyzing OU's demolition of Idaho State.  Other than the fact that Landry Jones is undoubtedly the second coming, of course.

Much has changed on the Oklahoma front since the preseason.  Bradford is still out for a couple of weeks or so, Gresham is done for the year, and the offensive line looked worse than anyone could have imagined against BYU.  It has been quite a hectic ride for the Sooners in the beginning of the season, but they are not dead yet. 

Before I begin, I'd like to thank ccmachine at Crimson and Cream Machine for his willingness to answer some questions I had for him via email.  He runs a fine OU blog.

Quarterback

If Sam Bradford was still playing, I would simply say, "He's good.  Duh."  And move on.  Unfortunately, I have to waste some time typing about this goofy looking guy with a mustache.

Landry Jones' choice of facial hair has gotten quite a bit of attention, much like Colt McCoy's 'stache in the preseason.  In fact, he now has the support of an organization called the American Mustache Institute (what?).  If Jones doesn't win over Sooner fans, he should at least be comforted that Chairman Aaron Perlut and the Institute have his back:

We’ve been paying attention to Landry.  We love it. Unfortunately, when he first entered the game, there was a lot of criticism the following week about his mustache. We find that very disappointing.

That’s the life of downtrodden, mustache-wearing Americans.

In my opinion, he should be more concerned about Jones' head than his face, after reading this comment from Mustached Landry after signing with OU:

Part of the reason I decided to come to OU is to get a great education in case football doesn't work out, but it's still early. (emphasis added)

Note to Kevin Wilson:  Simplify the playbook.  Fast.

What, he's more than a poster boy for ridiculous mustaches?  I guess I should talk about a little football.  Jones redshirted last year after signing on as a four-star recruit according to Rivals.  There's not much I know about him, other than that he's more mobile than Bradford but obviously does not have as dangerous an arm at this point.  Some even go so far as to claim that Jones is a better fit for the offensive line due to his ability to avoid the rush with his feet (I think that's pushing it).  He's no Colt McCoy, but he can move around and sidestep pressure, which is basically the only element he offers that Bradford does not.

Against BYU, he didn't do much but also didn't make any critical mistakes, save perhaps the delay of game on that fourth down at the goalline.  You can probably put more blame on the coaches for that.  Last week, he tossed three touchdown passes against helpless Idaho State but also threw an interception, and his completion percentage was pedestrian.  He's not useless, but he definitely isn't scaring anyone right now and Oklahoma should consider abandoning the no-huddle with him (their O-line might make them abandon it even with Bradford back, but that's another topic).

If there's one thing Sooner fans should be afraid of, it's that neither Wilson or Stoops has said that Jones is among the greatest quarterbacks they've ever seen.  How can that be if he's starting at OU now?

Running Back

Runningback is the deepest and strongest skill position for Oklahoma.  Oklahoma returns two 1,000 yard runners from last season, Chris Brown and Demarco Murray, and the Sooners were comfortable enough her to move Mossis Madu to WR.  Brown is more of their steady back while Murray can sometimes be plagued with inconsistency and injury.  Both have had a decent start to this year, although the run game was not a big a factor as the Sooner hoped it would be against BYU.  Thank the O-line.

Chris Brown - Murray is more of the homerun hitter, but Brown, I believe, is more important to their continued rushing success.  He had six games for over 100 yards last year and ran for 20 touchdowns to go along with a healthy 5.6 yards per carry.  He's had a decent start this year and had a good game against Idaho State.  He runs with good vision and I've never seen him caught dancing around.  He doesn't have breakaway speed but he can hit you for big gains.

Demarco Murray - Murray is an explosive all-purpose back.  Despite getting less carries than Brown, he still eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark with 5.6 yards per carry as well, and his longest run was 70 yards.  He set a school record for all-purpose yards and he's dangerous as a return man and as a receiver.  The knock on him, of course, is inconsistency and injury troubles, and he was essentially shut down against Texas last year save one big reception and one good kick return.

Jermie Calhoun - Calhoun was a big time recruit for the Sooners and redshirted his first year.  He won't see much playing time unless one of the top two running backs get hurt.  He's talented but raw.

Jonathon Miller - He had one long run in garbage time and that's about it.  Don't expect to see him much.

If Oklahoma is going to field a dangerous offense again, these guys are going to have to lead the way.  It is a deep, talented group, and even the two freshman aren't too shabby should they need to fill in for Murray or Brown.  No word yet if Calhoun is the greatest runner ever under Bob Stoops.

Wide Receiver

After the O-line, the biggest losses suffered by the Sooners in the offseason were wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson, who combined for 116 receptions for 1864 yards and 19 touchdowns.  That's not easy to replace, and so far, the receivers have struggled to give Oklahoma any sense of security here save maybe returning receiver Ryan Broyles.

Ryan Broyles - Broyles was a very productive receiver last year as a freshman, catching 46 balls for 687 yards and 6 touchdowns, but he was certainly the fourth option behind Iglesias, Johnson, and Gresham.  Not unexpectedly, he leads all receivers in all categories, and he is the only player on the entire team right now with a TD reception (he has 4).  He has decent speed but he's not a burner, but he's fairly quick and he has solid hands, by far the best on the team right now.  Broyles had a key fumble against BYU, but he's the best they've got now.

Adron Tennell - Senior Adron Tennell has been an utter disappointment at Oklahoma.  Not only has Stoops or Wilson never said he's the best at anything (that can't be good), he came in as a highly ranked recruit but never lived up to that potential.  He was ranked as the #5 receiver in the nation by ESPN and #3 by Rivals, and standing at 6'5 with good speed, it's not hard to see why.  This is his year to make a splash, but he has not started out well.  He dropped a couple big passes against BYU and he has 2 catches for 20 yards so far.  Not much of a deep threat yet.  For all of you silly Horns fans who still complain about Limas Sweed, he was never like Tennell, and he'd also at least block downfield unlike this guy.

Brandon Caleb - Caleb's production last year was a grand total of two catches against Chattanooga.  Suffice it to say, he's inexperienced.  He had a decent game against BYU with four catches for 52 yards, but he caught only one ball against Idaho State and also dropped one.  He's not fast but he seems farther along than some other receivers when it comes to getting open and making a play.

Mossis Madu - Madu was supposed to make an impact at WR after his switch from RB, and so far, he has two catches.  High five.  Madu is quick and he caught the ball decently as an RB, but he has not been a bright spot for a position that is in desperate need of bright spots.  His production against BYU was 1 rush for -2 yards and his two catches were against mighty Idaho State.

Cameron Kenney - According to ccmachine, much was expected out of JUCO transfer Cameron Kenney going into the season, with even some predicting that he'd overtake Brandon Caleb on the depth chart.  So far?  One catch for 15 yards.  Kenney is a former soccer player in high school before joining the football team as a kicker and also playing receiver and cornerback.  He was the #3 JUCO transfer in his class, so it is too early to say much about him.  He had a dropped ball himself against Idaho State, so he hasn't started well either.

Let's be honest:  This unit is not very scary right now.  They have some talent and production will certainly pick up as Jones gets more comfortable and when Bradford returns, but none of these guys currently makes me think that our secondary will have trouble covering them.  Bad news for a Sooner offense that does not even have Gresham anymore.

Tight End

Speaking of which, we all know that Jermaine Gresham is out of the season, which is a gigantic blow to the Sooners.  While we wish injury on nobody and Gresham seems like a very good kid, we certainly won't miss his five catches for 90 yards and a TD against us.  Oklahoma has been scrambling to find a replacement.

Brody Eldridge - Wait, what?  Now why would Oklahoma move the greatest center ever under Bob Stoops back to TE?  Of course; that just means he's also the greatest tight end ever in the Stoops era.  Jermaine Gresham who?  In any case, this is wise move for OU.  Eldridge struggled at center against BYU, no matter what Wilson says, and his blocking abilities will serve them well at TE.  However, while he will certainly help their run game, Eldridge isn't the greatest receiving TE out there, so he will by no means come close to replacing Gresham's production.

James Hanna - Hanna has no catches and I only remember him for whiffing a block against BYU at the goalline.  In his career, he has one catch for -1 yards against Texas A&M.  Nice.  He has good size but there's not remarkable about him.

Trent Ratteree - A walk on, but he has one catch this year.  Good for him.  He seems a bit undersized but he might be the guy who gives them some semblance of a pass catching TE.

This unit is in trouble.  Without Eldridge, they would look almost as useless as our tight ends did last year.

Fullback

Matt Clap was an All-Big 12 fullback and he is a tough blocker.  He had a stupid penalty against BYU and he has some nasty looking hair, but he helps the run game quite a bit.  He is not, however, very dangerous as a pass catcher or runner himself, except in scoring position where he caught three touchdown passes in 2008.

Missing More than Bradford

Add in their offensive line questions, and this offense does not look anywhere near as dangerous as last season.  Their lone bright spot right now are their running backs, where they have the luxury of having two dangerous runners and talented freshman behind them.  The receivers aren't scaring anyone and their tight ends can't stretch a defense.  Eldridge is a good blocker, but after him, I don't see good options at TE.  They need Gresham.  Desperately.

Jones is capable for a freshman, but as long as he starts Oklahoma is much more vulnerable.  While he is more mobile than Bradford, Bradford has more cool and more knowledge of how to get the ball out quickly.  Jones doesn't even have receivers who can bail him out except maybe Broyles.  Oklahoma is going to need to run the ball and run the ball a lot, and they have to hope that their O-line does just well enough to give their talented backs a chance.

Some are calling for a Tulsa upset, but I'd be very surprised if that happened.  Still, the schedule isn't overly friendly, and the last thing OU wants to do is to drop another game before they have to face Texas in Dallas.

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