Big 12: Brian Lepak
Here's who made the midseason list.
- Derek Epperson, P, Baylor (3.62, Management & Management Information Systems)
- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (3.64, Political Science)
- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M (3.59, Biology)
- Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor (3.80, General Studies)
- Brian Lepak, OL, Oklahoma (3.86, Finance)
- Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma (3.32, University College)
- Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M (3.82, magna cum laude graduate, studying Sports Management)
- Jamarkus McFarland, DT, Oklahoma (3.32, Health and Exercise Science)
- Sam Acho, DT, Texas (3.55, honors Business)
- Nate Solder, OL, Colorado (3.52, Biology)
- Brad Thorson, OL, Kansas (3.58, Economics, Master's degree)
- Grant Ressel, K, Missouri (3.64, Biological Sciences)
- Austin Cassidy, S, Nebraska (3.88, Psychology)
- Tysyn Hartman, S, Kansas State (3.59)
- Drew Dudley, LB, Kansas (3.73, Civil Engineering)
Trent Williams, OT
Before last season, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson called Williams the best lineman he'd ever coached. Even though the offensive line heard plenty of criticism during last season, Williams parlayed his performance into a top-five selection in the NFL draft. He and Gerald McCoy were the only ones among Oklahoma's Big Four who came back after a national runner-up season in 2008 that didn't suffer a serious injury. The first-team All-American showed he was the nation's best offensive tackle last season, which was confirmed in April's draft.
Gerald McCoy, DT
McCoy was the heart of Oklahoma's top-10 defense in 2009 and stayed healthy throughout the season, unlike fellow first-round draft picks Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham. McCoy was drafted No. 3 in last month's draft after starting every game for three seasons and notching 15.5 tackles for loss in 2009.
Ryan Broyles, WR
Broyles enters his junior season as the top returning receiver in the conference. His 1,120 receiving yards on 89 catches helped spur Landry Jones' development, and he did it while missing almost two full games and playing with a still-healing fractured shoulder blade against Texas. The speedy, 5-foot-11 Broyles is one of the most dangerous players in the conference after the catch and in the open field, and could continue his punt-returning duties (first-team All-Big 12) in what should be another big year in 2010.
Travis Lewis, LB
Lewis embraced his role as the new voice and leader of the Sooners defense this spring, gearing up for a season alongside two newcomers at linebacker. Lewis led the team in tackles as a freshman (144) and sophomore (109) and could do it again in 2010. Lewis was named to the All-Big 12 first team in both seasons and it'd be surprising to not see him there again this season.
Kenny Stills, WR
Stills could help bolster a unit that, outside of Broyles, struggled in 2009. The Sooners worked all season to find a second target opposite Broyles, and may have done it in junior Dejuan Miller, but Stills showed he had potential to be an impact player as a true freshman. The early enrolling freshman came to Oklahoma as the No. 36 receiver in his class, according to Scouts Inc., but he could end up being the No. 2 receiver for the Sooners. He led all receivers in the spring game with 84 yards and a touchdown on six catches.
Bronson Irwin, OL
Oklahoma's offensive line was forced to enlist the services of walk-on Brian Lepak late last season. Irwin, who also enrolled early, could give the line the additional depth it could have used last season, but might need to use this season. The 6-foot-5, 322-pound Mustang, Okla., native came to Norman as the nation's No. 22 offensive tackle prospect, and got a jump start on his fellow incoming linemen with his work this spring.
More Revolving Door:
The only thing the 2009 Oklahoma offensive line did more than get penalized was get injured.
In a season filled with disappointment, the offensive line began the season as a concern, and remained one throughout. Thinning numbers at nearly every position didn’t help, and after Trent Williams suffered a concussion before the season finale, Oklahoma was forced to start walk-on Brian Lepak, though he did perform well.
But the struggling line will lose its three best blockers from last season: Williams, Brian Simmons and Brody Eldridge.
For improvement, the Sooners need players like junior Stephen Good and sophomore Tyler Evans to fulfill their potential. Freshman Bronson Irwin enrolled early and will be in spring camp for the Sooners, and junior Donald Stephenson returns from a year-long suspension. He's drawn praise from Bob Stoops for his early work.
Strong: Defensive end
Oklahoma could once again contend for the best defensive line in college football, but its real strength is on the ends.
Senior Jeremy Beal had 11 sacks (fourth-most in school history) last season after grabbing 8.5 as a sophomore. Now, his senior season will be his third as starter after two consecutive appearances on the All-Big 12 first team.
Frank Alexander played extensively (nine starts) in his first two seasons and likely assumes a permanent starting role as a junior. Seven of his 23 tackles last season were for a loss and he also notched 1.5 sacks.
As a freshman, Alexander was named an All-Big 12 honorable mention performer and had five tackles as a starter in the national title game.
More Weak & Strong:
But the most surprising element of the story will be his replacement.
Senior All-America tackle Trent Williams will slide from left tackle into the starting position at center after Lepak sustained a sprained knee in bowl practice that will keep him out of the Sooners' Dec. 31 Sun Bowl against Stanford.
Earlier this season, Ben Habern and Brody Eldridge started at center for the Sooners.
"I'm done counting them," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters about the many injuries at the position this season. "Too many."
Williams worked there during summer practice and showed strong intuitive abilities at the position. But Sooners coaches preferred to keep him at tackle where he was one of the best players in the nation.
The Sooners will start the same tackle rotation in the bowl game as in their 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State in their final regular season game. Williams missed that game with a concussion suffered earlier that week, with Cory Brandon starting at Williams' left tackle and converted tight end Eric Mensik starting on the right side. That group helped the Sooners produce 143 yards rushing against an OSU defense that came into the game ranked fourth nationally against the run.
And while it's not an ideal situation against the Cardinal, Williams is one of the Big 12's most versatile athletes along the offensive line. Look for him to thrive at his new position as he's been able to do most of his college career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Sam Bradford is out on the field in his crimson No. 14 Oklahoma uniform.
But a couple of things struck me as strange as he was warming up with his offense.
First, I noticed that Bradford would take the snap from center, back up several steps and stop. I haven't seen him thrown a pass in about 15 minutes.
Also, I couldn't help but see that Bradford was taking snaps from Oklahoma's No. 2 center Brian Lepak. Landry Jones was working with Ben Habern, who is Oklahoma's starting center.
I wonder if Bob Stoops has got something up his sleeve?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma capped its spring practice with a strong defensive effort in the Red-White game. The Sooners entered the spring with few questions from a squad that had notched three consecutive Big 12 titles and looks primed to again challenge for the national championship.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Bob Stoops' offensive line will have some new faces for the 2009 season.|
But there were still a few issues for Bob Stoops heading into spring practice. Here are some of the things we've learned about his team as the Sooners conclude their work Tuesday afternoon.
- Sam Bradford looked in midseason form, capping his work by completing 11 of 13 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. His backups, redshirt freshman Landry Jones and early arriving freshman Drew Allen, weren't nearly as sharp as they completed only 9 of 26 passes in the spring game. If Stoops needed any more reason to feel relieved coming out of the spring, watching Bradford play should have given him some comfort.
- The four new members of the offensive line clearly are still a work in progress. But don't read too much into their struggles in the Red-White scrimmage after producing 27 yards on 52 rushing attempts. Many teams are going to have problems against Oklahoma's defense this season. And the Oklahoma offense was hamstrung playing without running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. Chalk up the line's struggling performance to a tough opposing defense, a limited seven-man rotation and substitute backs playing in the spring game. I would expect to see some substantial improvement by the time the regular season arrives in early September.
- Concern about the wide receiver group coming into the spring might have been overstated. Both Adron Tennell and Ryan Broyles looked strong as outside receivers and Mossis Madu had his moments as a slot receiver. And Jermaine Gresham, who barely played this spring, might be the nation's most explosive tight end.
- Nobody gets up for the Red-White game quite like cornerback Dominique Franks. Over the past two seasons, Franks has produced five interceptions and returned two of his picks for touchdowns in the games against his teammates. Now, if he could transfer that over to the regular season ...
- The Sooners still need some more production from their kicking game. Tress Way doubled as a kickoff specialist and a punter in the spring game and needs improvement in both categories. Jimmy Stevens didn't have to kick a field goal, which was a problem throughout last season. Both areas were handicaps in the Sooners' losses against Florida and Texas, and must improve for the Sooners during the upcoming season.
- The departure of heralded center prospect Jason Hannan might have been a concern for offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. But Brian Lepak, a transfer from Colorado State, alleviated some of those worries with his strong play. Redshirt freshman Ben Habern is set as the starter, but the Sooners don't lose much when Lepak plays. He even started at left guard for the spring game.
- Any doubts about the future appear to be tempered after the strong play this spring of incoming freshmen Tom Wort, Ronnell Lewis and Jaydan Bird, who all made surprising progress considering their youth. The trio combined for nine tackles, two tackles for losses and a deflected pass. And that's only the beginning.
- The Sooners' biggest position of strength may be at defensive end, even with Auston English missing the spring because of an injury. The rest of the rotation -- Jeremy Beal, Frank Alexander and David King -- all had strong springs. Alexander capped strong work with three sacks in the spring game and Beal added two more in a stellar effort.
- With Austin Box and Ryan Reynolds missing the spring as they recovered from injuries, Mike Balogun built on his strong performance in the BCS title game with a strong performance by filling in for Keenan Clayton in the spring game.
- The biggest producer this spring in the secondary may have been sophomore Desmond Jackson, who alternated between cornerback and safety. Look for him to use this as a springboard for playing time in the fall.
- Walk-on safety Emmanuel Jones has been a revelation in the secondary. After spending most of his time working with the cornerbacks, coaches pressed him into duty at safety after Quinton Carter tweaked a hamstring while heading into the corridor on his way to the scrimmage. Jones made the most of his opportunity with a strong performance. Can anybody say Wally Pipp?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Jason Hannan, the top national recruit at center in the 2007 recruiting class, will leave Oklahoma with hopes of transferring to another school.
Hannan came into the spring as the likely replacement for three-year starter Jon Cooper for the Sooners after playing seven games last season.
But he has been beaten out for the position by redshirt freshman Ben Habern, who now is listed as the Sooners' No. 1 player at the position.
"He's transferring -- he's leaving," senior guard Brian Simmons told the Tulsa World after Thursday's practice. "I don't know the details, but he's no longer with us any more."
Habern now is backed up at the position by former Colorado State transfer Brian Lepak.
"He was a scholarship player at Colorado State. He is a walk-on player, but I look at him as a scholarship player," Simmons told the World concerning Lepak. "He has tremendous technique. You know he's smart. He knows what he's doing."
But Hannan's departure further scrambles the turnover on the offensive line, which was expected to be one of the biggest weaknesses for the three-time defending Big 12 champions.
The Sooners will be replacing four starters along the offensive line with only Trent Williams returning from last season.
That group will be charged to protect Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, who helped lead the Sooners' record-breaking offense last season. The Sooners led the nation in scoring, averaging 51.1 points per game, as they scored 60 points in five straight games late in the season.