Oklahoma used their tune-up against UTEP to full advantage Saturday afternoon. The Sooners beat UTEP 56-7, and while we obviously all knew UTEP was going to be over matched, the Sooners still answered plenty of questions in this game.
Question 1: How will Oklahoma replace the production of superstar RBs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon?
Oklahoma is replacing its production with three to four different guys who all show promise. The Sooners had five running backs carry the football during the first half: Abdul Adams, who seems to be the starter, Rodney Anderson, Trey Sermon, Marcelias Sutton, and Dimitri Flowers. You don’t simply just move forward after losing what OU did in the backfield.
However, OU now has four very good running backs that all proved they can contribute. The Sooners seem to have replaced Samaje Perine’s direct-snap goal line package, by going under center in the I-Formation and handing to Anderson and Flowers. The Sooner offensive line imposed their will against UTEP, like we’d expect. ut those guys up front are the most responsible group for this transition being so easy.
Question 2: How Will Oklahoma make up for the loss of Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook?
With one of the deepest receiving corps in college football, the Oklahoma receivers showed up, and showed out. Mark Andrews was the leader, and played like it. Jeff Badet flashed absurd speed, Marquise Brown was interfered with on a long-ball throw, Jeffery Mead had a nice 3rd down snag and CeeDee Lamb showed why he had 33 TD catches in 2016 as a high school senior. How can you forgot the back should throw for Grant Calcaterra? Baker Mayfield completed passes to 10 different receivers on his 19 completions, so there is plenty of talent to go around at the receiver spot, a position that’s rarely been bare for the Sooners in recent years. I would be surprised if a single Sooner matched the production of Sterling Shepard’s or Dede Westbrook’s senior seasons, but that isn’t going to be a problem because the unit as a whole appears to be deep and reliable.
In 2000 when Oklahoma won the National Championship, no OU receiver had 1000 receiving yards, but QB Josh Huepel had a great year passing. I see many similarities between the way Huepel operated with those receivers and Mayfield will this season. All in all, Oklahoma’s receivers are better than Indiana’s (cough, Kirk Herbstreit, cough).
Question 3: Will OU play any kind of defense in 2017?
As we all know, OU had a rough 2016 on this side of the ball, but it appears that time has come, and passed. OU secondary lived up to its hype in this game, and after a rough start the OU defensive line imposed its will against a good offensive line. Sure, UTEP isn’t a very good football team, but their offensive line is strong and even features an All-American, and Oklahoma defenders found themselves in the backfield often. UTEP didn’t get any big plays in the passing game. The OU linebackers found their footing after the first drive as well. The Sooners defense looks like it will be solid in 2017. But we will really know just how far they’ve come a week from now.
Question 4: Is Baker Mayfield a fraud?
I’ve heard this question a lot this offseason. As crazy as it is, and as long as Mayfield’s been balling in broad daylight, the quarterback still gets questioned. OU QB Baker Mayfield wasn’t just good, he was basically perfect in this game. He spread the ball around, hitting 10 different guys in a half. He looks more polished as a passer, if that’s even possible. His fundamentals improved, he has a quicker release, stayed in the pocket and has a great deep ball arm. Also, his placement has somehow improved, again. Mayfield is the real deal, he’s the best in college football. His only incompletion was a perfect deep ball to Marquise Brown that should’ve been pass interference.