|Chuka Ndulue is one of four returners starters on defense. (USATSI)|
Spring practice began: March 9
Spring game: April 13
2012 record: 10-3 (8-1 Big 12)
Returning starters: 11 (seven offense, four defense)
Change is in the air in Norman for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. After the program's second-consecutive three-loss season, Stoops fired three assistant coaches in the offseason, and the program needs to replace 11 starters -- some of whom were team leaders. The message being conveyed is that 10-win seasons and shared Big 12 titles, seemingly, aren't enough. Although Stoops has been one of the more consistent coaches in college football, amassing a 149-37 (.801) record in 14 seasons at Oklahoma, 2013 could prove to be a transitional year for the Sooners.
The Least You Should Know About Oklahoma This Spring
-- For the first time since 2007, the Sooners will hold a quarterback competition. When a program loses its career leader in passing yards, completions, attempts and passing touchdowns, there's work to be done in the spring. With former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones headed to the NFL, Oklahoma's primary concern this spring is to begin the process of naming a starter at the position. The early favorite to succeed Jones is junior Blake Bell, who is best known for his power-rushing experience in the short-yardage package: the "Belldozer." In his career, Bell has 372 rushing yards on 104 attempts, 24 rushing scores, while throwing for 115 yards and one interception on a 50-percent completion rate. Other options to replace Jones include redshirt sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight. No matter how the spring unfolds, don't expect Stoops to appoint a starter in the spring. The typically tight-lipped Sooners coach waited until the start of the 2007 season to name Sam Bradford the starter.
-- In the second year of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' system, OU needs to improve. Making matters more challenging, Oklahoma returns only four starters on defense, cornerback Aaron Colvin, defensive end Chuka Ndulue and linebackers Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon. Particular areas of concern are safety and defensive tackle. The Sooners come into the spring with only three defensive tackles on the roster, and the early departure of safety Tony Jefferson to the NFL leaves a void in the secondary. Mike Stoops said cornerback Gabe Lynn will move over to safety in the spring to mitigate Jefferson's departure.
-- Oklahoma's offensive line will be talented and experienced. The unit, however, is nursing several injuries this spring. Guards Nila Kasitati and Tyler Evans both suffered ACL tears in 2012. Stoops said that Kasitati is still rehabbing and won't participate in the spring, while Evans will be a limited participant. A report surfaced Sunday that center Gabe Ikard will miss all or most of the spring with an injury to his hand. Once the Oklahoma linemen can heal, the group is seasoned and will retain all but one of its starters from last season, only losing tackle Lane Johnson, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft in April.
-- This may not get that much attention, but Oklahoma needs a new punter. Former Sooners punter Tress Way departs the program after having been one of the more consistent players on the team and has a notably strong leg. Way was the 16th-best punter in the country last season, averaging 44.2 yards per attempt. Mid-semester enrollee Jed Barnett, who played at Laney College in 2012 and averaged 41.3 yards per punt, is with Oklahoma for the spring.
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