The only thing that Oklahoma fans have seen from the offense since the arrival of Lincoln Riley is steady improvement. In 2015, Riley’s first year, the Sooners averaged 43.5 points per game. Over the course of the next two seasons Oklahoma’s offense would progress to where they led all Power 5 schools in points per game in 2017.
|Points Per Game||43.5||43.9||45.1|
Throughout that three-year rise the receivers changed, the running backs changed, the offensive line changed, but Baker Mayfield was the constant. However, the fear of approaching 2018 without the Heisman Trophy quarterback should be lessened by Riley’s consistency.
Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, and Dede Westbrook all left for the NFL and the impact that had in Norman was the rise of CeeDee Lamb, Marquise Brown, Rodney Anderson, and Trey Sermon.
At the rate that Oklahoma is developing talent on the offensive side of the football they’ve just been able to reload at key positions, and with the track record that we’ve seen, under Riley, in Norman, why should we expect anything different from the quarterback position?
|Oklahoma 2017 Passing Stats|
The Sooners left spring practices with the quarterback battle deadlocked. Kyler Murray went into the spring as the front runner but was unable to distance himself from Austin Kendall.
A consensus 5-star recruit coming out of Allen High School (TX), Murray led his prep team to three consecutive state championships and compiled a perfect 43-0 record as a starter. He started three games for Texas A&M, played in eight, as a true freshman in 2015 and made seven game appearances, with one start, for the Sooners last fall.
|2018 Oklahoma Quarterbacks|
Kendall had his own share of success in high school. He was ranked as a 4-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals, and Scout. He’s also experienced at OU, playing in two games as a freshman in 2016.
“I thought early in the spring Kyler was playing pretty well and playing a little better than AK, which is to be expected,” Riley said in Oklahoma’s post spring game press conference. “Austin has started to settle in this last half of spring. He’s played really well. He did a lot of nice things today. It’s neck-and-neck right now without a doubt.”
Ultimately the decision is going to come down to the quarterback Riley trusts the most when it comes to commanding the offense and protecting the football. The thing is, commanding the offense is better suited for Murray and ball security leans towards Kendall.
Murray also has the added dimension of high-end speed which makes him a home run treat on just about every play. Riley has a ton of extra things he can do with a guy of that skill set and, for that reason, he’s still the front runner heading into the summer.
Assuming baseball doesn’t draw him away from the gridiron, Murray will most likely lead the charge when the Sooners take the field on September 1st.
|Oklahoma 2017 Receiving Stats|
Whichever quarterback wins Oklahoma’s starting job is going to have a full arsenal of weapons to work with. The Sooners return two of the the top three targets from 2017 and have a line of talent waiting to get their opportunity.
At the front of that line is redshirt freshman Charleston Rambo who had a great spring, and showed it during the Red/White Game. The Sooners also will have Nick Basquine returning to the offense after suffering two Achilles tendon tears. Basquine missed the spring, as a result of the second tear, but is expected to be fully healthy once again by the time fall camp rolls around. The redshirt senior had 20 receptions for 265 yards and two scores in 2016 before missing all of 2017 with the injury.
|2018 Oklahoma Receivers|
Grant Calcaterra is officially listed as a tight end (the only one Oklahoma has on the roster) but don’t expect Oklahoma to use him much in the traditional sense of the position. Instead, he’ll continue to exploit defenses the same way that former Sooner, and current Baltimore Raven, Mark Andrews did. At 6-4/224 he’s going to be tough for a defensive back to man up on and his speed down the seam will make it difficult for linebackers to stay with.
Calcaterra will join Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb as the top three targets in the passing offense, but the Sooners still need that fourth option to emerge. Once you add running backs coming out of the back field to a receiving corps that runs four deep, you start to understand why this offense gives defensive coordinators headaches.
|Oklahoma 2017 Ruushing Stats|
A strong backfield, and a deep stable of running backs, have become a staple of Oklahoma football. That won’t change in 2018 either. Despite the transfer of Abdul Adams, as the Sooners may rely on their backs more than they did in Riley’s first year.
There may not have been a better running back in the country than what Rodney Anderson showed over the final nine games. The Texas game (October 14th) was the first time he logged double-digit carries on the season, and the momentum just built from there. He cracked the century mark in six of Oklahoma’s final nine contests, highlighted by a 201 yard, two touchdown, performance in the Rose Bowl.
Trey Sermon will make up the second part of Oklahoma’s running back duo, and Lincoln Riley certainly has options as to how he can use the two. They can make an excellent one/two punch and they’re both versatile enough to be threats out of the backfield. There will also be plenty of times when OU has them both on the simultaneously.
|2018 Oklahoma Running Backs|
Redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks had a fantastic spring and senior Marcelias Sutton will see playing time, most likely at OU’s third option.
|2018 Oklahoma Offensive Line|
Much of the off-season talk surrounding Oklahoma’s offensive line has been centered on what the Sooners lost. However, in 2018 the Sooners will return more than they lost from the 2017 squad.
Left tackle Orlando Brown and center Erick Wren have moved on the the NFL but there’s no panic among offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s crew. Junior Bobby Evans is the most likely candidate to replace Brown. A two-year starter at right tackle, he’ll transition to protect the blind side.
Ben Powers and Cody Ford will continue their battle at the left guard position into the summer. Either would be a great option but Powers seems to have a slight edge after the spring.
Jonathan Alvarez took a redshirt in 2017 and will look to hold off Creed Humphrey at the center position. Alvarez, a preseason candidate for the Rimington Trophy, has four career starts at center and the advantage of being a senior. That said, Humphrey could easily be a four-year starter in the middle of Oklahoma’s offensive line.
Dru Samia is going into his fourth year as the starter at right guard. He’ll have redshirt freshman Tyrese Robinson backing him up.
Adrian Ealy left the spring with a small advantage over Erik Swenson at right tackle. Expect JUCO transfer Tramonda Moore to shake this up over the summer though and possibly with the position outright.