No. 5 – Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners land at spot number 5 to begin the 2017 season. The Sooners finished 2016 strong after a rough 1-2 start, losing to Houston and Ohio State. They capped off the 10 game winning streak with a 35-19 victory over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With Bob Stoops gone from the team, Riley looks to continue revolutionizing the Sooner offense.
Baker Mayfield is now a two-time Heisman Finalist, and chose to return back to school to pursue a national championship. The offense around Mayfield will look a lot different, after losing Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook and Samaje Perine to the draft, Mayfield will be in search of new players to step up and make plays. Those three combined for 45 touchdowns last season, and that production will be surely missed. A few players to watch for will be Graduate Transfer Jeff Badet from Memphis, and JUCO transfer Marquise Brown. Brown is a speedster, and will be Mayfield’s favorite down field target. OU also has a few BIG receivers looking to step up this year in Mark Andrews and Jeffrey Mead.
The Sooners defense was far from spectacular last season, and will need young players to play big roles, especially in the secondary. OU’s top recruits are Justin Broiles and Robert Barnes, a cornerback and safety looking to get minutes right away. While the youth movement seems to be under way, the two leaders for this defense will have to be Senior’s Obo Okoronkwo and Jordan Thomas. Obo was OU’s top rusher last season, racking up 9 sacks.
The player Mike Stoops needs to emerge as a leader is Caleb Kelly. Kelly took over the Sugar Bowl, where he finished the game with 12 tackles, and will be a starter day one.
The toughest challenge for the Sooners this season could be replacing the two-headed monster in the backfield. Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson looked strong in the Spring Game and will get chances at camp to prove their starting jobs. Anderson has spent a lot of time on the sidelines injured, and Adams earned some minutes in garbage time of games.
Some key games for the Sooners in 2017:
Sep. 9 – Oklahoma @ Ohio State – Columbus, OH
Oct. 14 – Oklahoma vs. Texas – Dallas, TX
Nov. 4 – Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State – Stillwater, OK