Oklahoma Sooners: Bye Week Breakdown

Bye Week Breakdown: OU's key player

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
11:15
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's key player down the stretch of the season?

WR Kenny Stills
With Ryan Broyles done for the season, Kenny Stills will have to shoulder the role of No. 1 wideout. Is he up to the task? Since coming up with the game-winning touchdown grab at Florida State, Stills has had somewhat of a disappointing sophomore season. Injuries have played their part. He missed the game against Missouri with a concussion, and since the preseason has been battling a hamstring strain, which flared up last week. Down the stretch, Stills won’t benefit from defenses bracketing coverage on Broyles. And he’ll be the guy the offense now counts on to make key catches on tough downs.
- Jake Trotter

Tim Heitman/US Presswire
Landry Jones must lead the Sooners' offense without Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley.



QB Landry Jones
The Sooners have lost their leading rusher (Dominique Whaley) and leading receiver (Ryan Broyles) in back-to-back games. OU will be counting on Jones to show why he is considered one of the top players in the nation. Increased leadership off the field will be Jones’ No. 1 goal. He can’t blink with the loss of Whaley and Broyles and will have to stress to his offensive teammates that he believes they are still unstoppable and will be successful despite the losses. Second, he will have to show that on the field and spread the ball around while making minimal mistakes. The margin of error for Jones has decreased significantly.
- Brandon Chatmon

WR Dejuan Miller
OK, time to be a senior leader, Miller. With Ryan Broyles out for the season, Miller has to step up on the field and be that voice that can lead the wide receiving group. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills will be a potent one-two punch, but who is going to lead this group the rest of the way is a huge question. It’s a question that Miller has to answer. Miller has 11 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown this season. He played well two weeks ago at Kansas State and needs to use that performance as a springboard for the rest of the season.
- Bob Przybylo

LB Tom Wort
With two of Oklahoma's best offensive weapons out for the rest of the season, the Sooners' defense must play better if they want to win out. And OU's linebackers are the key. With Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles, the Sooners' averaged more than 45 points per game. Can they score as much without them? When Wort has played well this season (he missed OU's loss to Texas Tech with a concussion), the defense has been phenomenal. And Oklahoma's defense could be in much tighter games the rest of the season with Baylor and Oklahoma State still on the schedule.
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's key player down the stretch of the season?

Bye Week Breakdown: Special Teams MVP

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
7:00
AM ET

With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's special teams MVP through the first nine games?

PR Ryan Broyles
The Sooners don’t punt enough for Tress Way to be considered most valuable. But they sure force a lot of punts, which is why punt returner Broyles is the special teams MVP, too. Broyles ranks No. 24 nationally with a 10.32 punt return average, which includes a long of 36 yards. Nobody else on the Sooners roster has much experience returning punts -- just one more reason why Broyles’ season-ending ACL tear is so costly.
- Jake Trotter

Matt Strasen/US PRESSWIRE
Ryan Broyles has been the Sooners' primary punt returner for the last four seasons.



P Tress Way
The Sooners are accustomed to having offensive success but when they are forced to punt, it’s a good thing they turn to Way. He is averaging 41.1 yards per punt including 25 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line. The Sooners don’t have to punt very often but when they do, Way normally booms a deep punt with good hang time allowing the coverage team to get downfield.
- Brandon Chatmon

LS James Winchester
The No. 1 reason for Winchester? You never know he’s out there. He simply does his job as a deep snapper and just goes about his business. He’s as reliable as they come, but he’s also quick. After he snaps, Winchester is usually one of the first guys down the field for coverage. A consummate team-first player, Winchester has earned his scholarship this season. OU has special teams issues, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Winchester.
- Bob Przybylo

K Michael Hunnicutt
Freshman Hunnicutt, who took over for much-maligned senior Jimmy Stevens after two games, has been solid this season. He's 14 of 17 -- and has made both of his kicks longer than 40 yards -- with 85 points scored. Hunnicutt missed two kicks against Texas Tech that directly contributed to the loss, but he's Oklahoma's best option at place-kicker, now and for the next few years.
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's special teams MVP through the team's first nine games?

Bye Week Breakdown: Defensive MVP

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
11:15
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's defensive MVP through the first nine games?

DE Frank Alexander
Not only is end Frank Alexander OU’s defensive MVP, he is one of the favorites to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, as well. Alexander is 12th in the country with 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss and been a terror off the edge. He and fellow end Ronnell Lewis have given defensive coordinator Brent Venables the luxury of supplying pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing.
- Jake Trotter

AP Photo/Steve Cannon
Senior defensive end Frank Alexander has been one of the Big 12's best defensive players this year.



DE Frank Alexander
When Alexander plays well, the Sooners defensive plays well. Consistently creating havoc in opponent’s backfields, Alexander and bookend defensive end Ronnell Lewis have been a huge key to the Sooners defensive success. Alexander has also been one of the main leaders on the team, particularly filling the void during Travis Lewis’ absence early in the season.
- Brandon Chatmon

DB Aaron Colvin
Colvin hasn’t just made the most improvement from last season, but that “V” can stand for valuable or versatile because Colvin creates problems for opposing offenses everywhere. He’s making his mark as a safety who can come up against the run and make the tackle or help out on coverage. However, he also has a cornerback background, and OU fans can feel confident if Colvin is matched up one-on-one against a quality wide receiver. Though he’s second on the team in tackles with 59, his 38 solo tackles leads the club. If it’s one-on-one, Colvin will make the play.
- Bob Przybylo

DE Frank Alexander
Oklahoma's defensive ends have been the Sooners' strongest position group in 2011. Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, who finally looks comfortable after moving from linebacker last season, have combined for 13 sacks on the season. That's only two less than Texas' entire defense. But sacks aren't everything as Alexander has been strong against the run, too.
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's defensive MVP through the team's first nine games?

Bye Week Breakdown: Offensive MVP

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
7:00
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's offensive MVP through the first nine games?

WR Ryan Broyles
Broyles was well on his way to winning the school’s first Biletnikoff Award. Instead, he’ll watch the rest of the season from the sidelines. Before suffering a torn ACL, Broyles was putting the finishing touches on a phenomenal college career. He had already broken the FBS career receptions record and was within striking distance of topping the career receiving yardage mark, too. The Sooners have a big challenge ahead moving on without their best player, who should go down as the best receiver in OU history.
- Jake Trotter

J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI
The Sooners will be without arguably their best offensive player for the rest of the season.



WR Ryan Broyles
The senior was on the road to a Biletnikoff Award before he tore his ACL against Texas A&M. He amassed 83 receptions for 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding a 10.3-yard per punt return average in nine games. He was averaging 150 all-purpose yards per game. While Broyles is out for the season, don’t think his impact on the Sooners is over. Expect him to continue to be a mentor to sophomores Kenny Stills and Trey Franks, who will be counted on to play a critical role in replacing Broyles on the field. Simply having Broyles around off the field will have an effect on OU’s receivers.
- Brandon Chatmon

OL Gabe Ikard
When center Ben Habern was injured earlier in this season, the position could have been a huge question mark. But because of Ikard, it was a footnote. He made the move from guard to center about as seamless as you can. The offensive line has only allowed four sacks this season. And despite OU almost always in the shotgun formation, snaps haven’t been a concern. Now as Habern works his way back, OU has two quality centers and also knows there is no rush to get Habern back too quickly. Ikard has it covered.
- Bob Przybylo

QB Landry Jones
The Sooners have the experience, depth and talent to replace outstanding receiver Ryan Broyles. But Oklahoma doesn't have a quarterback on its roster that can replace Jones if he goes down this year. Freshman Blake Bell and sophomore Drew Allen are talented, yes, but they haven't shown that they can step in and run the high-powered Sooners offense as efficiently as the junior Jones, who has had an outstanding season. Jones has thrown for 28 touchdowns and 3,349 yards, with only nine interceptions and is still on the fringes of Heisman Trophy contention.
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's offensive MVP through the team's first nine games?

Bye Week Breakdown: Best assistant coach

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
11:15
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Which Oklahoma assistant coach has done the best job through the first nine games?

Offensive line (center and guards) coach James Patton
The units of Jay Norvell (receivers), Bobby Jack Wright (defensive ends) and Willie Martinez (defensive backs) have all played well, but what Patton has done with the interior of the offensive line has been tremendous. And he’s had to do it without his best and most experienced player, center Ben Habern. Gabe Ikard has been OU’s most consistent blocker all season and made a seamless transition from left guard to center when Habern went down. Left guard Adam Shead, meanwhile, is a budding star, and right guard Tyler Evans has been grading out at a winning level every week.
- Jake Trotter

AP Photo/Alonzo J. Adams
Senior Frank Alexander has 7.5 sacks on the season.



Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright
Wright has done an incredible job and it’s paid off for OU’s defense as a whole. Frank Alexander is among the national leaders in sacks with 7.5 and Ronnell Lewis has become a dominate defensive end with 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Wright’s work really comes to the forefront with the play of backups David King and R.J. Washington. That duo has played so well defensive coordinator Brent Venables devised a defense featuring four defensive ends in an effort to get all four players on the field together. Elite starters and “starter-like” reserves speak to the superb job by Wright.
- Brandon Chatmon

Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez
Based on expectations, most thought the “sharks” were going to be the weak link of the Sooners. There have been some struggles, notably against Missouri and Texas Tech, but the secondary has some playmakers. When healthy, a backfield of Demontre Hurst, Jamell Fleming, Aaron Colvin, Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris is not a bad thing. Numbers won’t always tell the story with this group. Because OU is usually nursing a healthy lead, opponents are throwing the ball a lot in the second half and racking up yards that don’t affect the outcome of the game.
- Bob Przybylo

Running backs coach Cale Gundy
When DeMarco Murray graduated, the Sooners had to replace Oklahoma's career all-purpose yard and touchdown leader. But Gundy's group has actually improved its yards per game average this year to 165 rushing yards per game, good for 50th in the country. Gundy deserves a ton of credit for seeing the talent in walk-on Dominique Whaley, who was a revelation before breaking his ankle, and for motivating sophomore Roy Finch who has filled in valiantly for Whaley.
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Which assistant coach has done the best job so far?

Bye Week Breakdown: Most improved

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
7:00
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's most improved player through the first nine games?

LB Tom Wort
Before the season, Bob Stoops said middle linebacker Tom Wort was “night and day” better from his freshman year. Turned out, Stoops was right. Wort has been playing hurt the last couple of weeks. But when healthy, he’s been terrific. In the win over Florida State, he was the difference on defense, racking up eight tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception. Wort was also dominant against Texas and returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown.
- Jake Trotter

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Sophomore linebacker Tom Wort is one of the Sooners' top defenders.



DE Ronnell Lewis
The junior spent much of his first two years on campus searching for a position. He has finally found a home at defensive end and he’s become a dominant force. Lewis has 59 tackles including 12.5 tackles for loss. He has 5.5 sacks, five pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In other words, he’s been all over the place and has a consistent motor which often allows him to chase down ball carriers from behind.fa
- Brandon Chatmon

DB Aaron Colvin
His numbers don’t exactly pop out at you when looking at the sophomore from Owasso, Okla., but Colvin is passing the eye test each and every week. He’s tied for second on the team with 59 tackles and is tied for the team lead with six pass breakups. The secondary hasn’t always been at its best, but Colvin has. He’s not the hardest hitter, but he is a sure tackler. He’s not looking for the highlight, but he won’t be on the wrong end of a highlight, either.
- Bob Przybylo

DE R.J. Washington
Washington, a fourth-year junior, barely saw the field for Oklahoma during his first three years on campus. The No. 2 DE in the class of 2008 admitted earlier this year that he has matured since arriving on campus and is practicing better, which has translated to the field. Washington is seeing a lot of time in OU's "Endy" package, a way for the Sooners to get four defensive ends on the field together. Though he's not starting, Washington has three sacks on the season.
- Dane Beavers


What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's most improved player of the season so far?

Bye Week Breakdown: Biggest disappointment

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
11:15
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's most disappointing player through the first nine games?

OT Daryl Williams
In the spring, all eyes turned to Williams after projected starting right tackle Jarvis Jones went down with a torn patella tendon. But after starting the opener, Williams, hampered by a sore ankle, has been almost a non-factor. Instead, tight end turned defensive end turned offensive tackle Lane Johnson has taken the reigns at right tackle and done a yeoman’s job protecting quarterback Landry Jones.
- Jake Trotter

Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Senior linebacker Travis Lewis is projected as the No. 12 outside linebacker in the 2012 NFL draft by ESPN.com



WR Justin McCay
A highly regarded recruit out of Kansas, McCay is still searching for a role in the Sooners offense. The redshirt freshman receiver has seen limited time at receiver and has yet to make an impact on special teams. Sometimes it takes a while for a player to get comfortable playing at the Big 12 level but they eventually become impact performers in their final few seasons on campus. The Sooners are hoping that is the case with McCay.
- Brandon Chatmon

WR Trey Franks
Jaz Reynolds’ emergence has coincided with Franks’ decline. A starter against Tulsa, Franks has had a tough time getting onto the field since. He hasn’t been a factor in the receiving game or on special teams as a kick returner. A two-game suspension also didn’t help matters, but there is hope. With Ryan Broyles out for the season, Franks has to step up. He only has nine catches for 94 yards. And he has to work on his footwork. Whenever it looks like he has some space, Franks seems to trip himself up. He’s too good of an athlete for that to keep happening.
- Bob Przybylo

LB Travis Lewis
Though Lewis leads the Sooners with 63 tackles, the senior linebacker has not been the playmaker in 2011 like he was for Oklahoma during his first three seasons on campus. Lewis has no sacks, no interceptions and just one forced fumble (do any defensive stats matter from the 62-6 beatdown of Ball State?). After suffering a broken toe in the preseason, he looks a step slow, and multiple steps slower than the freshman who burst onto the scene with 135 tackles, four interceptions and three sacks in 2008. Lewis looked like a potential superstar after his freshman year and, while productive, he hasn't been the next great Sooners linebacker like fans had hoped for.
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's most disappointing player of the season so far?

Bye Week Breakdown: Biggest surprise

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
7:00
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

Who is Oklahoma's most surprising player through the first nine games?

RB Dominique Whaley
Before the season, few knew anything about walk-on Dominique Whaley. We all know about him now. Whaley rushed for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Tulsa and never looked back. In six games, he totaled 627 yards on the ground and 153 yards through the air before suffering a season-ending fractured ankle on the first play at Kansas State. The good news is that Whaley, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry and totaled nine touchdowns, is back next season.
- Jake Trotter

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Running back Dominique Whaley scored four touchdowns in his first collegiate game.



OG Adam Shead
After preseason All-Big 12 center Ben Habern was injured against Missouri, Shead began to see more playing time at guard for the Sooners. Now, with Habern returning, Shead has made his case as one of OU’s top five linemen and could be the anchor of the Sooners offensive front for years to come.
- Brandon Chatmon

WR Jaz Reynolds
Reynolds will no longer be known as the receiver who tweeted offensive remarks about Texas on Twitter last year. With hard work and maturity, Reynolds has earned a spot in the OU starting rotation. It started with a solid outing against Missouri, and he has exploded in the last two weeks with three one-handed catches against Kansas State and Texas A&M.
Reynolds has 32 catches for 578 yards and five touchdowns this season and nobody is wondering if he can handle the attention now that Ryan Broyles is out for the season.
- Bob Przybylo

RB Dominique Whaley
Chalk up another vote for the walk-on, who's already had two national magazines write features on him (Read the ESPN The Magazine feature here). When Whaley appeared atop the depth chart over the summer, most reporters and fans thought coach Bob Stoops was just trying to motivate Roy Finch, Brennan Clay and true freshman Brandon Williams. Who would have guessed he would become the Sooners' second most consistent offensive player before his injury?
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? Who is Oklahoma's most surprising player of the season so far?

Bye Week Breakdown: OU's worst play

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
11:15
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

What was Oklahoma's worst play through the first nine games?

Lynn burned vs. Texas Tech
Several disasterous plays from the 41-38 loss to Texas Tech are worthy. But the 40-yard pass from Seth Doege to Marcus Kennard over OU cornerback Gabe Lynn was a backbreaker. Instead of getting the offense the ball, the Sooners allowed Tech to go right down the field to start the third quarter and take a 31-7 lead. OU nearly rallied, but the 24-point deficit was too large.

That was an especially tough series for Lynn. Shortly after giving up the bomb to Kennard, Lynn was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The next play, Doege attacked Lynn again, for an 11-yard touchdown to Alex Torres. Lynn, playing because Jamell Fleming underwent knee surgery, was replaced in the third quarter, and has yet to see a meaningful defensive snap since. (WATCH)
- Jake Trotter


AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Michael Hunnicutt missed two field goals in Oklahoma's upset loss to Texas Tech.


Defense gives up receiver screen vs. Texas Tech
That play was the perfect representation of the Sooners’ play in the loss. Torres caught a short screen pass which should have been stopped for a short gain. Instead he weaved through the OU secondary for a touchdown just two minutes into the game. As the season progresses, OU’s loss to Texas Tech looks worse and worse each weekend. Torres' touchdown set the tone that night and, if OU wins Bedlam, that night likely will be remembered as the outing that kept the Sooners from a BCS title game berth. (WATCH)
- Brandon Chatmon

Hunnicutt missed FG in fourth quarter vs. Texas Tech
Freshman kicker Michael Hunnicutt, for the most part, has had a great season. But his 28-yard missed field goal off the right upright popped the balloon in OU’s hope for a comeback in the 41-38 loss to Texas Tech.

The Sooners were down 41-31 with 2:52 left in the fourth when Hunnicutt attempted the kick. The miss forced OU to use timeouts on defense. The Sooners scored a touchdown after getting the ball back and then had no choice but to go for the onside kick, which wasn’t successful. Despite the OU defense being carved up by the Red Raiders, the Sooners were still in the hunt until that kick deflated the fans at Owen Field. (WATCH)
- Bob Przybylo

Miraculous touchdown bomb by Florida State
Despite only a 13-6 lead midway in the fourth quarter on Florida State, Oklahoma was soundly in control of the game. The Sooners, who forced Seminoles starting quarterback E.J. Manuel out of the game with a shoulder injury, were putting all kinds of pressure on backup Clint Trickett. And then Trickett threw a duck that floated into the hands of Rashad Greene for a 56-yard touchdown, and suddenly the game was tied. OU defenders Jamell Fleming and Javon Harris badly misplayed the ball, jolting to life the crowd inside Doak Campbell Stadium. Luckily on the Sooners' next possession, Landry Jones completed two huge passes -- one third down conversion to Ryan Broyles, the other a 37-yard touchdown to Kenny Stills -- and the Sooners won the game. (WATCH)
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? What was the Sooners' worst play of the season so far?

Bye Week Breakdown: OU's best play

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
7:15
AM ET
With Oklahoma on a bye week, the SoonerNation staff is spending the week looking back on the Sooners' first nine games by answering 10 questions. View the archives here.

What was Oklahoma's best play through the first nine games?

Stills' clutch catch vs. Florida State
Kenny Stills waited and waited. Finally, Landry Jones’ lob pass at Florida State came sailing down to him in the end zone. Stills, who had beaten Seminoles cornerback Greg Reid, came back, reached up and pulled down the ball over Reid. The 37-yard touchdown broke the fourth-quarter tie and lifted the Sooners to a 23-13 victory. (WATCH)
- Jake Trotter

AP Photo/Steve Cannon
Kenny Stills' fourth quarter touchdown catch sealed the Sooners' victory against Florida State.



Broyles breaks the record vs. Kansas
It was the perfect way to break the NCAA all-time reception record for Ryan Broyles. He streaked down the seam before catching the ball and cruising into the end zone. He finished the game with 13 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns. (WATCH)
- Brandon Chatmon

Walker sets the tone vs. Texas
Defensive tackle Casey Walker’s sack and forced fumble on Texas quarterback Case McCoy was a harbinger of things to come for the Longhorns on that day in the 55-17 win for OU in the Red River Rivalry. Walker came from the inside and leveled McCoy in a game where OU finished with eight sacks and scored three defensive touchdowns. At the time, OU was only up 3-0 with more than nine minutes left in the first quarter. It showed what happens when the OU defense is motivated. (WATCH)
- Bob Przybylo

Finch's first quarter scamper vs. Texas Tech
Though the Texas Tech game will be remembered as the end of Oklahoma's 39-game home winning streak, it also produced the Sooners' most electrifying play of the season. On OU's first offensive play, sophomore Roy Finch, filling in for starter Dominque Whaley who had flu-like symptoms, took the handoff from Landry Jones through the five-hole, put a devastating spin move on the Red Raiders free safety, and then ran across the field for 55 yards to the Texas Tech 14-yard line. Though it will be mostly forgotten, Finch's run signified his return as the explosive back fans saw when he was a freshman. (WATCH)
- Dane Beavers

What do you think? What was the Sooners' best play of the season so far?

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