The Oklahoma Sooners will once again be the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference. They’ve won six Big 12 Championships in a row and Lincoln Riley might just have his best team yet. If nothing else, it appears to be his most-balanced team, with Alex Grinch rebuilding the defense in a way many did not think possible. But still, for OU to reach its next goal of reaching, and winning, a National Championship, certain breaks need to happen. Here are a look at the three things that will define the Oklahoma offense this season.
1. Spencer Rattler, Heisman Winner
Oh, no pressure here. Rattler is just trying to become the third quarterback of the last four starters under Lincoln Riley to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s already the Heisman favorite, as he should be, which says just as much about Lincoln Riley as it does about Rattler. But in all seriousness, it’s believed to be a foregone conclusion that Rattler will have a big season and leave for the NFL after the 2021 campaign. But what if Rattler doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations? It’s not likely, as we watched him progress and get more comfortable as last season went on, throwing 15 touchdowns to two interceptions down the final seven games of the season. However, if Oklahoma is going to be the team to not just make the CFB Playoff, but also win the National Championship, Rattler needs to play Heisman Trophy-caliber football. That’s not something that is up for debate.
2. Offensive Line, Most Notably Center
Creed Humphrey and Adrian Ealy left for the NFL, but for the Oklahoma offensive line, led by line coach Bill Bendenbaugh, it’s next man up. The center position is the position most in flux for OU, and it’s also one of the most underrated and underappreciated positions in football. Those most likely to fill the role left by Humphrey are fifth-year senior Ian McIver, UCLA transfer Chris Murray, and redshirt freshman Andrew Raym. Meantime, OU got a big-time transfer in Wayna Morris from Tennessee, a former five-star prospect who started for two seasons in Knoxville. Erik Swenson will make the transition to right tackle to replace Ealy, which he seems more than capable of doing. After a rough start to 2020, from from Week 5 on, he led all Power Five tackles in pass-block grade, according to Pro Football Focus. Marquise Hayes and Tyrese Robinson are both returning starters at guard and should not be of much concern.
3. Running Back Depth
There’s talent, but by OU standards, some questions. Tennessee transfer Eric Gray comes in and will expect to get plenty of touches. However, so will Kennedy Brooks, who took off the 2020 season due to COVID-19 after rushing for over 1,000 in 2019 and being named a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection. This after a strange offseason for the unit, as Rhamondre Stevenson left for the NFL, T.J. Pledger transferred and Seth McGowan was kicked off the team.
And after Gray and Brooks, there is a big drop off. Marcus Major and Mikey Henderson combined for eight carries last season, while Todd Hudson and Jaden Knowles are both walk-ons. So it looks like a two-headed monster in Norman this fall, meaning both need to stay healthy, and be willing to share snaps, for the backfield to be as effective as possible.