The Stoops reunification.
It didn't take long after Mike Stoops' 2003 departure for OU fans to miss him. As years passed, the Sooner faithful became increasingly nostalgic for the days when the Stoops brothers were together in Norman.
Stoops' return might be exciting for fans, but he has spoken of a desire to repair his coaching reputation, which sustained heavy blows during an up-and-down tenure as Arizona's head coach. If the defense seems improved from last season, he'll be declared a savior. But how quickly will the masses turn on Mike if things get rocky?
A fine line separates boom from bust.
The Oklahoma offensive line was supposed to be the Sooners' strongest, most battle-tested unit. But after Ben Habern's career-ending back and neck issues, Tyler Evans' preseason ACL tear and other setbacks, the line — especially on the interior — is thin. Gabe Ikard will ably anchor it from center, but another lineman injury would be devastating.
The interim Sooner.
Often when an OU player arrives in August and departs by the next January, it can be reasonably assumed his brief stay ended badly.
But such players also don't arrive as seniors and openly declare their intent to be one-season wonders.
Penn State refugee Justin Brown's arrival has been — and will remain — anything but normal. He'll play his senior season with OU, complete required courses, transfer them back to Penn State and graduate there.
Brown could flourish teamed with quarterback Landry Jones. Brown will also be OU's punt returner.
Belldozer back and broadened.
Eleven of OU's last 14 TDs of 2011 were Blake Bell runs from the Belldozer, which became a fan favorite. It's a relatively simple concept; if Bell and his powerful 6-foot-6, 254-pound frame carries the ball, a running back can become an extra blocker. Bob Stoops has said the package will not only return but probably be expanded and used 10-12 times each game.
Sustaining pass-rush prowess.
Oklahoma tied for eighth nationally last year with 40 sacks, but gone are All-Big 12 defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. Stepping into those shoes are seniors R.J. Washington and David King, each impressive through spring and fall practices. Washington recorded two sacks in last year's Insight Bowl and said he's finally ready to showcase the skills that made him so highly recruited out of high school.
5 IMPACT PLAYERS NOT NAMED LANDRY JONES
* Aaron Colvin, junior cornerback: Colvin returns to cornerback, his preferred position, for his junior season. Last year at safety, the Owasso native finished tied for the team lead with 84 tackles.
* Trey Metoyer, freshman wide receiver: Metoyer spent a tough semester at military school last fall, made it to Norman in January and demonstrated his big-play potential in April's spring game. Metoyer is expected start and eventually evolve into an all-out superstar.
* Kenny Stills, junior wide receiver: Everyone around the program has praised Stills for his maturation as he's assumed a leadership role. Metoyer and Justin Brown seem like probable first-team outside receivers, leaving Stills as OU's top guy in the slot, a role he tried last year, but struggled in, following Ryan Broyles' demise.
* Dominique Whaley, senior running back: Whaley is medically cleared and participating in OU practices after last year's severe, season-ending ankle injury. The former walk-on, who led OU with 627 yards last season, insists he's better than ever, but his recovery is impossible to fully gauge until he plays in an actual game.