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Oklahoma football: Grading the Sooners before the Cotton Bowl

With Oklahoma players finishing up their final exams, here is a unit-by-unit look at the team, with grades for each position group.
by Jason Kersey Published: December 13, 2012

NORMAN — Oklahoma's regular-season ended with another conference championship — albeit a shared one — and a 10-2 overall record.

OU faces Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4.

With the Sooners finishing up their final exams, here is a unit-by-unit look at the team, with grades for each position group.

Quarterback: B+

Senior Landry Jones' turnovers directly caused Oklahoma's Sept. 22 home loss to Kansas State, but after that he was mostly terrific.

The four-year starter continued to put up impressive numbers, and led the Sooners on clutch drives late in the fourth quarter to help eek out victories at West Virginia and against Oklahoma State.

Blake Bell, Jones' heir apparent, continued to score touchdowns out of the Belldozer package, although he wasn't as automatic from it as defenses started to figure it out.

Bell also showed an ability to come through in clutch situations. His fourth-down pass against Notre Dame kept the Sooners in that game, and he scored the tying touchdown in Bedlam to force overtime.

Running backs: B+

Damien Williams displayed his home-run capability in the first game at UTEP, and then a few more times at big moments after that. He burst free for a 95-yard touchdown run in the Red River Shootout and finished the regular season with a team-high 905 yards and 11 touchdowns despite being limited by an ankle injury at Iowa State.

Speaking of Iowa State, Brennan Clay started in Williams' place and rushed for 157 yards and an 18-yard touchdown. He also scored the final touchdown of the Sooners' overtime Bedlam win. The junior finally seems to be reaching the high potential he arrived with.

Dominique Whaley never fully recovered from his severe 2011 ankle injury. The senior hasn't played at all in the last four games.

Receivers: A

After suspensions gutted the unit's depth in May, newcomers stepped in to save the day. Justin Brown and Jalen Saunders transferred from Penn State and Fresno State, respectively, and true freshman Sterling Shepard stepped in and immediately contributed.

Saunders gained his eligibility after four 2012 games and quickly became one of Jones' favorite targets. He turned in 100-yard receiving performances in each of OU's last three games.

Junior Kenny Stills, though, was Mr. Dependable all season long. He was OU's leading receiver, finishing the regular season with 75 catches, 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Offensive line: B

Oklahoma's offensive line suffered injury after injury, but continued to play at a remarkably high level considering its attrition.

When a concussion forced center Gabe Ikard to sit the Baylor game, true freshman Ty Darlington stepped in and did well. Darlington's quick learning allowed Ikard to shift out to guard when Adam Shead had to leave the regular-season finale at TCU.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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