Oklahoma Sooners: Big 12 Conference

As the season rapidly approaches let’s take a look back at 2012 and some interesting stats which helped the Big 12’s top two teams finish near the top of the overall standings. With help from ESPN Stats and Information, here’s a look at five offensive and five defensive stats that can get overlooked but help reveal why co-champions Kansas State and Oklahoma suffered just one conference loss apiece despite neither fielding the conference’s top ranked offense or defense a year ago.

Offensive stats

Percentage of plays resulting in no gain or negative yardage: KSU led the way in this category at 26.4 percent, the lowest in the league. Every Big 12 team with a percentage less than 30 percent won at least eight games in 2012. Avoiding the negative play is critical in the Big 12. Losing yards on an offensive play is one of the few times the offense suffers a clear loss of momentum, ensuring the defense isn’t on its heels like many of the Big 12's up-tempo offenses are designed to create.

Percentage of plays gaining more than 10 yards: OU led the Big 12 with 26 percent of its plays gaining more than 10 yards. The Sooners’ offense was the league’s most explosive even though it finished behind Oklahoma State, Baylor and West Virginia in yards per game.

Fewest three-and-outs: OU tied with Baylor for the league lead with 35 three-and-outs (2.69 per game), although the Bears had nine more total drives. Kansas State finished tied with Texas Tech for third with 39 (three per game). A small number of three-and-out drives is a sign that a team has the ability to control the game’s rhythm and can keep its defense off the field.

Touchdowns percentage on drives that reached inside an opponent’s 40-yard line: This stat shows a team’s ability to finish drives and make key plays when it matters. KSU and OU finished 1-2 in the category. The Wildcats scored a touchdown 60.7 percent of the time while the Sooners converted 60 percent of the time. The league average was 52.3 percent.

Points per drive: Baylor and OSU immediately come to mind when thinking of explosive Big 12 offenses but Kansas State was right up there in points per drive last season. BU led the league at 3.16 followed by OSU’s 3.05 and the Wildcats’ 3.02. Those were the only Big 12 teams that averaged more than three points per drive.

Defensive stats

Opponent plays over 20 yards: TCU finished atop the league in several defensive categories but KSU topped the Big 12 by allowing just 3.08 per game in 2012. The Wildcats’ sound defense kept opponents from changing games on one play last season, a big reason why they went 11-2 and earned a Fiesta Bowl berth.

Starting field position margin: The Wildcats ran away with this stat with a 11-yard average. It’s a clear sign KSU was winning the defensive and special teams battles. The league average was 1.6 and TCU (5.4) was the only other team with a margin better than four.

Opponent quarterback rating: The Wildcats didn’t finish atop the conference standings in many pass defense categories but they finished second with a 47.7 opponent quarterback rating. Their ability to pressure the quarterback (2.46 sacks per game) and create turnovers (2.38 turnovers forced per game) overcame their 248.46 passing yards allowed average.

Opponent red zone touchdown percentage: TCU led the league at 42.5 and KSU was the only other Big 12 team under 50 percent at 43.4 percent. Not surprisingly, those two teams finished 1-2 in points allowed. Those defenses forced turnovers or field goals instead of allowing red zone touchdowns to keep themselves in games.

Percentage of opponent completions going for a first down or touchdown: OSU led the league in this category, allowing only 51.4 percent of opponents’ passes to gain a first down or TD. The Cowboys were joined by KSU (53.4), Texas (54.8) and OU (55.5) in the top four and those teams combined for 38 wins in 2012. It’s a sign those defenses were aware of down and distance and made key plays at key times. The league average was 56.3 percent.


Could OU's DL woes change in 2013? 

January, 9, 2013
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Chuka NdulueMatthew EmmonsChuka Ndulue will be Oklahoma's lone returning starter on the defensive line from a group that underachieved statistically in the 2012 season.
As critics took aim at Oklahoma’s defensive line this season, head coach Bob Stoops was unyielding in his defense of his players, often pointing to the experience that five senior rotation players bring to the table. Stoops said on more than one occasion that his defensive line was playing well.

The numbers beg to differ.

2012 review: Improvement, regression 

January, 8, 2013
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For the second straight year, Oklahoma finished the season with a 10-3 record. Both seasons featured disappointments late in the season (Oklahoma State in 2011, Texas A&M in 2012) yet the Sooners were in the Big 12 championship mix heading into the final game of the regular season each season. OU saw some improvements in 2012, but they were joined by some clear steps backward. Here’s a look at how the Sooners improved, how they regressed and how they maintained in 2012.

Improved

[+] EnlargeJalen Saunders
William Purnell/Icon SMIJalen Saunders was one of four explosive receivers that Landry Jones had at his disposal this season.
• Passing game

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Here are five storylines to keep an eye on when Oklahoma faces Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on Friday.

1. Heisman jinx?

Will Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel suffer from any sort of Heisman jinx? While the redshirt freshman was on his cross country media tour after winning the award, the Sooners were preparing to stop him on Jan. 4. OU’s defense has a lot of pride and has taken a lot of heat in the home stretch of the season. They can quiet critics by shutting down Manziel.

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State of the program: Cornerback 

January, 1, 2013
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After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s cornerbacks in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the cornerbacks on the roster or the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future at the position for Oklahoma. Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one current commitment who could be the future.

[+] EnlargeCortez Johnson
Jesse Beals/ Icon SMIFormer Arizona defensive back Cortez Johnson started two games as a freshman for the Wildcats.
Next in line: Gary Simon. The Sooners spoke highly of Simon before the season and he’s spent the season preparing to step in to make a major contribution as a sophomore. With his long arms, athleticism and ball skills, Simon could become a key component of OU’s secondary in 2013.

Keep an eye on: Cortez Johnson. The Arizona transfer could step in and start after sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules. At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, Johnson brings excellent size to the position and he has experience, having played in eight games, starting two, for the Wildcats as a freshman.

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Sooner Snapshot: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo 

January, 1, 2013
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Each week, SoonerNation will take a closer look at the Class of 2013 prospects currently committed to Oklahoma. The in-depth analysis pieces will take a look at the ranking, estimated year of impact and potential role of each future Sooner.

Vitals: Defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo | 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comOgbonnia Okoronkwo could benefit from a redshirt season.
Committed: Dec. 12, 2012

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State of the program: Linebacker 

December, 27, 2012
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After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s linebackers in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the linebackers on the roster or the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future at the position for Oklahoma. Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one current commitment who could be the future.

Frank Shannon
Denny Medley/US PresswireExpect redshirt freshman linebacker Frank Shannon to make a big impact for the Sooners in 2013.
Next in line: Frank Shannon. Shortly after Tim Kish arrived at Oklahoma last spring, the Sooners linebacker coach began heaping praise upon the redshirt freshman linebacker. Kish spoke highly of Shannon’s natural instincts and playmaking ability. This fall, Shannon has lived up to the hype after a breakout game against Texas Tech on Oct. 6. His versatility and instincts should make him a cornerstone of OU’s defenses over the next few seasons.

Keep an eye on: Eric Striker. Although the Sooners will return Shannon, Tom Wort, Corey Nelson and Aaron Franklin, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Striker earn a role in the Sooners defense as a sophomore. He has pass rushing skills and versatility, which could make him a key contributor in 2013.

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Breaking down the board: 2014 QBs 

December, 19, 2012
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Each week, Breaking down the board will take a deeper, position-by-position look at the prospects the Oklahoma football program is looking to land in the hope of filling its roster with elite playmakers. This week, SoonerNation ranks five Class of 2014 quarterbacks who could be terrific fits for the Sooners offensive system and fit their desire for passers that can make a defense pay with their feet, with No. 1 being the player who should be OU’s top priority of the five recruits listed.

To be clear, this ranking has nothing to do with the Sooners actual recruiting board/priority list. It simply is our ranking list compiled of recruits at the position who could be the best fits for OU’s system.

1. Keller Chryst, Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto

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Worst Sooners evaluations since 2006 

December, 19, 2012
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Recruiting is far from an exact science. If a college program brings in 25 recruits in a class and 18 or more develop into contributors on the field, that 72 percent success ratio makes for a great class. On Tuesday, SoonerNation looked at the five best evaluations by the Sooners since 2006. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the five worst evaluations since 2006.

1. Defensive end David Anderson, Class of 2007: Anderson was a late addition to OU’s class and picked the Sooners over Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisville and others. The Sooners didn’t start showing strong interest until January because they needed to fill a need.

OU career: Anderson never made an impact at OU and decided to leave the team after a redshirt season. He simply decided he didn’t want to play football.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: NA

Anderson is No. 1 because.... the Sooners brought him in to fill numbers and add bodies along the defense line. Yet it didn’t pay off because Anderson decided he didn’t want to continue his football career. Thus, the Sooners might have well saved the scholarship. It was a considerable risk and didn’t prove to be worth taking.

2. Defensive end Jonte Bumpus, Class of 2007: The Sooners took a chance on Bumpus, who was very raw and undersized. It didn’t pay off. Fortunately for the Sooners they haven’t lacked talent at the position in recent years.

OU career: Bumpus left OU after a redshirt season and limited action in 2008. He eventually ended up playing football at Western Carolina.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Right now getting after the quarterback is his strong point, but he needs to add bulk and improve against the run at him and he can be a good all around end.”

Bumpus is No. 2 because.... he wasn’t highly pursued by other schools and wasn’t a chance the Sooners needed to take. Additionally, he wasn’t exceptionally productive in high school. The reasons to hesitate on bringing him in outweighed the reasons to secure his signature.

3. Tackle Britt Mitchell, Class of 2008. A lightly regarded prospect, Mitchell picked the Sooners early in the recruiting process. He picked OU over Texas A&M, Baylor and others.

OU career: Mitchell left Norman shortly after he arrived then flirted with entering the military before ending up playing football at UTEP.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Mitchell is intriguing because he such a monster of a kid. While his size allows him to smother and push opponents around. at times it also seems his size can be a bit of an obstacle. He will need to play a little more under control and continue to learn to operate in his big frame. Mitchell should be tracked because he has a good upside and could develop into a real beast."

Mitchell is No. 3 because.... his size (6-foot-7, 300 pounds) would intrigue anyone. Yet, clearly he was unsure what he wanted to do with his future. Uncertainty and the commitment it takes to play football at Oklahoma are polar opposites. The Sooners would have been better off going after a different prospect with a different mindset.

4. Linebacker Gus Jones, Class of 2009: The Sooners thought they had a diamond in the rough in Jones, who picked OU over Missouri, Texas Tech, Wyoming and others.

OU career: Jones left OU after a redshirt season and ended up at Division II Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Very strong tackler with great pop on contact but can overrun ball carriers and can tackle high. Overall, Jones could play at the 235-pound range in college while retaining his quick-twitched burst and explosiveness between the tackles. Good prospect potentially sliding under the radar. Should be a stud on special teams as well.”

Jones is No. 4 because.... the Sooners probably didn’t have to take a chance on Jones, who didn’t feel like he fit in during his time in the program. He left because he wanted to play and likely could see that his opportunities to play would be limited in Norman. If he could see that so early in his OU career, why couldn't the Sooners see it before bringing him in?

5. Receiver Tyler Stradford, Class of 2007: The Sooners signed Stradford over Southern Miss, UConn, Memphis and others. Obviously OU felt it had found a diamond in the rough in Stradford, but it was wrong.

OU career: Stradford transferred to North Texas after a redshirt season in Norman. He never made a major impact with the Mean Green.

ESPN.com scouts take out of HS: “Stradford reminds us a little of former Eagles WR Todd Pinkston in terms of build, speed and overall skills, but lets hope that Stradford is tougher. Speed is good, not great. Overall, Stradford has upside and once more polished, could become a nice prospect at the next level.”

Stradford is No. 5 because.... it’s easy to see why the Sooners took a shot in the dark with Stradford since he had good athleticism for a receiver his size (6-foot-2, 185 pounds). Nonetheless, it’s likely the Sooners had plenty of other quality options outside of Stradford. They took a shot and lost out on this signee.

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Sooner snapshot: DT Kerrick Huggins 

December, 18, 2012
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Each week SoonerNation will take a closer look at the Class of 2013 prospects currently committed to Oklahoma. The in-depth analysis pieces will take a look at the ranking, estimated year of impact and potential role of each future Sooner.

Vitals: Defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins | 6-foot-3, 285 pounds

Committed: Dec. 14, 2012

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Best Sooners evaluations since 2006 

December, 18, 2012
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Oklahoma has done a terrific job of evaluation since 2006. The 2010 NFL Draft proved the Sooners' ability to evaluate, recruit and develop players, as Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams, three of the top four selections, spent their college careers in crimson and cream. Some recruits are no-brainers, guys who any program would love to have on its roster, while others bring some level of uncertainty. Here are the top five evaluations by the Sooners since ESPN.com began thorough evaluation and ranking of recruits in 2006.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jerry Laizure/US PresswireOklahoma saw something in 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford early, recruiting him prior to his junior year of high school.
1. Quarterback Sam Bradford, Class of 2006: The former Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City North standout wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. A multi-sport star, Bradford excelled at football, basketball and golf in high school before picking the Sooners over offers from Texas Tech, Iowa State and others.

OU career: Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy during a record-setting season which included 4,720 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. He finished his career with 8.403 passing yards, 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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State of the position: Quarterback 

December, 4, 2012
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After grading the performance of Landry Jones, now's the perfect time to take a closer look at the other quarterbacks on the roster and the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future of the position for Oklahoma.

Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one commitment who could be the future.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezBlake Bell has rushed for 24 touchdowns in two seasons at Oklahoma but attempted just 19 passes.
Next in line: Blake Bell. The sophomore quarterback appears to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job in 2013. At 6-foot-6, 254 pounds, he brings terrific size to the position and his running skills have been on display for the past two seasons. Yet questions remain about his ability to run OU’s passing attack. His first opportunity to silence those doubters arrives this spring.

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Film review: OU 24, TCU 17 

December, 2, 2012
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Oklahoma won its eighth Big 12 championship Saturday with a 24-17 win over TCU at Amon Carter Stadium. The Sooners are co-champions with Kansas State after finishing 7-1 in the Big 12. Running back Damien Williams showed his big-play ability with two touchdowns, but it was the Sooners defense that won the game for OU. Here's a look at five key plays in the victory.

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson, Julian Wilson
Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesTCU's pass to tie the game was almost completed but Julian Wilson and Tony Jefferson were in good position.
Damien Williams’ 11-yard touchdown reception

The Sooners' first touchdown showed just how difficult it can be to stop OU’s offense, because it has so many options.

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Film room: K-State 24, Oklahoma 19 

September, 23, 2012
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Oklahoma's hopes of competing for a championship -- either Big 12 or BCS -- took a major hit with the 24-19 loss to Kansas State at Owen Field on Saturday. The OU offense shot itself in the foot with three turnovers, two by senior quarterback Landry Jones. Here’s a closer look at the Sooners' loss after further review:

Jones third-down incompletion targeting Kenny Stills on OU’s first possession

Two plays after Jones missed a wide-open Brannon Green for a touchdown on play action, he missed Stills in the corner on third down. This play was important for various reasons:

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NORMAN, Okla. -- With a throng of Kansas State fans celebrating in the stands just yards away, dejection and disappointment filled the Oklahoma Sooners as they slowly walked off the Owen Field turf after the No. 15-ranked WIldcats’ 24-19 win over OU on Saturday night.

And when the No. 6-ranked Sooners look back on their first home loss against a ranked team under head coach Bob Stoops, they can look closely at their inability to get key defensive stops when they needed them.

“We kind of broke down a little bit in the fourth quarter,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We fought ourselves through the game, but we just got outexecuted in the fourth quarter and that was really the game.”

The Wildcats were 3 of 3 on third down in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of the Sooners defense in various ways to complete critical conversions.

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