Oklahoma Sooners

Paul Finebaum has ‘Deep Concerns’ of Oklahoma Football Trajectory

Oct 1, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brent Venables reacts during the second half against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma Sooners didn’t reach expectations in Year 1 under Brent Venables, ending the season with a 6-7 record, the program’s first losing record since 1998.

Despite a failure to launch on the field, Oklahoma went out and nabbed its best recruiting class in recent memory, ranking fourth nationally according to 247Sports composite ratings.

The Sooners brought in three consensus five-star players, two of which are on defense, the side of the ball that has ailed OU in recent years.

 

Now, heading into Venables’ second year, Oklahoma looks primed to flip the script with a favorable schedule and a transfer class full of playmakers.

Folks in and around the program tell me that there is an excitement and edge inside the Switzer Center that you wouldn’t expect from a team coming off a 6-7 season. However, ESPN talking head Paul Finebaum says that he has “deep concerns” for the trajectory that Oklahoma is headed.

“I have deep concerns for the trajectory of Oklahoma,” Finebaum said on McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning. “I talked to a local columnist and I did not get a good vibe from that program. There just seems to be a concern that in the aftermath of Lincoln Riley, they can put the pieces back together quickly. That did tremendous damage.

“Not only did Lincoln Riley leave and take Caleb Williams with him, but it also took a line of others players out of there. No one is convinced that the Brent Venables hire is going to work. There’s equally no one as convinced that it is not going to work. I know that sounds contradictory, but [fans] are tired of being right in the middle.”

 

Not that Finebaum doesn’t have excellent sources, but I just don’t hear this same sentiment from anyone that I’ve discussed the Sooners with over the last several months. Yes, Caleb Williams and Lincoln are gone, but they have been for over a calendar year. Those names aren’t even mentioned in Norman anymore. That’s just the facts.

Oklahoma lost five games last season by seven points or less, four of which were losses by just a field goal. Flip those scores, and OU goes 10-3 in Venables’ first year. It’s not that simple, but all that is to say the Sooners don’t need to improve that much to be viewed as a much better football team in 2023.

The roster in Norman has been turned over heavily, with 56 of the 71 players that were active for Oklahoma’s Alamo Bowl appearance against Oregon in 2022 being out of the program at this point. That means just fifteen or so players on the roster were at OU to see the coaching change occur. Furthermore, 39 new players will join the squad as part of the 2023 class, with 27 already on campus (14 early-enrollees, 13 transfers) and 12 on their way in the mid-year.

For Finebaum to still be placing interest in Lincoln Riley and his roster at USC with regard to Oklahoma is outdated and just plain lazy. The excitement in Norman on Saturday was palpable, as nearly 55,000 Sooner fans piled into a chilly Memorial Stadium to watch a spring game. The vibe around Norman isn’t “concerning,” it’s promising, but that doesn’t make headlines as effectively, especially when it comes from “The Mouth of the South.”

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