It is good to be the king, and for several years now Oklahoma has been the undisputed king of Big 12 football.
The Sooners come into 2019 off back-to-back league titles, College Football Playoff appearances and, oh yeah, consecutive Heisman Trophies for their quarterbacks.
OU has been a thorn in West Virginia’s side since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 for the 2012 season. Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team WVU has not beaten at least once.
Lincoln Riley’s tenure as the head coach at Oklahoma has been a short but very successful one to this point and it does not appear that will change in 2019. The Sooners were picked to win the Big 12 by the media and have all-conference and All-America talent on both sides of the ball.
OU does, however, have a few holes to fill from last season’s team, but finding players to step in and produce right away has been a calling card of the Riley Era so far in Norman.
Let’s take a look at Oklahoma roster for the upcoming season:
Quarterback: Two years ago it was Baker Mayfield, Last year it was Kyler Murray. Both Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks are gone now, but the Sooners went and got graduate transfer Jalen Hurts to guide this offense in 2019. Hurts’ resume is as impressive as you’ll find on a transfer quarterback — perhaps more than anyone else in the history of the sport. The former Alabama quarterback went 26-2 as a starter for the Crimson Tide and comes to OU after being on Alabama teams that have played in three consecutive national title games, winning one.
Running back: The Sooners possess one of the top backfield tandems in the country coming into 2019 in Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon. Brooks led OU with 1,056 yards last season to go with 12 touchdowns on his way to being named a USA Today Freshman All-American. Sermon, a junior, was actually the starter for Oklahoma’s final 12 games in 2018, running for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Receivers: OU lost Marquise Brown to the NFL, which is a good thing for the rest of the Big 12. The Sooners still have a home-run hitter in CeeDee Lamb and one of the nation’s top tight ends in Grant Calcaterra.
Offensive line: This is the major question mark for OU in 2019. The Sooners’ line was voted the best in the country last season, but lost four of its five starters. Sophomore center Creed Humphrey is back, but that’s it. Graduate transfer R.J. Proctor, who came to Norman from Virginia, should help the unit with some much-needed experience, but it will be a young group that could take time to gel.
Defensive line: Good pass defense starts up front, and to put it bluntly the Sooners have not had a good pass defense in recent seasons. New defensive coordinator Alex Grince, who came to Oklahoma from Ohio State, hopes to make the defense mean again, while veteran defensive linemen Neville Gallimore and Kenneth Mann are the anchors of this group.
Linebackers: OU brings back a group of three linebackers who saw significant playing time, led by preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Murray, a junior. The other two are senior Caleb Kelly and sophomore DeShaun White. The Sooners also have a pair of freshmen in Jalen Redmond and Jonathan Perkins.
Defensive backs: There are 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision and in 2018 Oklahoma ranked dead last in pass defense. Oklahoma brings back five starters in its secondary, which can be viewed two ways. On one hand, OU has experience with guys like cornerback Tre Brown, but on the other hand a lot of the experience involved watching the ball go over their head then running after receivers.
Oklahoma will be breaking in some newcomers in the kicking game in 2019. Freshman Gabe Brkic appeared to be the leader for the placekicking job coming out of spring practice, while sophomore Reeves Mundschau looks like the the likely punter. CeeDee Lamb and Tre Brown should be the punt and kick returners for the Sooners this season.