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May 14, 2013

2013 Spring Recap: Oklahoma

Landry Jones' senior season didn't exactly go as expected. Oklahoma's surprising loss to Kansas State in Week 3 derailed the Sooners' national title hopes and the team's loss to Notre Dame midway through the season ultimately ended the Sooners' quest to reach another BCS bowl. Bob Stoops' team still won a share of the Big 12 championship and beat rivals Texas (63-21) and Oklahoma State (51-48), but it's hard to not consider Oklahoma's 2012 campaign a disappointment.

Oklahoma AT-A-GLANCE
OU hasn't been to a BCS game in two years, its longest such stretch in Stoops' tenure.
THE BASICS
Coach: Bob Stoops
Last season: 10-3 overall, 8-1 in the Big 12; lost 41-13 to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
RETURNING STARTERS
(minimum of seven starts in 2012)
Offense (7): OC Gabe Ikard, OL Bronson Irwin, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, OL Adam Shead, RB Damien Williams, OL Daryl Williams
Defense (4): CB Aaron Colvin, DB Gabe Lynn, DE Chuka Ndulue, LB Corey Nelson
Special teams (0): None
Jones is gone, as is Kenny Stills and most of the OU defense, but high expectations remain. Who will replace Jones? How does Oklahoma expect to navigate a schedule that features 11 teams that went bowling in 2012?

We caught up with SoonerScoop.com's Eddie Radosevich for the latest on the Sooners.

THE SPRING LEAD

Oklahoma is facing the same issue heading into 2013 as most of its Big 12 counterparts -- determining who will start at quarterback.

Many assumed Blake Bell would get the nod based on his experience and his use as a package quarterback over the last two seasons. While Bell could still end up being the starter, he faced a legitimate competition in the spring.

"I think there's actually a good, healthy competition between him, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight," Radosevich said. "There was a lot more interest in spring this year than there has been in the past. I think Blake Bell and the quarterback race was the biggest issue.

"I think the other issue was the breathe of fresh air for the program with new coaches coming in -- Jerry Montgomery (defensive line), Jay Boulware (tight ends, special teams). The way everything ended last year, I think getting some new coaches on the staff and going through a quarterback battle is something that needed to happen in Norman."

But how will Thompson's recent arrest for public intoxication impact the battle?

"I don't think it's going to be anything that's going to hurt his chances in the long run," Radosevich said. "It's obviously something you don't want to have to deal with your quarterback. You want everyone to look up to the quarterback as a leader, but I don't think it's anything that will affect the team going into the fall."

For reference, former Texas Tech receiver Darrin Moore was arrested for driving while intoxicated last year and was suspended one game and went through fall camp as a full member of the team. On Oklahoma's side, Kenny Stills was once arrested for driving under the influence and was suspended one game.

"I think he probably won the race after the spring game," Radosevich said regarding Bell. "But they haven't announced anything. All three are going to go into the summer as 1A, 1B and 1C. It could be interesting, but I think Bell will be the one standing at the end."

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Oklahoma's offensive line, which was an area of disappointment last year, should be an area of strength this season thanks to the addition of former Red Raider assistant Bill Bedenbaugh who joined the OU staff during the offseason.

"There were a lot of people not happy with the lack of the ability to run the ball," Radosevich said. "With him coming in and reshaping the offensive line, that really surprised a lot of people."

Performance wise, the running backs and linebackers units should be stout.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said the linebackers are the strongest unit on the defensive side of the ball.

KEY CONCERN

The Oklahoma defensive line and secondary certainly took graduation hits.

"They're probably going to rely on some freshmen to come in and get some playing time next year," Radosevich said. "When you lose guys like Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson at safety, that's a lot of tackles in the backfield from veteran guys. I think they're going to look at guys that came in their 2013 recruiting class to develop and get to play rather quickly.

"More importantly, the defensive line. Just how are they going to develop the younger guys? They don't have a whole lot of depth there and that's something people in Norman want, a defensive line that gets more pressure on the quarterback."

QUICK HITS

Missed Significant Time: C Gabe Ikard (broken hand), OL Tyler Evans (held out after ACL injury, might retire depending on response from surgery)

Position Switches: RB Daniel Brooks to CB

Schedule Note: Eleven of Oklahoma's 12 games this season will come against teams that played in bowl games last year. ... The Sooners will only leave Norman once during the first six weeks of the season, a Sept. 28 date at Notre Dame. ... Four of OU's last six games are on the road, including visits to Lawrence, Waco, Manhattan and Stillwater.


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