Here’s a quick breakdown of the Sooners, with the season opener closing in quickly:
1. Who leads this team in receptions? Rushing yards?
Stephanie Kuzydym: Trey Metoyer, Dominique Whaley.
Jason Kersey: Justin Brown will lead Oklahoma in receptions, followed closely by Trey Metoyer and then Kenny Stills. Brown’s impressive fall camp, combined with his unique skill set and big-play ability, will make him a favorite target of Landry Jones early and often in 2012. Dominique Whaley leads the team in rushing yards. He’ll stay healthy this year and easily crack 1,000 yards.
Anthony Slater: I get the feeling people are sleeping on Kenny Stills a bit. With all the new names (and Stills’ mediocre late-season performance), his production has almost been forgotten. But, by far, he’s the most proven D-1 receiver on this roster. In his first two years, Stills has combined for 122 receptions, 1,653 yards and 13 touchdowns. Justin Brown, OU’s only other wideout with college stats, doesn’t come close to those numbers in his three seasons at Penn State. And Trey Metoyer? I think he’s going to be a star. Wouldn’t be surprised if he challenged some of Ryan Broyles’ records. But even Broyles wasn’t an immediate All-American (46 receptions for 687 yards as a freshman)…And I agree with you two, Whaley should lead the team in rushing.
2. What remains the biggest concern as the season approaches?
Stephanie Kuzydym: If the defense will give up as many big plays as they did last year.
Jason Kersey: The offensive line. The depth there is thin, especially on the interior of the line, and that’s a recipe for disaster on a team that, really, is strong in just about every other area of the offense.
Anthony Slater: Landry Jones…Despite some depth issues, the complimentary pieces are there. But to get where they expect (natty or nothing, right?) the Sooners need a Heisman performance from Jones. Does he have it in him?
3. Give me your under-the-radar breakout star and the guy who won’t play as big a role as many expect.
Stephanie Kuzydym: Under-the-radar breakout star – Sterling Shepard / Guy who won’t play as big a role as many expect – Justin Brown
Jason Kersey: Alex Ross is a guy who is kind of in a tough spot on the depth chart, but I could definitely see rising to be the Sooners’ No. 2 running back. He’s shown big-play skills in fall camp and scrimmages and has all the tools to be a future star OU back if he can stay healthy. He’s got to climb past Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, but that could be done and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to most people.
Anthony Slater: In an offense like this, opportunities and stats are there for a number of wide receivers. So you know one of the young guns (besides Metoyer) is going to step into a leading role. I’ll go with Sterling Shepard, too. Reports out of camp have him as the most impressive of that bunch…And I’m with you Kersey. Given an offseason, defenses will adjust to the Belldozer. It’s similar to a couple years ago, when the Miami Dolphins sprung the Wildcat on the NFL. It was effective all year, but negated the next season.
4. All things considered, realistically, can this OU team win the national championship?
Stephanie Kuzydym: Not with USC, LSU and ‘Bama in the mix.
Anthony Slater: Am I picking them to win it? No chance. Is it out of the question? No. OU needs production from its youth, plenty of luck and Landry’s best season, but the Sooners will be favored in almost every game. And a 12-0 or 11-1 Big 12 team would likely get a ticket to Miami. Once there, anything can happen.