With a new year comes new expectations. As Oklahoma kicks off its 2018 season in a few weeks, there are plenty of topics to cover. Not unlike other teams, the Sooners have their fill of position battles. Today, we take a closer look at the Oklahoma Sooners Fall Camp. Specifically, we’ll break down six key position battles and who we see landing on top.
Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall are battling for the right to replace Baker Mayfield. Murray has come in as the assumed starter as the backup a year ago. However, Lincoln Riley has been quick to deflect any assumption talk. He has reiterated many times that this is indeed a competition. Both are well equipped to lead this Sooner offense. Kendall is probably the better pure passer. But, the thought of the dual-threat of Murray must give some Big 12 defensive coordinators nightmares.
Prediction: Kyler Murray
Dimitri Flowers will be one of the biggest holes for the Oklahoma offense to fill this year. Vying for this position is fifth-year senior Carson Meier and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Hall. Meier was the more consistent player in the spring. But, Hall has the most upside. This looks to be a position that takes a step back this year in terms of productivity. Flowers was a solid blocker and a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. Meier has the consistency in the program that provides trust.
Prediction: Carson Meier
Oklahoma lost a couple of multiple-year starters on the offensive line. Orlando Brown and Erick Wren have departed. Bobby Evans while start at one of the tackle positions; most likely at left tackle. Converted guard Cody Ford looks to move to the right tackle spot. Dru Samia and Ben Powers will continue to support from the guards. This brings the real battle to the center position. Again, this will be a redshirt freshman against a fifth-year senior. Creed Humphrey, who redshirted in 2017, is a powerful 6’5 325 pounder who looks the part. Conversely, Jonathan Alvarez is a senior and has played plenty of football for Oklahoma. He started 10 games in 2015 and another three in 2016. The wisdom and experience go with Alvarez while the strength and upside go with Humphrey.
Prediction: Creed Humphrey
Kenneth Murray and Caleb Kelly have positions nailed down as the starting WILL and MIKE linebackers. The departure of Ogbonnia Okoronkwo provides an opening. Mark Jackson Jr and Addison Gumbs are battling it out for the JACK linebacker position. Jackson played in 13 games a year ago. He recorded seven tackles with one sack and one forced fumble. On the other side, Gumbs played in four games mostly in mop-up duty. But, he did record eight tackles in significantly less time than Jackson. This very well could be the tightest position battle among the defense.
Prediction: Addison Gumbs
This, on paper, looks to be the biggest question mark on the team. Both starting safeties in Steven Parker and Will Johnson will have to be replaced. Battling for strong safety position will be Jordan Parker and Khalil Haughton. Parker started the final eight games in 2016 at cornerback. But, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game last season. As the Sooners have a crowded cornerback situation, Parker moved to safety in the spring. Haughton has played in 35 career games at Oklahoma while making five starts. Four of those starts came last season. Haughton certainly carries the experience in not only the position but in games played as well.
Prediction: Khalil Haughton
Moving to the strong safety position includes plenty of youth. A similar situation in terms of a move from cornerback to safety has occurred here. Justin Broiles, who was a star recruit in 2017, redshirted last year. Comparatively, Robert Barnes played in 10 games as a true freshman. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy consistently last year. But, he did start in one contest against TCU and recorded four tackles. If he can stay healthy, Barnes looks the part and can be a playmaker for this defense. However, Broiles has the talent and leadership that is needed at that position which will make the difference.
Prediction: Justin Broiles
Our last position battle comes from the deepest individual unit on the defensive side of the ball. This is a battle of the Tre’s. Tre Brown versus Tre Norwood. Both corners are a bit on the smaller side as Brown is listed at 5″10 182 and Norwood is 6″0 179. Brown played in 10 games and started against TCU. Norwood played in all 14 games and started five of those. This one might be a bit of an upset, but I think Brown wins the job. In the time he got last year, he just has a nose for the ball and has incredible speed.