We're moving on in our 2014 college football preview by taking a look at the Oklahoma Sooners position by position. We're breaking down the offense today, with the defense coming on Friday.
Returning: Trevor Knight, Cody Thomas
Losing: Blake Bell, Kendal Thompson
Gaining: Justice Hansen, Baker Mayfield
Which Trevor Knight will we see in 2014? The one that started against Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia is someone the Sooners would prefer to leave on the sidelines in favor of the one that tore apart Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. It's a bit unrealistic to expect Knight to be as perfect as he was in New Orleans that night, but even just a slight downgrade from that performance would be plenty fine for Oklahoma this year. The more pressing concern for the Sooners at quarterback is the backup position. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield is currently ineligible for this season, so if Knight went down, it would be one of the two freshmen—Justice Hansen or Cody Thomas—taking over. While that may not be a terrible thing, there's no doubt the Sooners would rather have an experienced guy backing up Knight.
Returning: Keith Ford, Alex Ross, Daniel Brooks, David Smith, Aaron Ripkowski
Losing: Brennan Clay, Damien Williams, Roy Finch, Trey Millard
Gaining: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Dmitri Flowers
The Sooners lose about 80 percent of their rushing production from a year ago, but there are plenty of talented options to fill the void left behind by the four seniors of 2013. The uncertainty surrounding incoming freshman Joe Mixon makes the picture a little cloudy, but even without him, there is a lot of depth and talent here. Samaje Perine has been drawing rave reviews from teammates and coaches for his size and strength, while Keith Ford was impressive in limited action last season as a true freshman. Alex Ross is another strong, powerful back, while Daniel Brooks is a speedster that gives the Sooners a bit of a different look much like Roy Finch did. If Mixon is able to play this season, it makes this a very dangerous group.
Returning: Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal, Derrick Woods, Austin Bennett, K.J. Young, Jordan Smallwood, Dannon Cavil
Losing: Jalen Saunders, Lacolten Bester, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Metoyer
Gaining: Mark Andrews, Dallis Todd, Michiah Quick, Jeffery Mead, Dorial Green-Beckham
Much like the running backs, the wide receivers lost a lot of production from last year's group, most notably Jalen Saunders. Sterling Shepard is the unquestioned leader of the group, from both an experience and production standpoint, but Durron Neal has received a lot of praise from coaches for his performance in practice. The Sooners need that to transfer to the field. Speaking of transfers, the Sooners got an unexpected surprise with the transfer of former Missouri wideout Dorial Green-Beckham in June. The Sooners have filed a waiver with the NCAA to get Green-Beckham eligible for this season, which would obviously be a huge boost for this inexperienced group. There are a lot of options of players to step up, including incoming freshman Michiah Quick, who is quick like his name. Also, the Sooners have a lot of size in the freshman class, as well as sophomore Jordan Smallwood. Freshman Mark Andrews, Dallis Todd and Jeffery Mead all stand at least 6-foot-4, and DGB stands 6-foot-6. It's a luxury the Sooners haven't had on the outside in quite some time.
Returning: Taylor McNamara, Connor Knight
Losing: Brannon Green
Gaining: Blake Bell, Isaac Ijalana, Carson Meier
The Sooners have been without a consistent tight end threat since James Hanna graduated after the 2011 season. Bob Stoops will be quick to point out the Sooners used Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski as pseudo-tight ends, but a multi-tasker just isn't the same. This year Oklahoma has depth at the position, as well as talent. The most notable change in this group is Blake Bell switching from quarterback. Bell has the size and speed to play tight end and apparently has great hands as well. Taylor McNamara and Isaac Ijalana—the No. 1 JUCO tight end last season—are plenty talented and should give OU lots of options to work with. Incoming freshman Carson Meier adds great size and depth to the unit. In the past decade, the OU offense has been most potent when it has a consistent tight end threat on the field. That appears to be the case this season.
Returning: Ty Darlington, Nila Kastiati, Tyrus Thompson, Adam Shead, Tyler Evans, Derek Farniok, Josiah St. John, Daryl Williams, Dionte Savage
Losing: Gabe Ikard, Bronson Irwin, Austin Woods
Gaining: Jonathan Alvarez, Orlando Brown, Alex Dalton, Kenyon Frison, Joseph Paul
There are plenty of questions surrounding Trevor Knight and the skill positions, but those questions aren't as urgent thanks to the experience and depth that returns along the offensive line. Three starters return and 11 total linemen on the roster have game experience. The Sooners shouldn't have to worry about keeping Knight upright in the pocket or wonder if there will be holes for the running backs to run through. The biggest question is how Ty Darlington will fare replacing Gabe Ikard at center. Darlington has started for Ikard before when he was injured, but it remains to be seen if he can bring the same leadership and smarts Ikard brought to the offense. The Sooners are bringing in a solid freshman class of linemen as well, most notably tackles Orlando Brown and Kenyon Frison who are just massive guys. They'll join an already deep pool at tackle, a luxury many teams would love to have.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for a preview of the defense.