This week I exchanged some questions and answers with the good people over at Crimson and Cream Machine, great source for all things Sooners. This is something that I am going to try to do for the remainder of the season, but now onward and upward.
DTD: After a stellar defensive performance last year the Sooners defense has slipped a little early this season. How much of a concern is the defensive performance to date and how much pause for concern does it hold for the remainder of the year.
CC Machine: I think that as long as we’re not seeing the Sooners face a triple option team then were going to be fine. You can’t lose the type of personnel that the Sooners did from last season’s defense and not expect to see somewhat of a drop off but my thought is that the stats are a bit misleading in that two of Oklahoma’s three opponents have run a triple option attack. Against the one conventional offense the Sooners have played this season they responded by knocking Florida State’s Christian Ponder out of the Heisman race by sacking him four times. Intercepting him twice and holding him to less than a 40% completion rate.
2: This is the first road game of the year for OU. Landry Jones’s numbers on the road last season were not great, completion percentage; yards per game, yards per attempt and his TD/INT ratio were lower than games in Norman or at neutral sites. Will going on the road this year effect him as much as it did last season, or has he progressed out of that phase that all young QB’s experience.
CC Machine: The simple answer to this question is that we just don’t know yet. The hope is that Jones has matured a bit and gained more confidence in the offense but until we actually see him perform well on the road every Sooner fan is going to be anxious. Another factor in this is that the offensive line is a bit different from what we saw last season and is off to a much better start. Landry needs to learn to trust them and not get happy feet or throw the ball away prematurely. Especially on the road this is true, if you can get to him early you can throw him off his game.
3: Demarco Murray appears to be back to his old self. Is he the same jack of all trades threat he was the last time these two teams met or has he settled into a more traditional feature back role with this team.
CC Machine: You’ll see Murray do just about everything but return punts. He entered the season as healthy as he’s been since his freshman year and it is showing in his play. On the ground he’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry with six touchdowns. Through the air he’s averaging 10 yards per reception and on kickoff returns he’s averaging 25.7 yards per return.
The one area they’ve asked Murray to step up his game this year is in the area of rushing. The last time Oklahoma and Cincinnati hooked up he was splitting time with Chris Brown as the feature back. This year he is the feature back and has responded exceptionally.
4: I still have nightmares about Jermaine Gresham. Please tell me that no adequate replacement for the Dr. Manhattan of tight ends has been found yet?
CC Machine: That has been a bit of a sore subject to me. While I realize that there just isn’t another Jermaine Gresham out there, Oklahoma has struggled to find a suitable replacement at tight end. There is promise there with James Hannah and Trent Ratterree but as of yet they’ve failed to step up and be game changers. Through the first three games of the season they’ve combined for four catches, 56 yards and two scores.
5: Give me a player who the announcers are likely to ignore, but who a real aficionado of the game will appreciate.
CC Machine: Fullback Trey Millard is a crushing blocker as well as a solid runner (4.2 YPC). He’s also shown the ability to catch the ball as well but his primary responsibility to throw the block that springs DeMarco Murray downfield.
6: Ryan Broyles has caught 31 balls so far this year. No one else is in double digits yet, is the chemistry between Jones and Broyles that overwhelming? Or is it just a case where none of the other receivers have come up to speed this early in the season.
CC Machine: Jones and Broyles teamed up last season due to the fact that the receiving corps was so bad there just wasn’t anyone else to throw to. They’ve carried that over to this season and while there is new talent on board in Kenny Stills as well as significant progress made by Cameron Kenney from last season to this season, at the end of the day Broyles is the receiver who Jones trusts the most.
On a side note, its pretty impressive that even though opposing defenses know that Broyles is going to get the ball and Jones seems to lock in on him from time to time he just hasn’t been stopped. Broyles has broken the century mark in receiving in each of the first three games.
7: As an outside observer of the Sooners it seems that Oklahoma teams under stoops come in two models. Either they are Attila the Hun bringing death and destruction upon all, or they play up or down to the competition. What is your early take on this edition.
CC Machine: No other coach in the Big 12 has been able to accomplish what Bob Stoops has. He’s won six conference titles and has had his teams in the BCS championship game four different times. Once you achieve those kind of accolades over the course of a decade people just expect you to automatically be a team that goes undefeated or wins the conference championship every season. The truth is, since the national championship run of 2000 the Sooners have failed to reach the 10 win plateau twice (2005/2009). In both cases they were on the heels of a BCS Championship game appearance and replacing among other things a Heisman winning quarterback. Regardless, eight out of ten years of winning 10 plus games a season is pretty impressive. I fully expect this season to be another 10 plus win year.