It’s here! It’s finally here! Oklahoma Football game day is fast approaching and we’ll soon have live football to talk about. Leading up to that we certainly aren’t short on opinions and observations as the Sooners get ready to host Missouri State to kickoff the season.
Playing a lesser opponent is just what Oklahoma needs. After missing nearly all of spring ball and then having limited summer workouts before starting fall camp, Lincoln Riley and company are probably still looking at some position battles as well as getting a new crop of offensive players up to speed. I believe Saturday’s offensive game plan will cater to that and there are three keys that we can look at to see how much progress they’ve made or what they need to continue working on before Kansas State comes in two weeks.
Establish the running game
If you’re familiar with my pregame posts then this is something that you’re used to seeing me write. A successful rushing attack opens up the complete playbook for Lincoln Riley and puts the Sooner offense at its most dangerous advantage over the opponent’s defense, and there hasn’t been a more crucial time in Riley’s tenure to get a running game going than right now.
The sudden departure of Kennedy Brooks was the biggest blow that the 2020 offense must absorb and do so quickly before the Wildcats arrive to open conference play. The good news here is two-fold. First, Oklahoma is going to have the best offensive line in the conference and possibly in the nation. Secondly, there’s talent at running back but they need experience. New starter T.J. Pledger and redshirt freshman Marcus Major were both 4-star recruits coming out of high school. Pledger, a junior, is the most experienced back the Sooners have available with 40 rushing attempts for 244 yards (6.1 YPC) under his belt. True freshman Seth McGowan is also likely to see some time of the field. He was a 4-star prospect out of high school as well.
Keep in mind that Oklahoma is also breaking in a new quarterback. Although Spencer Rattler appears to be extremely talented, keeping him comfortable is going to be crucial as well. Establishing an effective run game is the best way to achieve that.
Protect the ball
It goes without saying that turning the ball over not only provides opportunity for the opponent but also limits opportunity for your own offense. The temptation is for young players to try and do too much which often leads to turning the ball over. We need to see guys like Spencer Rattler, Marcus Major, and so on take what comes to them and not force the issue.
I’m also curious to see how Rattler is with the speed of the game. He’s not completely inexperienced so there’s more than just a little hope that he won’t need to make adjustments to how fast defenders in the college game moves compared high school. That is another crucial aspect to preventing turnovers.
This is another area where not having spring ball could affect the offense. The Sooners have a true freshman slated to start at left tackle (Anton Harrison), a new running back, a new quarterback, and several receivers who will be making their way on the field as a starter for the first time. False start and holding penalties, as well as blown assignments (particularly blocking), could easily rear their ugly heads on Saturday night. Clearly the best case scenario is that they don’t but the next best thing would be to keep those at a minimum.
What about the passing game?
Call me naive but I’m not worried about it. Spencer Rattler has an established rapport with the group of receivers that he came to OU with and has a year under his belt with veterans like Charleston Rambo. Tanner Mordecai’s injury during fall camp means that Rattler spent more time running the starting offense and getting comfortable with new faces like Theo Howard, Marvin Mims, and Obi Obialo.
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