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Oklahoma Offense Success Depends On Unit, Not Individuals

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

In 2011, the Oklahoma Sooners offense struggled down the stretch of the season in a very noticeable and debilitating fashion.

The Sooners went 2-2 in their last four games after Ryan Broyles went down with an ACL injury, and the most notable statistic that resulted from that injury was quarterback Landry Jones not throwing a touchdown pass for the next 15 quarters. However, at Big 12 media days on Monday, OU head coach Bob Stoops defended his quarterback.

"The offense struggled," Stoops said matter-of-factly. "He had more dropped passes in the last three games maybe‑‑ we couldn't even keep track of how many. (We) didn't run the football as effectively as we needed to at all. All of that goes together. And so to me it's more of an issue of the offense and the offense around him than it is him."

Stoops is certainly correct in that assessment. He went as far to say he didn't ask Jones to improve anything in the offseason. Instead, he said he asked the 10 guys around Jones to get better in the offseason.

The Sooners have based the success of their season the past few years on the potency of the offense, and that has produced solid results, sans the 2009 season, when Sam Bradford went down unexpectedly in the first game of the year.

Oklahoma hopes the 2012 season will be different with the return of Mike Stoops to lead the defense. However, if you don't score points, you can't win any ball games, so the offense must improve from the lackadaisical effort they gave in games against Iowa State, OSU, and Iowa to close the 2011 season.

The success of the offense obviously depends to an extent on Jones' ability to throw the football effectively to a young, inexperienced group of wide receivers. However, the most important unit by far is the offensive line.

"It starts with us," OU center Ben Habern said. "The run game can't happen if we're not getting our blocks and Landry can't throw the ball if we're not protecting him."

OU's offensive line this season has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. Habern and guard Gabe Ikard anchor the middle of the line, and the Sooners have a plethora of young, talented, and (most importantly) experienced players to fill the positions around them.

"It helps that we have the depth that we have," Habern said. "An offensive line is five guys working as one unit. To have guys that understand what they're doing, (and) we understand each other's tendencies and stuff like that, it makes it easier."

Throw in several talented running backs and a senior quarterback, and it's not out of the question the Sooner offense could be up to the level of its 2008 predecessor.

If it does attain that high level of success, it won't be simply because of Jones, but rather the cohesiveness of 11 players working together as one unit.

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