The fact quarterback Landry Jones decided to come back for his senior season rather than enter the NFL Draft is reason for optimism for Oklahoma.
Jones has said he has some "unfinished business" to tend to after the Sooners failed to take advantage of opportunities in 2011, stumbling to a three-loss season that included a defeat at home to Texas Tech, which didn't even qualify for a bowl.
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As Oklahoma's all-time passing leader and the focal point of the offense, Jones has the ability to get the Sooners back into the national championship picture.
The question will be the cast around him.
"I know he's doing all he can to have a big senior season," coach Bob Stoops said. "It only happens when guys around him are going to catch the ball and not drop it and be in the right places, those kind of things.
"So we've got to make sure all that's happening."
Wide receiver is of particular concern, with suspensions and other issues leaving the Sooners with only one wideout, Kenny Stills, who has caught a pass on the collegiate level.
The other worry is on the defensive side.
The Sooners looked very vulnerable in the secondary last season, especially in losses to Texas Tech and Baylor. If new pass rushers aren't found to step in for Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, that's going to put even more pressure on the corners and safeties in a pass-happy league.
OU also is operating with a new defensive coordinator with Brent Venables taking off for Clemson. Mike Stoops, brother of Bob, has taken over and hopes to regain the touch he had before he left for a stint as head coach at Arizona.
"Our track record working together and competing together has been pretty good," Bob said discussing his brother's return. "So I feel good about that as well. I trust Mike's judgment on a lot of issues, and I'm sure it will be a positive."
HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops, 14th year at Oklahoma, 139-34 at Oklahoma and as a head coach.
MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: QB Landry Jones -- Jones has been questioned for his ability to consistently deliver in the clutch. He likely would have been a first- or second-round draft pick had he come out after his junior season. He will go into his senior season with 37 career starts and is the holder of 13 school passing records. Jones is unquestionably the reason for OU's role as Big 12 favorite.
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BREAKOUT STAR: RB Dominique Whaley -- Whaley was well on his way to a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2011 when he injured his knee after seven games. The former walk-on had 627 yards by that point, an OU record for a walk-on. He had 131 yards against Tulsa, a school rushing record for a Sooner making his career debut.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH: WR Trey Metoyer -- Metoyer (6-1, 190) has an opportunity to play right away considering the Sooners' problems at his position and his performance in the spring. He is a five-star recruit (Scout.com and Rivals.com) out of Whitehouse, Texas, who spent last year in prep school (Hargrave Military in Chatham, Va.). He caught 108 passes his senior year.
KEYS TO SUCCESS: QB Landry Jones gives the Sooners a chance on offense. The senior has thrown for 13,379 yards in his 40-game (37 starts) career. If healthy, Whaley is a proven runner and top receiver Kenny Stills should pick up where he left off last season.
AREAS OF CONCERN: Wide receiver is the most notable issue for the Sooners. Because of suspensions and transfer rules, OU goes into 2012 with just one receiver (Kenny Stills, with 62 receptions last year) with experience. The Sooners also must replace sack masters Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. The defense should improve under the tutelage of new coordinator Mike Stoops, former head man at Arizona.
-- Senior RB Dominique Whaley, whose season was cut short by injury last year, is expected to be recovered from his knee injury to start the season. Whaley, who earned a starting position after walking on at Oklahoma, rushed for 627 yards in just seven games (four starts) in 2011. That was the good news for Oklahoma entering fall camp. Part of the bad news: No. 4 high school running back Greg Bryant from Delray Beach, Fla., who committed to Bob Stoops' program in March, reopened his recruitment. He's likely to strongly consider Auburn -- Bryant took an unofficial visit to The Plains in June -- among others.
-- Junior college transfer WR Courtney Gardner will not play this season because of an academic issue. The Tulsa World reported that Gardner expects to be part of the OU program in January.
-- WR Jalen Saunders, who had 50 receptions for 1,065 yards at Fresno State last year, has transferred to OU. He will sit out 2013 as per NCAA transfer rules.