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A Spring Look At Oklahoma Football
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent

2011: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Big 12, won Insight Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 6, defense 8.

Overview
Oklahoma finds itself in a familiar position. The Sooners figure to be one of the favorites to win the Big 12 and should start the season ranked in the top 10 nationally. But it has been 12 seasons since OU last won a national championship and as coach Bob Stoops said last season, it's time.

Last season Oklahoma was favored to play for the national championship. Injuries to leading rusher Dominique Whaley and leading receiver Ryan Broyles along with defensive issues led to three Big 12 losses. In those three defeats, the Sooners allowed a total of 130 points.

Mike Stoops is the new defensive coordinator and charged with fixing a defense that allowed a school-record 376 yards per game. He returns to his brother's staff after spending eight years as Arizona's coach.

"We're just trying to get our players in the right positions to be more efficient and more effective players. That's the consensus of what we saw a year ago. How much we can simplify things, that's hard to say," Mike Stoops said. "We're going to do what we need to do to be successful."

Instead of entering his name in the NFL Draft, quarterback Landry Jones decided to return for his senior season. He wasn't happy with how his 2011 season ended. Over the last three games, Jones averaged just 222 yards passing, throwing just one touchdown against five interceptions.

"Football's always going to be there," said Jones, who holds 13 school passing records, including career yards (12,379) and completions (1,021). "I don't get another senior year, I don't get another chance to win a national championship."

Replacing Broyles, the NCAA record holder for career receptions, will be a challenge but there is plenty of talent in the backfield and at wide receiver.

"We have to make sure Landry has confidence in us," receiver Jaz Reynolds said. "When Ryan (Broyles) was playing, if Landry got in trouble he looked for him. He needs to look for somebody else he can be comfortable with in an under-attack situation."

Who's missing
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles, tight end James Hanna, linebacker Travis Lewis, defensive end Frank Alexander, defensive end Ronnell Lewis , tight end Trent Ratterree.

Replacements
Wide receiver Troy Metoyer, tight end Brannon "Moose" Green, tight end Taylor McNamara, wide receiver Durron Neal, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, wide receiver Derrick Woods, wide receiver Courtney Gardner, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, linebacker Frank Shannon.

Spring buzz
Junior Tony Jefferson has been moved to free safety after playing as the team's nickel-back the last two seasons. In 2010, he was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. "You have to have that mindset and attitude that nobody is getting behind you," he said. "That's the mindset I have. It's a pretty simple concept."

Senior running back Dominique Whaley continues to recover from a broken ankle suffered in mid-October last season. Whaley is a former walk on who became the starter and gained 627 yards last season before being injured. He's expected to be fully recovered when practice starts in August.

Oklahoma must replace defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, both of whom were selected in the NFL Draft. They combined for 14 sacks. The pass rush wasn't that productive during spring practice because two projected starters - defensive end R.J. Washington and defensive tackle Casey Walker - were sidelined with injuries.

Audibles
"He just has got incredible hands and the ability to make plays. He has a knack for adjusting to the football; just all the things you saw today. He can run. He really relishes the moment. He is a competitor for a young guy. He is a player. He just has a natural feel for it, on spacing and how to make plays and get to the ball."
- Bob Stoops on freshman wide receiver Trey Metoyer

"The one thing I knew is when he was here, he put out a lot of All-American DBs and guys who went on to the next level. I was really excited to know he was coming in here. "In talking to some of my other teammates, I think everybody is liking the new defense and knowing exactly what they need to do. One of the things we were lacking last year was just not knowing exactly what's going on. Now we're learning those things and we feel one step ahead."
- safety Javon Harris on new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops

"Competition is the best motivator you have. I think we've tried to create that environment where we have a lot of guys that can make plays and push each other. I think guys get excited when they see somebody that has ability like that. I think they can push each other, they compete against each other, but they compete with each other."
- co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell on the team's wide receivers

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 at UTEP
Sept. 8 Florida A&M
Sept. 22 Kansas State*
Oct. 6 at Texas Tech*
Oct. 13 Texas* (at Dallas)
Oct. 20 Kansas*
Oct. 27 Notre Dame
Nov. 3 at Iowa State*
Nov. 10 Baylor*
Nov. 17 at West Virginia*
Nov. 24 Oklahoma State*
* - Big 12 Conference game.
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