It goes without saying that Oklahoma’s opponent this evening should be substantially more challenging than what they faced in Arkansas State last weekend. The Sooners are hosting an SMU squad that opened up the season with a 38-14 win over Louisiana Tech last weekend. Here are five key players for OU as they face the Mustangs.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel
The season opener was good for Dillon Gabriel, and his performance was good for the portion of the fan base calling for 5-star freshman Jackson Arnold to get more time. Gabriel threw for over 300 yards, with two touchdowns, and ran for another score. There was no pressure, though, both literally and figuratively. Arkansas State couldn’t touch him, and there were no opponent scores to try and match or get ahead of. One or both of those won’t be the case this evening as SMU is going to bring a physical defensive front to try and get into Oklahoma’s backfield. They’re also going to have a balanced offensive attack that is likely to finally get into the end zone for the first points of the season against the Sooner defense.
Hitting tight windows, making downfield throws, and getting the correct reads are all going to be vital for Gabriel and Oklahoma’s offensive success.
Running Back Jovantae Barnes
I’m curious as to how deep Jeff Lebby chooses to go into the running back depth chart. Oklahoma ran five backs out last week, including two true freshmen, and Barnes was the third back to enter the game. However, he touted the most carries against Arkansas State and possesses the most upside, currently, of any of the running backs that played in the opener.
SMU held Louisiana Tech to just 28 rushing yards, on 24 attempts, a week ago and is primed to use that defensive front to challenge Oklahoma’s rushing attack. The Sooners need a bruiser and a banger against this front, and that should be Barnes.
Receiver Jalil Farooq
It’s a bit unbelievable that Farooq didn’t log a catch in the opener last week. The statement that Michigan transfer Andrel Anthony made was significant, though, and should open up opportunities for Farooq this week. I’m expecting the Mustangs to play a safety over the top of Anthony, which should open windows underneath to mid-range in zone coverage or with one-on-one opportunities against a defender. This should be a good afternoon for Oklahoma’s junior receiver.
Linebacker Danny Stutsman
SMU is really balanced of offense. Last week they they attempted 38 passes and ran the ball 41 times, on their way to a 457-yard offensive performance. To attack that balance, the Sooners are going to have to attempt to remove one aspect of the Mustang offense, and that’s where Stutsman comes in.
What Danny Stutsman puts on the statline is going to be important, but equally important will be him getting the calls in from the sideline, getting the defense properly aligned, and making the correct pre-snap reads. He’s the quarterback of the defense, and his physical and mental performances are equally important to that of Dillion Gabriel.
Cheetah Justin Harrington
The uncertain status of Dasan McCullough makes Justin Harrington even more vital tonight. The senior defensive back is going to have to properly split his time supporting the run defense and dropping in coverage. SMU quarterback Preston Stone has the ability to exploit a mistake from the Sooner defense. A large portion of the responsibility for preventing that from happening rests on the shoulders of Harrington.
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