For the first time in four years, Oklahoma did not make the college football playoffs. They ended the season with a beat down of the Florida Gators and look to return to the playoffs with key pieces returning. Lincoln Riley has proven to be one of the best offensive minds in college football and he looks to surge back to the top. Will Oklahoma be able to return to the playoffs in the 2021?
Quarterback: There is no question who the signal caller of the Sooners is. Spencer Rattler struggled early in the year but as the season went on, he became much more comfortable and limited his mistakes. Rattler threw seven interceptions this season, but only two in the last seven games. Rattler threw for over 3,000 yards and should be an early favorite for the Heisman next year. If for some reason Rattler gets injured, or they are just up by so much they want to put the backup in, they bring in five star freshman Caleb Williams. Williams will be the next QB at Oklahoma after Rattler leaves for the NFL, potentially after the 2021 season.
Running Back: This time last year, Oklahoma looked like they had a quality duo of running backs in Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. Then Brooks opted out and Sermon transferred to Ohio State. Reports are stating Brooks will be back for Oklahoma next year which is huge for the Sooners. In his career, he averages 7.5 yards per carry. He should become the lead running back. Following him should be Seth McGowan. McGowan saw considerable action this year and should provide some much needed depth and experience at the position.
Wide Receiver: Rattler will have plenty of weapons to throw to next season, even with the loss of Charleston Rambo. Marvin Mims was a standout freshman who lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. Sophomore Theo Wease tied him for the lead in receptions. After Wease and Mims, the Sooners should get a fully healthy Jadon Haselwood. Haselwood is a former five star wide receiver who was limited to just four catches this year because of injury. Oklahoma also saw Drake Stoops step up and earn considerable playing time. No matter who is on the field for the Sooners, they will have one of the top receiving rooms in the country.
Tight End: It is always a good thing for an offense when they return most of their wide receivers, as well as their tight ends. This is the case for Oklahoma. Austin Stogner and Jeremiah Hall are both coming back to Oklahoma after solid seasons. The duo combined for over 40 catches and just over 600 yards. Stogner was the leader in both categories and should looked to be the starter again next season.
Offensive Line: The Sooners lost one starting offensive lineman to early entry to the NFL Draft, with that being RT Adrian Ealy. Luckily for Oklahoma, they were able to hit the transfer portal and find a quality starting tackle in Wayna Morris from Tennessee. He started 19 games and should be eligible immediately with two years of eligibility remaining. Oklahoma returns both guards offensive linemen in Marquis Hayes and Tyrese Robinson At left tackle, Erik Swenson and Anton Harrison rotated throughout the season. Picking one to hold down the tackle position will be key to maintaining success with the offensive line. Center Creed Humphrey is heading to the NFL draft and Chris Murray is expected to take over. Murray started 24 games at UCLA and should make a nice transition for the Sooners offensive line.
Defensive Line: Oklahoma will be searching for a replacement for DE Ronnie Perkins as he declared for the NFL draft. Perkins was third on the team in sacks with 5.5. Sophomore Marcus Stripling and freshman Reggie Grimes figure to be two of the main competitors to replace Perkins on the defensive line.Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey both declared their intentions to come back to Oklahoma next season. The Sooners also will get Jalen Redmond back after he opted out this season because of blood clots. Kori Roberson and LaRon Stokes will give the defensive like experience and depth to make one of the better Oklahoma defensive lines in recent memory.
Linebackers: The Sooners return keys pieces in their linebacker core including the leading tackler and WILL LB, Brian Asamoah. Nik Bonitto returns as the RUSH LB where he had 8.5 sacks and 11 TFL. Another year of practice and experience should help him become one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 and help the improving Oklahoma defense. Returning to his MIKE LB spot is DaShaun White. White split time with David Ugwoegbu. The duo combined for 62 tackles and 3.5 sacks. The Sooners will also see Caleb Kelly return after he tore his ACL prior to the season starting. Depth will not be a concern for the linebackers next season.
Defensive Backs: The secondary is taking a hit this off season with a handful of departures. Tre Brown and Tre Norwood are both heading to the NFL after strong seasons. At cornerback, Woodi Washington is expected to be the number one corner after having 40 tackles and one interception this season. Following Washington will be Jaden Davis and D.J. Graham. Both played in more than six games this year so will have valuable game experience going into next season. Pat Fields and Dellarin Turner-Yell are expected to return to their safety spots this fall. At nickleback will be Brendan Radley-Hiles who had an up and down season. He was benched in favor of Norwood during the season. Radley-Hiles will look to bounce back in his final season.
Special Teams: Gabe Brkic is one of the nation’s best kickers. He converted over 74% of his field goal attempts after being perfect in 2019. He also hit 100% of his extra points. Do not be surprised if Brkic is the winner of the Lou Groza award next year. Reeves Mundschau returns as punter for Oklahoma. He averaged just over 39 yards per punt. Oklahoma should score plenty of points meaning Mundschau will not be needed often.
Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense should continue to be high powered as it has been for the last two decades. Rattler should be at the top of every quarterback award including the Heisman. The return of Kennedy Brooks along with another year of experience for Marvin Mims will be too much for most teams to slow down. The secondary is a concern after losing a few players, but DC Alex Grinch has shown he can build a quality defense. Oklahoma’s non conference schedule is highlighted with a renewal of their rivalry with Nebraska. Other than it being a heartwarming reunion, the game will not be that close. The Sooners get Iowa State at home next year which helps their odds to win the Big 12 regular season title. Expect Oklahoma to finish 12-0 next year.