Friday, January 16, 2009

I ask, I answer: Questions and answers about the state of Sooner football

It’s been a full week. A full week of wanting to run into oncoming traffic one minute and then convincing myself it was a great season nonetheless the next. A full week of replaying and second-guessing every, tiny little detail of Jan. 8 one minute and then convincing myself every call was the right one the next.

But that's over and done. It's time to move on to the 2009 season.

A lot has happened in this week, so how about we wrap up Oklahoma football with a little Q&A with none other than myself.

Q: Sam Bradford is back. OU fans rejoice, but is this a good decision for him?
A: Simply put: Yes. Know why? Because it’s what he wanted to do. That’s why. It doesn’t have anything to do with potential money he “threw away” or his draft status dropping or getting his body more “NFL ready,” whatever that means. Sam Bradford wanted to come back and play football at OU some more. It doesn’t matter what Dan from Muskogee may think about it. All that matters is what Sam Bradford thinks about it. I was asked a lot by friends the past few months if I thought Sammy would go pro. My answer every time was, “I don’t think so.” And when they looked at me like I forgot to put on pants that morning, I said, “Adrian Peterson dreamed of playing for the Dallas Cowboys and in the NFL when he was little. Malcolm Kelly dreamed the same thing. Sam Bradford always dreamed of wearing the Crimson and Cream. Now he’s living that dream. I can’t see him giving up everything he always wanted after two years because someone will write him a big check.” I’m not going to be That Guy, but ah heck, I will: I was right.

Look at it this way – your dream has always been to be an astronaut. When you were six you thought about it and ran around in spacesuits. When you were 18, you still wanted it more than ever. Then you finally got your chance. You did it for two years and they were the best two years of your life. But then someone offers you a chance to go to Siberia and still be an astronaut and get paid a butt-ton, but you have to have to go to freaking Siberia. What would you do? The NFL will wait for Sam Bradford. It’s not like he won’t get drafted next year. Matt Ryan was a fifth year senior and he was taken third and won the Rookie of the Year. People like to say, “But his draft position won’t ever be any higher than it is right now.” So? Money may be important to you, but evidently living out a dream is more important to Sam Bradford. You do your thing and let Sam do his.

Q: The defense brings a lot back. Good, right?
A: Basically, all OU loses is Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes. Seriously, that’s it. And Quinton Carter already played a ton last year. Think about OU’s front seven for a second: English and Beal on the ends with Frank Alexander and R.J Washington spelling them. McCoy and Adrian Taylor in the middle with Cordero Moore rotating. Keenan Clayton, Travis Lewis on the outside with Ryan Reynolds back in the middle with either Austin Box subbing or playing outside as well. Brian Jackson and Dom Franks on the corners. That’s a strong unit.

Q: Ok, so everybody knows it: Bob Stoops is now 1-4 in National Title games, 0-3 in his last three and has lost five straight BCS Bowl games. Panic time, right?
A: Wrong. So, so wrong. I’m not going to get into the whole, “Firing Stoops is stupid and here’s why” thing, because if you have a brain in your skull, you know how dumb that is. We live in an era where the media overreacts, breaks down everything two hundred times over, over-analysis everything and takes us to the “Next Level” with insightful stats like “Bob Stoops is 0-5 in BCS games in which he trailed at the end of the game” and in general, causes everyone to freak the crap out. Here’s reality: From 1967 to 1974, the Legend, Bear Bryant, lost seven straight bowl games and had a tie in the middle of it. The King of Oklahoma, Barry Switzer, went 10 years between National Titles. Or this one – it took Tom Osborne 21 years to win his first National Title and in the mean time, he lost seven straight bowls before ripping off three National Championships. Everyone wants to jump on Stoops right now, but I think the morons running the show forget the past. They like to point out OU’s recent history, but forget all the big ones Bob won to start with. No doubt it will be tough next time OU lines up for the big trophy, but it’s not like Bob Stoops is the first head coach to have a rough patch. Chill out, calm down. Everything is fine. You have to be in it to win it, and at the rate Stoops puts his team in it, he’s going to win it his fair share. It’s hard to win a National Title. You’ve got to win a lot of games and then you have to beat either the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country. If in 2025, Stoops has lost 22 straight bowl games, then yeah, that’s pretty disconcerting. But this little stretch is no different than what other great coaches have gone through. Would it be better to have been 4-1 in the last five bowl games with wins in the Alamo, Holiday and Cotton Bowls? I’ll gladly take what we’ve done instead, thank you.

Q: The offensive line lost everyone. Hopefully Sam doesn’t actually die on the football field due to repeated beatings.
A: This is true. The very talented offensive line lost five members in Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Brandon Braxton and Brandon Walker. That’s not easy to replace. But OU returns probably its best guy in Trent Williams and don’t forget about guys like Brian Simmons who have played lots of snaps but didn’t start. Donald Stephenson is a very talented guy along with Stephen Good, Cory Brandon and Alex Williams and LSU transfer Jarvis Jones. The talent is there. It’s just the intangibles. It’s not like we’re throwing a couple of 185-pound idiots out there. These guys can block. It’s just whether or not they understand what a defense is throwing at them.

Q: But there’s no receivers for Sam to throw it to. We lose Juaquin, Manny and even Quentin Chaney. You know you’re not deep when you’re upset about losing Quentin Chaney.
A: Rewind to August 2008. Remember what people were saying about OU’s offense? Bradford may hit a sophomore slump, the O-Line is great but they didn’t play like they should have last year but more than anything, there’s nobody for Sam to throw it to. I actually recall many people saying the biggest question or the 2008-09 Sooners was wide receiver. Remember that? Ryan Broyles is an electric playmaker cloned to play exactly like Mark Clayton, Jermaine Gresham is Sam’s favorite target and Jameel Owens and DaJuan Miller were hot recruits for a reason. Don’t worry about wideout.

Q: What about punter? Mike Knall averaged like six yards a kick and there’s nobody even listed on the two-deep behind him? Who’s going to punt? Is there another Ferguson out there or a baseball player that can do it?
A: Ok, this could be a little bit of an issue. Punting isn’t rocket science, but it’s also a very crucial part. I have no idea what the Sooners will do there, but I’m sure it can’t be much worse than Mike Knall.

Q: What about that schedule next year? It’s going to be pretty tough.
A: A “neutral site” game against BYU, at Miami and Tulsa for non-conference (with another game likely to come). Then at Kansas, at Nebraska and at Texas Tech with big home games against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State. And of course, Texas. The tougher-than-most non-conference schedule should benefit OU down the line assuming the Sooners survive it. But the tough roadies against the Huskers and Texas Tech are definitely scary. But OU won last time it was in Lincoln in 2005 and Texas Tech won’t be as good next year.

Q: They’ve got holes on the offensive line, question marks at wide receiver, a coaching staff that can’t win big games, no leadership, bad special teams and unfavorable schedule. But you gotta like their chances.
A: I LOVE their chances.


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