Everybody likes Oklahoma. Let us count the ways.
A preseason No. 1 in the Big 12 conference. A top-five pick in every preseason magazine. A defense under the direction Mike Stoops, an unparalleled defensive genius (don’t believe it, just ask a fan).
Coming off an impressive bowl victory, after which OU’s one-time Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback surprised many by choosing to remain in Norman one more year, what’s not to like?
It sounds right.
But Wednesday afternoon, the news was not good.
Not good at all.
Because if there was one unit on the team everybody had every reason to believe in, that unit was the offensive line. And Wednesday afternoon, we found out Ben Habern, the best lineman on that line, has chosen to leave the game to save his neck.
The way so many ex-NFL players have crumbled before our eyes, Habern’s choice may add years, even decades to his life. But it will not do Sooner football any favors.
Then there was Bob Stoops’ reinstatement of receivers Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks to the squad, yet also his confirmation that both, along with defensive back Quentin Hayes, “are going to miss multiple, multiple games.”
Perhaps Kameel Jackson will be available by opening day. He is the one player not fully addressed, and Stoops said he would address Jackson just as soon as the summer academic session concludes. Still, be honest, did anybody have Kameel Jackson as the linchpin to the receiving unit?
It’s like the Sooners are living in two different worlds.
In one world, you have an All-American type quarterback back for one more go-round, protected by an experienced line with talented receivers to throw to and several backs to move the chains along the ground, not to mention a defense that’s certain to be improved under the new leadership of a guy who was pulling the defensive reins the last time the Sooners won a national championship.
In another world, that All-American quarterback must nonetheless leave the game if the Sooners are to score a touchdown from inside their own 10-yard line; that experienced offensive line just lost its signal-caller — Habern — and, besides, it wasn’t terrific at run-blocking last season anyway. Yes, it’s sure to give Landry Jones time to throw, but to who? The best receiver in the spring was true freshman Trey Metoyer. And the guy with the most experience, Kenny Stills, has been best known lately for the passes he drops.
As for that defense, the optimism has far more to do with Mike Stoops than with returning personnel that, on the face of it, would appear to be in dire need of leadership, what with the departure of Travis Lewis and Frank Alexander.
Also Wednesday, the bad news did not end with Habern’s exit, nor the continued game-time suspensions of Reynolds, Franks and Hayes. Part of Wednesday’s news, too, was the fact that Sooner signees Will Latu, an offensive lineman, and Courtney Gardner, a receiver, will not play at OU this season.
No matter how you slice it, that’s two guys who didn’t do what was required to become eligible. And even as it’s hard to lose guys from the program that never quite entered the program, it’s still the continuation of a trend of a few Sooners (or Sooners to be) not fully taking care of business.
Of course, there’s talent.
Of course, they can win every game.
Have you seen the schedule?
It sets up very well.
But it’s not the preamble you hope for when you’re hoping your team can go all the way. Instead, it’s a precursor to the postseason deconstruction that will take place if things don’t go as planned.
But it’s not all bad.
The plot’s thickening.
That’s a positive.
If you like drama.
Everybody likes Oklahoma. Let us count the ways.
- Sports Columnists
COLUMN: Are these spring hopes eternal for OU's Metoyer?
The annual Red-White spring game is a skirmish without context and there’s really no way around it.
In an age of closed practices, holding out your stars, putting blue jerseys on your quarterbacks and throttling back the playbook because an opponent might pick something up watching it, just how much can anybody hope to glean?
COLUMN: Devalued titles only make it easier for Jenks, Union
The revolution arrived quietly, long before Thursday.
Thursday was only the day it became clear, when OSSAA Class 6A member schools voted for the lesser of two evils, a plan to separate Class 6A high school football in the state into two different 16-team and two-district divisions, a Class 7A in everything but name, rather than an even nuttier idea to not separate into two divisions, yet somehow determine two state champions via two different playoff brackets.
COLUMN: OU wants to build tradition of its own
They say tradition never goes on vacation, so maybe the Oklahoma women can’t count on being overlooked today.
Tennessee is the Yankees, Steelers and Manchester United of women’s college basketball, only better.
COLUMN: Can Griner save the WNBA?
The hours spent pouring over the brackets were probably a waste because no one knows just how good Gonzaga is, or whether Kansas really does have its act together.
That's the beauty of the NCAA men's tournament, where this year there are more questions than ever about which schools are pretenders and which are contenders. Even the wise guys in Vegas don't really seem to know, with seven teams - including Kansas and Gonzaga all listed at 12-1 or better to win the national title.
There's no such debate on the women's side. Brittney Griner and her Baylor teammates are pretty much locks to be cutting down the nets in New Orleans on a second straight national title.
HORNING: Whitney Hand not done leaving her mark at OU
Favorite Sooner of all time? Well, from my youth there’s Elvis Peacock, John McCullough, Kelly Snider and, just to make everybody from a different sport, let’s say Jim Begwin.
COLUMN: Arkansas coaching search gets weird
On some levels I can relate to John L. Smith’s plight.
Much like Smith, my employer recently made a personnel decision that directly impacted my workload. Like Smith, I went from merely setting a kick return unit, to calling plays, barking orders, and attempting to figure out what’s going on inside Paul Petrino’s head.
HORNING: Considering Landry Jones
Only a few days ago I wrote about Landry Jones’ opportunity to define himself once and for all over his last four games as a Sooner.
That even though championships appeared out of reach, should he play victorious football and leave the Sooner Nation happy, he’ll be rewarded by fine memories.
Against Sooners, Irish have what it takes, again
The magic was back.Now it’s gone.That’s the Irish for you. That’s Notre Dame and Oklahoma. That’s history, fulfilled.
If I’m Joe Castiglione, I try lining up another home and home series with Notre Dame before the Sooners even visit South Bend next season. If I’m the Sooner athletic director, I try scheduling this game wherever possible, as often as possible.
The 10 best reasons to hate Notre Dame
Notre Dame is a wonderful school, a fantastic institution and a slice of American history that simply can’t be denied. Just ask Regis Philbin.
COLUMN: Could this be a new Red October dawn?
Landry Jones must have said it three times in about 5 minutes. He might have said it a dozen times in all.
“If we play like we’re capable of playing …”
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