By Clay Horning
CNHI News Service
DALLAS – There is confidence, and why not?
It’s Oklahoma. It’s football.
Even a season many believed sub-par – 10 wins, three losses – produced a share of the Big 12 Conference crown last year.
There’s always confidence. Clarity, though, is a different matter.
What’s clear about this Oklahoma team is how little there is to be clear about.
The last time the coaches saw the players in a real way was spring football. Preseason practice hasn’t yet begun. So a few answers are sure to be forthcoming by the time the Sooners open up against Louisiana-Monroe Aug. 31 – only one week before playing host to West Virginia..
Just don’t expect too many. Learn to enjoy the uncertainty.
The media has OU the conference’s second pick behind Oklahoma State (there’s a sentence you never thought you’d read).
TCU, chosen third, has one more first-place vote (9) than OU (8). Texas, chosen fourth, also has the same number and six teams received at least one first-place vote.
The Sooners lack clarity. So does the conference. You can take it a bunch of different ways.
“I feel like people are sleeping on us. I feel like people don’t necessarily know what to expect from us because we’re losing so many people,” defensive back Aaron Colvin said. “I can’t blame (them), but at the end of the day, I’m confident in the players that will step up and fill those positions and I know we’ll be competing for another Big 12 championship.”
Fullback Trey Millard believes it’s always uncertain.
“You don’t know who you are until, really, the end of the season,” he said.
Yet, it’s abundantly clear the Sooners will enter this particular season like few others.
It’s the first time in six seasons OU will begin a campaign without a returning quarterback. Not too many starters return defensively, and maybe that’s a good thing. But it’s sure not a clear thing.
And who’s you’re No. 1 running back? And if Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard are your first two receivers, who’s next?
Trey Metoyer? Jaz Reynolds?
Lots of reason for confidence. Not much for clarity.
Bob Stoops seems to get it. In fact, he seems to get that things could be even less clear. Back in 2005, he had a new quarterback (Paul Thompson for a half against TCU and Rhett Bomar the rest of the season) surrounded by even more question marks.
“Everyone else around (the quarterback) was pretty inexperienced,” he said. “A whole new offensive line, a bunch of new receivers, and I knew it was going to be more difficult … I feel whoever comes in this year (at quarterback) is coming in with a bunch of experience around him: a very experienced offensive line, three senior running backs, a bunch of receivers that have all played. It should help support him.”
Of course, it would be better if we knew that line and those backs could produce a little more after struggling to get the ground game going with any consistency last season, or that Saunders can be equally electric while catching passes from a new thrower.
“We’re really excited, that’s the word I would use, about what we have on offense right now,” center Gabe Ikard said.
That’s one side of the ball. The other?
“A lot of inexperience,” Stoops said, “but I feel a lot of good players in the defensive line and the secondary, and I thought in spring ball, they played in a pretty good and consistent way.”
How’s that for cautious praise?
Look at it the right way and there’s so much to look forward to precisely because there’s so much mystery.
Expect the best. Also, be prepared to have no idea how it will come together.
Confidence. Not clarity.