Here’s what we learned about Oklahoma during spring football:
What we learned about the offense: The Sooners should have a balanced offense led by a Heisman favorite and one of the best running back duos in America. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will make every game winnable while Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon should be even better as a running back duo in the fall. Some questions remain about the offensive line and receiver spots, but the Sooners have enough talent and experience at both places. Overall, there are plenty of reasons to expect Oklahoma to field one of the nation’s best offenses again in 2016.
What we learned about the defense: The defense should be among the Big 12’s best again despite losing linebacker Eric Striker, cornerback Zack Sanchez and several other all-conference performers. Several quality players return, including defensive lineman Charles Walker, cornerback Jordan Thomas and safety Steven Parker. Spring football showed us Ogbonnia Okoronkwo could be ready to step into Striker’s role, Dakota Austin should be ready to start alongside Thomas and the defensive line could be even deeper in 2016 than it was a year ago. Oklahoma’s defense is in pretty good shape.
Breakout player: Calling Austin Kendall a breakout player is probably a bit strong, but it is hard to undersell the importance of his solid spring showing. The early enrollee quarterback went a long way to lessening concerns about the backup quarterback spot behind Baker Mayfield. Coaches and teammates praised the maturity of the ESPN 300 signee and his spring performance kept the Sooners from pressing the panic button and searching for someone to back up Mayfield during the summer.
Key storyline: Replacing Sterling Shepard remains a key to Oklahoma’s pursuit of another College Football Playoff berth. The Sooners won’t be able to truly replace the New York Giants’ second-round pick, but Oklahoma does have some talented receivers on the roster. The goal is to use multiple receivers to replace the 86 receptions, 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns that Shepard provided in 2015. DeDe Westbrook is proven but Oklahoma needs Mark Andrews, Michiah Quick, A.D. Miller and others to step up to make the passing game difficult to stop while replacing Shepard's production.