The Oklahoma Sooners head into 2018 with some important positions to shore up, including a few spots in the secondary, outside linebacker and fullback. If the Sooners hope to match their success of 2017, they will have to find players ready to break out and make a big impact on the field this season.
It would be easy to start with Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, the top recruit who everyone expects to hit the field running and become an impact player as soon as the season begins. But I want to focus on some players people aren’t as familiar with, like Ryan Jones, who will take over the SAM spot in an attempt to set the edge and create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. Jones had to swap positions since Caleb Kelly made the position move to WILL linebacker. Kelly didn’t make a lot of noise as a pass rusher, but Jones at 6-2, 235 pounds has the size and speed to get into the backfield and shift momentum to the defense.
Another defensive player ready to breakout is Justin Broiles, a local product from Oklahoma City who has played outstanding ball and stepped up as a leader in the secondary. The Sooners lost both Steven Parker and Will Johnson to the NFL, both of whom went undrafted but eventually signed free-agent contracts. Broiles, along with Radley-Hiles, looks to bolster a secondary that has long been the source of Oklahoma’s defensive struggles.
The Sooners are bringing back a strong group of wide-outs and running backs, but the tight end and fullback positions are also heavily utilized in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
First up is fullback Carson Meier, who has the big task of replacing Dimitri Flowers, a fan favorite and favorite target of Baker Mayfield. Last season Flowers accounted for nine touchdowns and 500 yards of total offense. Meier has played sparingly in his time at Oklahoma, but entering his senior season, he is going to need to step up and produce some good numbers in Riley’s spread attack. Most of his time has been spent as a blocker in goal line packages or on special teams, as he has yet to register a single reception at Oklahoma. That will have to change if he wants a breakout senior season.
Mark Andrews was a staple at Oklahoma. Whether it was a big catch or a huge block, Andrews was a perfect example of what you wanted from a tight end. Grant Calcaterra is the player many are looking to emerge as his replacement. Riley’s fondness for the position is well known, and clearly he isn’t looking to venture away from a big target like Calcaterra. Last season as the back up, he caught three touchdown passes and accounted for over 150 yards of offense. Those numbers are sure to increase with the departure of Andrews.
Lincoln Riley must mesh a group of veterans and talented newcomers to improve the team in 2018. The players mentioned above will be relied on to make big plays when the season opens.