Oklahoma Football Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    When Oklahoma kicks off spring practice on March 21, it’ll be looking to remain atop the Big 12 for a third year in a row.

    March 17, 2017

    Oklahoma football spring practice preview and storylines. When the Sooners kick off spring practice on March 21, they’ll be looking to remain atop the Big 12 for a third year in a row.

    The Sooners are today’s face of the Big 12, winners of the league championship in 2015 and 2016. And they’re favored to make it three straight in 2017. But Oklahoma, from its players and coaches to the fan base, are dissatisfied with being the big fish in the Power Five’s shallowest pond.

    OU finished last season on a tear, winning the final 10 games, including the Sugar Bowl over Auburn. And two years ago, it capped a seven-game winning streak to close the regular season by routing rival Oklahoma State. However, national title hopes have been thwarted by non-conference collapses, to Houston and Ohio State last September and to Clemson in the 2015 playoff.

    Bob Stoops and his kids are out for more in 2017, like bolstering the weathered Big 12 reputation on a national scale and proving they’re more than the product of a weak league. Doing so, though, will require a cadre of new playmakers to step up and a victory in Columbus on Sept. 9.

    Oklahoma Sooners Spring Practice Storylines

    1. Off-Field Distractions

    The last thing that the former home of Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook needed was more off-the-field issues. But that’s exactly what it got in late February.

    The Sooner leader, QB Baker Mayfield, was arrested and charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and fleeing while with friends in Fayetteville, Ark. It’s unlikely he’ll miss much time during the season, possibly part of the UTEP opener. However, the arrest is just another unnecessary distraction that further feeds the narrative that there’s a lack of discipline in Stoops’ program.

    Whether or not Mayfield misses time, the battle for the No. 2 job bears a close watch, because it could be a preview of 2018. Four-star Austin Kendall was last year’s backup, but ballyhooed Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray becomes available this fall.

    2. Baker And Who Else?

    In Mayfield, the Sooners harbor one of the best playmaking quarterbacks in the country. And the Orlando Brown-led line will be outstanding. But who steps up this spring at the skill positions?

    Oklahoma is moving forward without the country’s best wide receiver, Westbrook, and top backfield duo, Mixon and Samaje Perine. That is a ton of skill and production to replace, even for a program that attracts as many good athletes as the Sooners.

    The competition at running back and wide receiver will be fierce this spring and summer. Sophomores Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson, who’s back from a neck injury, are the unproven vets of the backfield. The pass-catchers are every bit as thin, meaning there’ll be opportunities across the board for holdovers Jeffery Mead and Mykel Jones and newcomers Marquise Brown, Charleston Rambo and CeeDee Lamb.

    3. Pursuit Of A Pass Rush

    One of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ top priorities this offseason will be to incite a pass rush that was far too one-dimensional a year ago.

    The Sooners had 25 sacks, but only one player, OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, contributed more than 2.5. Oklahoma was unusually passive at the line of scrimmage, which the defense must change to better support a secondary that started 2016 slowly.

    The talent up front is a question mark entering 2017, especially with the graduation of all-league DT Jordan Wade. Still, Stoops plans to use more four-man fronts than in recent years in an effort to generate an uptick of heat on opposing quarterbacks. The key this spring will be to locate someone, other than Okoronkwo, who can consistently collapse the pocket from the edge.

    MORE: Big 12 Storylines, Predictions For 2017 Season


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