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Perhaps the most unexpected showing in any bowl game last season was that of Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight in the Sugar Bowl against the University of Alabama. It came out of nowhere!
Knight carved up the Crimson Tide defense to the tune of 348 yards passing and four touchdowns, leading OU to a 45-31 win. To say the Sooners found their quarterback of the future is true, but it also carries a lot of weight, because now all eyes shift to what Knight will do for an encore in 2014.
It was enough of a performance for Blake Bell to shift from quarterback to tight end, Kendal Thompson (another OU quarterback) to transfer, and football fans in Norman to dub Knight as the player to lead the Sooner back into the national spotlight. In a sense, he has already done so.
In 2014, the Sooners will feature a depleted backfield as Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch are now gone. Will this put more pressure on Knight to perform without a proven running back in the offense? If so, we’ve seen the tools of a future star. It’s just a matter of whether or not he can continue to grow as a quarterback under Bob Stoops.
Art Briles was arguably the hottest name in the coaching carousel after last season. He led the Baylor Bears to an 11-2 record and outright Big 12 conference title. But, was he really going anywhere?
In February, Briles was quoted as saying that he wanted his program to “run the show,” referring to the Bears, the Big 12, and the 2014 season. One huge playmaker, Bryce Petty, returns for his senior year, so dominating the conference may be a possibility. A strong case can be made for Petty as the lead returning signal caller in the Big 12.
However, crucial components of last year’s offense that averaged an FBS-best 52.4 points per game have departed. That includes running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, and wide receiver Tevin Reese.
Will the wheels on the bus that is Baylor’s scorching offense come to a screeching halt this season? Not if Briles has anything to say about it. It will be Petty’s offense to lead, and guys like running back Shock Linwood and wideout Antwan Goodley will have to step up to fill the void.
There is new sheriff in Austin. His name is Charlie Strong. The combination of Strong and 13 returning starters will be interesting. I say interesting because, by many standards, Mack Brown did not get the most out of his players the final few years he was head coach at Texas. Yet, last season, the Longhorns were in the hunt for the Big 12 title until their regular season finale.
What if their full potential was reached? How far could this team go?
A new atmosphere and Texas tradition will be set when Strong leads the Longhorns into the spring game on April 19. The defense only lost four starters. And the offense features a three-headed beast in the backfield between Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, and Joe Bergeron.
At the end of the day, it’s Texas—one of the most recognized and tradition-rich football programs in the country. The biggest story surrounding this team is their new leader and how he will restore that Texas swag.
Sign of things to come
The Oklahoma State University football team ended the 2013 season like a duck trying to fly with a broken wing. It just didn’t turn out well. Heavily favored in the Bedlam matchup on December 7, the Sooners put it to the Cowboys in Stillwater. The sour taste lingered and Missouri took advantage of OSU’s susceptibility to win the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, 41-31.
Heading into the spring, only nine starters will be back. The questions abound and the mystery of who will win certain starting jobs remains to be seen.
It would be easy for Oklahoma State to let the end to last season linger in the back of their mind and affect their play this year. It would be another, more dedicated and difficult thing to work harder and put that finish way off in the distance.
D, D, D…Defense
In all reality, the real subject is the lack there of when it comes to the defensive side of the ball for West Virginia. In February, the defensive coordinator for the Mountaineers last season, Keith Patterson, decided to take his talents to the Arizona State Sun Devils.
So, head coach Dana Holgorsen had a decision to make, one he made quickly. Tony Gibson, West Virginia’s safeties coach, was promoted to replace Patterson in light of the vacancy, making him the fourth defensive coordinator in the four years Holgorsen has been at the helm in Morgantown.
It wasn’t pretty for the Mountaineers in their 2013 campaign. They gave up over 454 yards per game, which was 102nd in FBS. If you were to look up revolving door in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the West Virginia defensive coordinator position. Not only is there a new coach each year it seems, but the holes in the team’s defense are more gaping that those in swiss cheese.
And come to think, WVU begins the 2014 regular season on August 30 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Their opponent: Alabama. Is it appropriate to say, “There’s always next season,” prior to the season before the next even beginning? Well, that’s essentially the story here.
There’s always next year West Virginia.
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