NORMAN — After an offseason filled with questions and doubt, Oklahoma left Saturday's 34-0 rout of Louisiana-Monroe with plenty of reasons to feel optimistic.
Sure, many of Trevor Knight's early passes were erratic. And yes, it's impossible to know how good the Warhawks really are after one game.
Still, one would be hard pressed to view Saturday's season opener as anything less than a good, positive start. Best of all? The next few weeks set up quite nicely for a promising, if inexperienced, team featuring a first-year quarterback and several new defensive starters debuting brand new schemes.
The Sooners host West Virginia in their Big 12 opener Saturday, then get Tulsa at home and a bye before a huge test at Notre Dame on Sept. 28.
Oklahoma's defense looked much more aggressive than it did much of last season against Louisiana-Monroe. The Sooners' 3-3-5 scheme worked well, allowing five defensive backs to counter the Warhawks' passing attack while keeping linebackers on the field to stuff the run game.
Everyone remembers Mike Stoops' disastrous late-2012 schemes that involved no linebackers, but the unit actually lost its playmaking ability early last season, when it was ordered to fill gaps and filter tackles to defensive backs.
Judging from Saturday's performance, Oklahoma's linebackers look like playmakers again. Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon combined for 15 tackles, and Nelson recorded a sack.
The Sooners' defensive line, thought to be the team's weakest link, played well, applying strong pressure to ULM quarterback Kolton Browning.
Still, OU's defenders reiterated that they weren't completely satisfied with the shutout performance, the first since 2010.