November 5, 2008

Sooner Hot 11: Nebraska

The Sooner Hot 11 is a ranking of the previous Saturday's top performers and in Oklahoma's historic 62-28 victory over long-time rival Nebraska there were several stars worthy of recognition and a familiar face has found his way for the Hot 11's top spot after putting up yet another stellar performance on Saturday night. Have a look at the player-by-player breakdown of perhaps Oklahoma's most high-flying game of the season where the Sooners offense soared in a simply amazing first quarter.

11. Lendy Holmes, Safety - Stats: Six tackles (two solo), half a tackle for loss (two yards), one interception (26-yard return).
Analysis: While getting very little recognition compared to some of his teammates Holmes is quietly having a season that is worthy of All-Big 12 discussion. Holmes interception may have been something of a freebie but that doesn't change that when in position to make the play he was able to make it. He seems to be the steadying force in the secondary to this point in the season and will be a key part of Oklahoma's late season Big 12 run.Last Week: N/A

10. Frank Alexander, Defensive End - Stats: Two solo tackles, one sack (eight yards), and one fumble recovery.
Analysis: For a season and a half Sooner players and coaches were telling anyone who would listen 'just wait till you see this guy'. Slowly but surely it looks like people are starting to believe the hype. Alexander will pick up his first start this weekend and has earned it with his performances the past two weeks, each of which has landed him in the Hot 11. With the proper opportunity it's unclear just how dominant Alexander can be.Last Week: No. 11

9. Demarco Murray, Running Back - Stats: 14 carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns. One catch for a 25-yard touchdown. Two kickoff returns for 119-yards.
Analysis: Ok, the talk of 'being back' is officially past tense. Murray looks like himself and is starting to do the things that made him special last year; in a word, everything. The talented running back showed off vision and incredible feet that helped him grab a couple of touchdowns. While his running has always been impressive it's his pass-catching that seems to have truly emerged this season, he may have been wide open on his touchdown catch but don't think defenses won't start taking notice.Last Week: No. 2

8. Phil Loadholt, Offensive Tackle - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: The massive offensive lineman had what was probably his best game of the season helping to create a near picture-perfect pocket for Sam Bradford to throw from. That's to forget some of his blocking that opened up running lanes for both Chris Brown and Demarco Murray. Honestly, it was the Loadholt we'd been waiting all season to see. If this was a sign of things to come then Oklahoma just might be ready to start thinking about wins against top 10 teams like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.Last Week: N/A

7. Keenan Clayton, Linebacker - Stats: Seven solo tackles, one forced fumble, one pass break-up.
Analysis: Regardless of who is broadcasting the game the announcers are infatuated with talking about Travis Lewis, and rightly so, but somehow go without talking mucha bout Clayton's play. In fact Ryan Reynolds, who is relegated to status of spectator at this point gets more notoriety than Oklahoma's play-making SAM linebacker. Sooner fans, start a petition there is another good linebacker on the Sooner roster and he deserves some chatter.Last Week: No. 5

6. Travis Lewis, Linebacker - Stats: Nine tackles (five solo), half a tackle for loss (two yards).
Analysis: OK, so now I've got Lewis above Clayton so maybe I need to take some of my own medicine, but let's move on. The player who topped the list following Oklahoma's big win over Kansas State didn't have quite a week to retain that spot, or his award as Big 12 defensive player of the week, but was no slouch as he continues to develop as a linebacker. Wilson seems to really be developing a feel for the position and as he improves so will the defense.Last Week: No. 1

5. Chris Brown, Running Back - Stats: Nine carries for 89 yards and one touchdown. One catch for a one-yard touchdown.
Analysis: Speaking of a guy who deserves not only some national respect but just from his own fans; Brown can't seem to get much of either. While people love to talk about the amazing talents of Demarco Murray, they often forget about the usefulness of Brown's robot-like consistency. The talented junior much like his backfield mate has found his old form but interestingly enough it's the form from his freshman season where Brown made numerous big plays for the Sooner offense.Last Week: No. 3

4. Dominique Franks. Cornerback - Stats: Three tackles (two solo), one interceptions (18-yard touchdown return).
Analysis: Maybe I'm overly influenced by what is almost undoubtedly the play of the game but Franks' interception helped put some life into the Sooner defense that helped spur on four straight possessions without a first down. With a defense still finding it's feet the moment was important to the team as a whole. Franks has always been compared to some of the more aggressive corners of the early part of this decade and on the plays showed that same type of confidence players like Derrick Strait had.Last Week: No. 7

3. Quentin Chaney, Wide Receiver - Stats: Five catches for 128 yards and one touchdown.
Analysis: Time to take my lumps, I admit I've been hard on Chaney since his days at Booker T. Washington in Tulsa. He always had prodigious talent but always seemed to hang on to the idea of being a basketball player rather than a football star. This year though Chaney is making plays over the middle, doing his part in downfield blocking (check Brown's long run late in the first quarter as proof) and just helping to give Oklahoma a viable option in Manuel Johnson's absence.Last Week: No. 5

2. Trent Williams, Offensive Tackle - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: Williams overtook his own record as the highest ever offensive lineman among the Hot 11 and it was a lengthy internal argument that he not be placed in the top spot. Williams simply may be the best lineman in the Big 12 and regardless of his oversights on the power rankings he is probably one of the best in the nation. Be it pass-blocking or opening running lanes Williams does a bit of everything for the Sooners. Perhaps his best weapon is good old football savvy, a perfect example is Brown's long run where while down-blocking he managed to pick up a Nebraska linebacker that helped Brown break free.Last Week: No. 8

1. Sam Bradford, Quarterback - Stats: 19-for-27 for 311-yards and five touchdowns. Two carries for 14 yards.
Analysis: A debate has come up on the message board about whether or not Bradford is the best Sooner quarterback ever, and at this point in time I'd say no. However, if you asked me if at the end of his career that mantle would be his? I'd probably lean towards yes at this point. He simply is one of the most accurate and intelligent passers I've seen in the last 20 years of college football. He did nothing to hurt that reputation by splitting one set of red-clad defenders after another on Saturday.Last Week: No. 4

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