Brent Venables is taking over from Lincoln Riley for Oklahoma Football, but can the new head coach give the Sooners the same immediate success?
It was a quiet off-season in Norman, with Oklahoma football going on as usual. Nothing to watch here, just the Sooners staying under the radar.
Or, you know, the exact opposite of that.
Oklahoma’s football program was rocked by the abrupt departure of Lincoln Riley to USC, and particularly the exodus on the roster and the recruiting track that led to it. Luckily, they called on an old friend, former Clemson defense coordinator Brent Venables, to take on the Sooners and try to not only keep the ship afloat but propel it forward through rough seas.
So far it looks like he has – the Cale Gundy controversy aside. Venables hits the transfer portal hard, does his best to keep some talent in the building, and builds an impressive recruit class. Venables takes the work. But now it’s time to do the same on the field.
Come in at number 12 Fan Page Top 50 Preseason Rankingthe Oklahoma Sooners!
Oklahoma Football Season 2021 in Review
As tumultuous as the offseason has been and as disappointing as the 2021 season may have felt, there are plenty of programs in college football that would do more for an 11-win season than for a Klondike bar.
Of course, expectations are set a little differently in Norman, so the Sooners got off to a disappointing start earlier in the year behind Spencer Rattler, who paved the way for the takeover of now-traitor Caleb Williams, but still in two crucial games didn’t fall into that Being able to play in Big 12 Championship Game left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans.
All in all, the Sooners fell for Bedlam at Baylor and Stillwater, even if they managed to win Red River. Bet on the Alamo Bowl win over Oregon and the program ended the year 11-2, but the offseason holds the biggest storylines yet to come.
Oklahoma Sooners offense preview for the 2022 season
- Returners (4): WR Marvin Mims, LT Anton Harrison, OC Andrew Raym, RG Chris Murray
- Notable newcomers: QB Dillon Gabriel (UCF), WR JJ Hester (Missouri), WR LV Bunkley-Shelton (Arizona State), OG McKade Mettauer (Cal), OT Tyler Guyton (TCU), TE Daniel Parker (Missouri), 4-Star RB Gavin Sawchuk, 4-Star RB Jovantae Barnes, 4-Star OL Jake Taylor, 4-Star QB Nick Evers, 4-Star WR Jayden Gibson
- striker: Dillon Gabriel
Officially, it will go down as four returning starters for Oklahoma this season, but that doesn’t reflect the experience and breadth of talent new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, himself a notable and impressive newcomer, will have at his disposal.
Mims returns to the receiving corps that transferred Mario Williams and Jadon Haselwood, but he’s not alone. Theo Wease is back after missing the 2021 season through injury and a host of transfers and newcomers are seen as absolute factors in a successful airstrike. Meanwhile, Eric Gray and Marcus Major are more than capable of filling the hole Kennedy Brooks left in the backfield.
Ditto on the offensive line, with three proven starters returning but also adding two great transfers in McKade Mettauer and Tyler Guyton. There is hope that the experience and up-and-coming talent will help remedy the passport protection issues of a year ago.
But really, a lot rests on the capable shoulders of Dillon Gabriel. While at UCF he was a stat monster and seems more the same on this offense. It’s a step forward in the competition but everything we’ve seen and heard suggests he’s up for the challenge and capable of succeeding.
Preview of the Oklahoma Sooners defense for the 2022 season
- Returners (5): DT Jalen Redmond, CB Woodi Washington, CB DJ Graham, LB DaShaun White, S Key Lawrence
- Notable newcomers: DL Jonah La’ulu (Hawaii), DL Jeffery Johnson (Tulane), CB Trey Morrison (North Carolina), CB CJ Coldon (Wyoming), 4-star CB Gentry Williams, 4-star S Robert Spears-Jennings, 4-star LB Kobie McKinzie
- striker: Jonah La’ulu
The returning starters for defense could be even more misleading than for offense. Part of that can be attributed to the transfers, a group that will be strengthened primarily on the defensive line with Jonah La’ulu and Jeffery Johnson coming alongside veteran Jalen Redmond to fill in big holes. La’ulu, in particular, should have great expectations of acting as a penetrating presence up front.
More importantly, Oklahoma’s defense is simply a story of experienced and proven rotary players stepping into bigger roles. In both the secondary and linebacker corps there are players who have played, seen a lot on the field, and now have a defensively focused head coach at Venables coming into the group to take it to the next level.
There are questions, particularly in the front seven, but Venables’ track record does indeed suggest that we will see this group grow together and show no drop in performance – if not an improvement.
Oklahoma Football Players Awards clock for the 2022 season
Dillon Gabriel, Heisman/Maxwell/Davey O’Brien/Walter Camp Player of the Year
Gabriel’s hype should be evident by the fact that he’s on every major award list and that I also list him as a Heisman nominee. His playstyle should fit the Lebby offense like a glove and the numbers he could put up could really catch the eye.
Marvin Mims, Biletnikoff and Paul Hornung
Mims handles both WR1 duties and return duties for the Sooners, so it’s no wonder he’s up for those two honors. Another beneficiary of the new offense, it’s time to take the mantle as the next star in Norman.
Eric Gray, Doak Walker
Some fans were disappointed with Gray last season after he left Tennessee, but I remain confident in his ability and versatility. He should be a major threat as both a runner and pass catcher, and you can tag him as a dark horse to actually win the Doak Walker.
Oklahoma Football biggest game on the 2022 schedule
In terms of importance, it could be argued that both Bedlam and Baylor are the most important games for Oklahoma this year, but I’d be chained and drugged through the streets of Norman behind the Sooner Schooner if I wasn’t at the game Red River Rivalry vs. Texas on October 8th here.
As well as being a mighty rivalry matchup, this is a Longhorns team with high expectations of their own as Quinn Ewers is in tow with some high-profile players around him. This is supposed to be the year Texas actually starts to look back before Arch Manning gets them that far, so it would be a huge confidence boost and big Big 12 win for Oklahoma to invade Dallas and take down their hated rivals — especially if you can do it so handily.
Oklahoma Football Best Case Scenario
Herman Boone once demanded perfection and that should be the highest mark for the Sooners this season.
While one understands that there are so many new pieces both on the field and on the sidelines that need to acclimatize, the fact is that talent wins in college football games, and Oklahoma has more of them than any other team on his schedule. More importantly, they’re off to a nice start to the season with games against UTEP, Kent State and Nebraska whose finals could be tough but shouldn’t be too much of a hurdle.
Games against Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to be tough, but OU have everything in their arsenal to get a foothold early in the season and then maintain their dominance over the rest of the conference for a 12-0 regular season.
Oklahoma football’s worst-case scenario
Of course, the optimistic view of this team also has a downside.
Let’s assume the offense works under a new coordinator and with so many new faces at the party. I’m higher in Nebraska than most and think a game at Lincoln could be a tough test for an unproven group of Sooners going in there. So, worst-case scenario, that’s a loss to start at 2-1. Kansas State could struggle the week after, but we won’t go that far here based solely on Oklahoma’s talent pool.
Worst-case scenario for the Sooners, that means a Dallas loss to Texas as Ewers outplays Gabriel in a shootout and three weeks later the Baylor defense chokes the OU offense. The same would be true in Norman for Bedlam as the pokes come in and tip the Sooner Schooner onto its side quicker than a too sharp turn.
That would put Oklahoma at 8-4 in the regular season, which would immediately raise some questions about Venables as head coach, whether that’s fair or not.
Oklahoma Football Season Prediction 2022
In short, the only reason I have Oklahoma at #12 in FanSided’s preseason rankings is because of the unknown. But when I look at the talent, the coaching staff and the whole of this Sooners team, I don’t think this team loses a game this season.
OU may have suffered huge losses, but the work Venables and his staff have done to keep things running smoothly nonetheless has been nothing short of remarkable. And I think we’ll see the fruits of that labor when Gabriel finishes legitimately in the Heisman race, the offense is one of the most dangerous in the nation, the rest of the Big 12 can’t live up to it, and the Sooners smash a ticket to college football Playoffs with a flawless 12-0 regular season and Big 12 Championship Game crown to propel them there.
Oklahoma Football 2022 Bowl Game Prediction
It could be another trip to the playoffs for the Sooners this year initial predictions from CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has Oklahoma Football in a encounter with Alabama in the Peach Bowl for a college football playoff semifinal game.
Next: No. 11: Oregon ducks
Other articles in this series:
https://fansided.com/2022/08/16/oklahoma-football-prediction-bowl-game-2022/ Oklahoma Football Season Prediction 2022, Preview, Awards, Bowl Game 2022