NORMAN — Talent trumps everything.
Next on a coaching staff's wish list is experience.
OU has only six senior starters but a ton of experience, more than any team in the Bob Stoops era.
Most preseason publications list the Sooners with 15 returning starters. But that doesn't tell the entire story.
The Sooners return 29 offensive and defensive players that have made at least one start, the most under Stoops' flag as football coach.
Those 29 players have combined for 338 career starts, the third most under Stoops. If not for the Austin Box tragedy, the 2011 team also would have the most combined career starts in Stoops' 13 seasons.
The Sooners have "starting experience" at nearly every position except running back.
Quarterback: (24 starts): Experience at this position is invaluable. Landry Jones was forced into action his redshirt freshman year when Sam Bradford suffered a shoulder injury. A Heisman candidate, Jones threw for 4,718 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season.
Offensive line: (81 starts) The O-line still has much to prove but has experience. Center Ben Habern is a two-year starter. Guard Tyler Evans has been a starter much of the past two seasons. Guard Gabe Ikard developed into a dependable starter. Tackle Donald Stephenson showed promise his first year as a starter. Tackle Jarvis Jones could be sidelined half the season with a knee injury, but there is good depth.
Wide receiver: (52 starts) Ryan Broyles is a rare four-year starter. An All-American, Broyles already owns many school records. He's a dynamic weapon opposing defenses have to account for. Kenny Stills was a solid No. 2 receiver his first year as a starter. Dejuan Miller and Trey Franks provide good depth.
Running back: (3 starts) There's ample talent but no extensive starting experience. Fullback Trey Millard has only two official starts but essentially started all season as a true freshman. Roy Finch (85) and Brennan Clay (36) combined for 121 carries but only one start. Stoops said it most likely will be running back-by-committee. Freshman Brandon Williams, sophomore Jonathan Miller and walk-on Dominique Whaley could be in the mix.
Tight end: (21 starts) James Hannah grabbed seven touchdown passes last year. Trent Ratterree has nine career starts. Sophomore Austin Haywood is the most talented but must improve his blocking to crack the starting lineup.
Defensive tackle: (18 starts) This position is one of the Sooners' biggest question marks, but Stacy McGee is a returning starter. Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland also started a handful of games. The defense could really be good if a freshman or two emerges early in the season.
Defensive end: (26 starts) Frank Alexander, hampered by an ankle injury, lost his starting job midway through last season, regrouped to return to the starting lineup and is the most experienced player on the D-line. Ronnell Lewis gained "starting" experience after moving from linebacker. David King started a handful of games. R.J. Washington and other young players will provide depth.
Linebacker: (50 starts) Travis Lewis returning for his senior season, gives the defense an anchor; a player who has 362 career tackles and at least 109 tackles all three seasons. Tom Wort was overwhelmed early when pressed into a starting role but was much improved late in the season. Sophomore Corey Nelson hasn't started a game, but coaches said he had the best spring of anyone on the roster.
Defensive back: (51 starts) A huge question mark last season turned into a strength. Cornerbacks Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming were solid as first-year starters. Second in the nation in passes defended, Fleming missed spring drills because of academic issues but has returned. Aaron Colin, who made only one start, moves to safety. Nickel backs Tony Jefferson and Joseph Ibiloye both started last season.