Oklahoma Sooners: Tress Way

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma’s special teams units have had their ups-and-downs in the past five years. Multiple kickers on scholarship and shoddy coverage teams left lasting images in the minds of Sooners fans. Fortunately for OU, the production of its special teams units has improved recently, including a stellar performance in 2012 as those units played direct roles in helping OU win multiple games.

Jay Boulware hopes to take the Sooners’ special teams units to another level.

[+] EnlargeBrennan Clay
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesNew special teams coach Jay Boulware thinks OU running back Brennan Clay is a special kick returner.
The Sooners' new special teams coordinator has several talented pieces to work with, including punt returner Jalen Saunders and kickoff returners Roy Finch and Brennan Clay. Saunders broke open Bedlam with his 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, Clay helped the Sooners capture a Big 12 road win at West Virginia with his 46-yard kickoff return in the final minutes and Finch had OU’s lone kickoff return for a touchdown with his 100-yard gallop against Kansas.

“None of the kids that I've been around at my last two stops were nearly as talented as these kids are as return men,” said Boulware, who coached Iowa State and Auburn before his arrival in Norman. “I tell these kids all the time, there's no reason they shouldn't be the most feared return unit in the country because they are that talented.”

Kicker Michael Hunnicutt, too, has provided much-needed stability in the kicking game for the past two seasons. He has made 36 of 43 career field goal attempts, but the Sooners are looking to transform Hunnicutt into a better weapon from 40 yards and beyond.

“He’s an 80-percent field goal guy,” Boulware said. “We just need to continue working and progressing on our field goals outside of 40 yards.”

The major concerns with the special teams this spring are replacing four-year starter Tress Way at punter and finding a kickoff specialist. OU recruited junior college punter Jed Barnett to replace Way and he’s been solid so far.

(Read full post)

Coaches' corner: P Jed Barnett

March, 13, 2013
After recruiting them for several months, Oklahoma's coaching staff finally was able to talk publicly about the players the Sooners added to the program on signing day. Over the next week or so, SoonerNation will review some of the key things coaches had to say about the players signed at each position group during their signing day webcast on Soonersports.com.

OU will have to replace four-year starter Tress Way at punter this fall. And it won't be easy. Way was one of the nation's top punters and brought peace of mind to the Sooners coaching staff.

Coach Bob Stoops hopes Jed Barnett (Camas, Wash./Laney College) can step right in to fill the void.

"Jed Barnett is a guy we really needed," Stoops said. "He’s one of the best junior college punters in the country. His hang time is around four seconds or better. He averaged over 40 yards per punt. No one gets really excited about Jed until next year when you’re punting the ball. I was focused on it and really excited about Jed. He’s got a big leg, and I really believe he’s going to be a key ingredient for us when we’re on the field next fall."

Stoops said the Sooners went out of their way to land a punter who was ready to make a immediate impact because he felt the punters already on the roster (Dylan Seibert and Jack Steed) weren't quite ready yet. Now, OU is counting on Barnett to win the job and solidify the position for the next two seasons.

"Really excited about getting Jed," said Bobby Jack Wright, who was OU's special teams coordinator in 2012. "He had a heck of a season, I’m anxious to get him out this spring and see how he can do with live bullets coming at him. He’s got a big strong leg, can really boom it."

Keys for OU in the AT&T Cotton Bowl

January, 4, 2013
Three keys for Oklahoma in tonight’s AT&T Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M:

1. Protect Landry Jones, and the ball: When the Sooners have kept Jones upright, he’s been lethal throwing the ball to a quartet of playmaking receivers. But the few times that opposing defenses have gotten pressure, Jones has been subject to major mistakes, notably in a loss to Kansas State earlier this season. This will be OU’s toughest protection test yet, as the Aggies feature one of the top sack artists in the country in Damontre Moore. But if OU can keep Moore and his cohorts out of Jones’ face, the Sooners should be able to move the ball through the air against what’s been an inconsistent Texas A&M secondary.

2. Contain Johnny Football: OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said this week that you can’t stop Johnny Manziel. But you can contain him. That’s obviously easier said than done. Just ask Alabama. But if the Sooners can keep Manziel in the pocket and prevent him from reeling off big plays on the move, they should be in good shape.

3. Win the special teams battle: The Sooners have their best special teams units in years, especially in the return game. Jalen Saunders’ punt return touchdown against Oklahoma State helped sparked the Sooners in a come-from-behind Bedlam win. Brennan Clay and Roy Finch have also been very good returning kicks, and punter Tress Way can swing field position with his leg. One way to counter Manziel is to make plays when he’s not on the field. The Sooners could use some big plays on special teams.
The nation will be watching when No. 8 Oklahoma hosts No. 5 Notre Dame at 7 p.m. CT Saturday at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Here are storylines to keep an eye on:

1. Can the Sooners run the football?
Notre Dame’s run defense provides a challenge the Sooners have not seen this season. Opponents average 3.4 rushing yards per carry and the Irish have not allowed a rushing touchdown through seven games including wins over Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford, teams known for their ability to run the ball.

Midseason report: OU special teams 

October, 18, 2012
Nobody cares about special teams until they cost you a game and then they become a major factor.

Fortunately for Oklahoma, that hasn’t been a issue this season, as the Sooners special teams have more than held their own.

Here’s what we’ve learned about OU’s special teams after five games of action:

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Five storylines: K-State vs. Oklahoma 

September, 20, 2012
Throughout the 2012 season, SoonerNation will look at five different storylines that could have a major impact in Oklahoma’s upcoming game each Thursday. Here are the storylines as the Sooners host Kansas State at 6:50 p.m. CT,Saturday at Owen Field.

1. Will Collin Klein pass the ball well enough to make the Sooners pay if they overload the box?
The Kansas State quarterback enters the game with a 72.9 completion percentage after completing just 57.3 percent of his passes in 2011. Klein worked hard to improve his passing ability during the summer and it appears to be paying off early in the season.

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma has rushed for 554 yards and nine touchdowns in the Sooners first two games.

Yet, centers/guards coach James Patton thinks his squad has a ways to go.

[+] EnlargeGabe Ikard
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesGabe Ikard and the rest of the Oklahoma offensive line is stressing all-around improvement during the Sooners' bye week.
“We have to get better,” Patton said. “We did some good things the other night but our execution level needs to continue to improve. The goal is to be efficient, get hats on hats and using good technique. From the UTEP game to the Florida A&M game, we were better.”

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Oklahoma awards tracker: Week 1

September, 4, 2012
Each week, SoonerNation will update how Oklahoma players mentioned on preseason award watch lists fared in their most recent game. Here is what transpired in the opener against UTEP:

QB Landry Jones, Sr.: Walter Camp, Manning, Maxwell
Jones threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover and showed much improved foot speed.

RB Dominique Whaley, Sr.: Maxwell
In his first game back from a broken ankle, Whaley rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries but was outdone by UTEP's Nathan Jeffrey (177 yards, 21 carries) and teammate Damien Williams (104 yards, nine carries).

WR Kenny Stills, Jr: Walter Camp, Maxwell
Stills had one of the best games of his career with 121 yards on six catches and a 68-yard touchdown reception.

LB Tom Wort, Jr.: Butkus, Nagurski
Wort graded out at a 93 out of 100, his highest grade in a Sooner uniform; he finished with seven tackles, including one for loss.

LB Corey Nelson, Jr.: Lombardi
Nelson also graded out in the 90s and had four tackles and a pass breakup.

C Gabe Ikard, Jr.: Lombardi, Outland
Behind Ikard, the Sooners averaged 5.5 yards per carry; Ikard, however, squandered a call that led to UTEP blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown.

S Tony Jefferson, Jr.: Walter Camp, Nagurski, Bednarik, Thorpe
Jefferson led the Sooners with 10 tackles and spearheaded a stingy OU secondary.

CB Demontre Hurst, Sr.: Nagurski, Bednarik
Hurst had a pair of pass breakups and was a big reason why the Sooners' longest pass play surrendered was 13 yards, coming on UTEP's first drive.

PK Michael Hunnicutt, So.: Groza
Hunnicutt had one field goal blocked, although the blame fell on holder Tress Way; he made his only other try, a 38-yarder.

Postgame wrap: Oklahoma 24, UTEP 7 

September, 2, 2012
Analyzing the finer points of Oklahoma’s 24-7 win Saturday at UTEP:

• I had high hopes for OU’s special teams. But this was the most disastrous special teams performance in a long time. The Sooners had a punt blocked for a touchdown, a field goal blocked and repeatedly turned Michael Edwards loose trying to cover punts. Had UTEP’s field-goal kicking not been even worse, the Sooners might have lost. It’s too soon to write off OU’s special teams. Michael Hunnicutt did nail a 38-yarder, and Tress Way otherwise had a strong night punting, pinning UTEP inside the 20 three times. But let’s not act like OU’s special teams issues have been solved either. Special teams didn’t get OU beat Saturday. But they almost certainly will down the line if they don’t improve.

[+] EnlargeNathan Jeffery
Jim Cowsert/US PresswireUTEP running back Nathan Jeffery killed the Sooners on the ground, but was dinged up late in the game.
• Had OU’s offense been much crisper, we’d probably be harping more on how improved Landry Jones’ footwork is. Jones’ work with QB tutor George Whitfield this offseason has really paid off. Jones would not have been able to deliver the 68-yard bomb he threw across his body to Kenny Stills along the opposite sideline last season. “After that TD, I told Landry, ‘You look great,’” Stills said. “He worked really hard in the offseason, and he looks great and has a lot of confidence.” Jones got outside the pocket more times in one game than he did all of last season. On one play in the second quarter, Jones sidestepped the blitz, then delivered an off-balance strike to Dominique Whaley. Had Whaley not dropped the pass, he might have scored.

• Considering he’s been one of OU’s most consistent playmakers over the last two seasons, it’s crazy to think that Roy Finch didn’t get a single offensive snap Saturday. Not one. The Sooners had designed a package for Finch in the slot full of screens and reverses, but didn’t go to it once. They didn’t give him a look in the backfield, either. I asked co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell why Finch was relegated to the sidelines once again, especially on a night in which the offense struggled to make plays. “We have a lot of playmakers that can do a lot with the ball,” Norvell said. “Roy is going to have to work harder to where he gets himself in the mix.” Evidently, Finch is still not getting it done in practice. Until he does, the Sooners are not going to play him. No matter how many plays he’s made in the past.

• Whaley returned from last year’s broken ankle to mixed results. He ran for 54 yards on 11 carries, but didn’t display the same elusiveness and power that made him one of college football’s best stories in 2011. “I felt great ankle-wise, conditioning-wise,” he said. “But my performance could have been a lot better.” It might take a couple of games for Whaley to find his footing. He started to run harder as the game wore on. That was a positive sign.

• More positive was the play of Whaley’s backup, junior-college transfer Damien Williams, who was OU’s best back on this night. Williams ran for 104 yards on nine carries, including a 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Williams broke tackles, and showed plenty of elusiveness in the open field. “We’re excited to complement Dom with Damien,” Bob Stoops said.

• The Sooners brought back the “Diamond” formation after a one-year hiatus. The formation, which was so effective late in 2010, was shelved last season. But offensive coordinator Josh Heupel reintroduced the package, this time using fullbacks Trey Millard and Jaydan Bird and either Whaley or Damien Williams. The Sooners caught UTEP off-guard on playaction off the package, as Jones hit Stills on a post pattern inside the Miners 5. Whaley, however, was flagged with a chopblock, wiping out the play. “I saw a defender who outweighed me,” Whaley said, “so I decided to go for the chop.” Guard Adam Shead was still engaged with the defender, though, resulted in the penalty. It will be interesting to see how much the Sooners use the Diamond going forward. But if it can augment what was an inconsistent running game Saturday, it should become a mainstay.

• Three times when the game was still in doubt, the Sooners turned to Belldozer on third-and-short. Three times, the Sooners got first downs. Bob Stoops said he would have liked to use the Belldozer more, but because of the inconsistency of the offense, OU rarely was in third-and-short. More times, the Sooners were in third-and-long. For the Belldozer to be utilized, OU has to do more on first and second down.

• OU was awful early on in its perimeter blocking on the bubble screens. For those plays to work, Justin Brown and Trey Metoyer can’t whiff on cornerbacks. A couple of times, that got Whaley clocked. Eventually, that will lead to turnovers and injuries.

• The Sooners added a new wrinkle to the offensive play-calling: placards. Unlike Oregon, which is quite creative in its placards to signal in plays, OU’s were quite ordinary, using only numbers and colors. I’m not sure if the placards slowed down OU’s offensive tempo. But if they did, they need to be revisited. When the Sooners were going fast, they moved the ball. When they weren’t, they didn’t.

• UTEP’s Nathan Jeffery nearly became the first back to rush for more than 200 yards against OU since Missouri’s Brad Smith in 2002. Jeffery, who also returned the blocked punt for a TD in the first quarter, was sensational, finishing with 177 yards on 21 carries. "I'm disappointed we didn't play the run game better," said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "We bent a little, but we didn't give up any points. It's good to be tested. We don't have to hear everybody telling us how good we are." Otherwise, though, the defense was pretty stout. The secondary, which was spectacular, didn’t give up any big pass plays, and outside Jeffery's 71-yard run, the defense made UTEP earn its way down the field. Welcome back, Mike Stoops.

• The unsung play of the game? Caleb Gastelum’s tackle on UTEP’s fake punt in the fourth quarter. That all but sealed OU’s win.

• Despite the hype of this freshmen class, very few made it onto the field. CB Gary Simon, LB Eric Striker and DE Michael Onuoha all watched this game from the sidelines. Defensive end Charles Tapper didn’t get in until late in the game. Running back Alex Ross made the trip, but didn’t play either. He’s a strong redshirt candidate. The three freshmen who did play – WRs Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard -- made little impact. Neither Neal nor Shepard recorded a catch in limited action. Despite his sterling spring, Metoyer struggled to assimilate into the offense. He finished with four catches for 21 yards. Metoyer did make a circus catch along the sideline that would have resulted in a TD, but he couldn’t get the first foot in bounce. “The timing was bad,” he said. “We just weren’t connecting.” Honestly, this should have been expected. Jones’ rapport with his freshmen and Penn State transfer Justin Brown will improve. Developing chemistry only comes through playing games together.

• Speaking of Brown, while he didn’t very involved in the offense (4 catches, 32 yards) he flashed off his potential as a punt returner. Breaking tackle after tackle, Brown weaved his way through the UTEP coverage for a 26-yard punt return. Brown has the potential to go the distance at any time. The Sooners have needed more breakaway threats on special teams. Brown appears to be just that.

• You have to admire how hard David King played in his first start at defensive tackle. With Casey Walker and Stacy McGee both in Norman, King carried the line by disrupting UTEP’s pass protection with his quickness. Play after play, Miners QB Nick Lamaison had to back peddle then throw the ball away because King and others were in his face. Despite never coming off the field, King played a spirited game all night, finishing with three tackles, including one for loss that forced UTEP to settle for a field goal attempt on its first drive. King also had a game-high two QB hurries. UTEP had success running Jeffrey up the middle, but a lot of that transpired because OU’s ends and linebackers didn’t close on the bend-back run quickly enough. OU’s d-line is hurting for depth. Think about where they’d be without King, and his ability to swing to tackle in a pinch.

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New season, new mailbag.

As Oklahoma opens its 2012 campaign against UTEP on Saturday, SoonerNation debuts its combined mailbag which is your opportunity to get your team and recruiting questions answered each week. If you have any questions email Brandon Chatmon at bchatmonespn@gmail.com. So without further ado ...

[+] EnlargeDalton Rodriguez
Dean AtchisonTulsa Union's Dalton Rodriguez is playing solely on defense in high school.
Brian in Soonerland asks: Interesting to see that Dalton Rodriguez may not play any OT this year...Do we like him enough at DE to give him a shot there?

Brandon Chatmon: I wouldn’t lock Dalton Rodriguez (Tulsa, Okla./Union) into any position. As we’ve seen from Nathan Hughes, just recently, the Sooners won’t hesitate to move defensive linemen to the offensive line and vice versa. Getting talented athletes is the most important thing. Ultimately, the coaches will put him at the position they feel is best for his overall potential.

Rodriguez is a quality prospect at either position. Yet with his 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame, I think his upside is higher at offensive tackle and quality tackles are difficult to find. If I’m OU, I start him at tackle first, and if that doesn’t work out, then move him elsewhere.

Vargo in Kalamazoo, Mich., asks: Give me the name of one player outside of the usual characters that you could see having a huge impact on this team.

Brandon Chatmon: Frank Shannon. While Tom Wort is the heart of the defense at middle linebacker, Shannon could have a big impact as his backup. Linebackers coach Tim Kish has spoken highly of Shannon since he arrived at OU and the redshirt freshman is listed alongside Jayden Bird as Wort’s backup.

Expect Shannon to have an impact as a special teamer and in a backup role at linebacker. He has good instincts and athletic ability. I’m looking forward to seeing Shannon in action against UTEP. And you should be too.

Bryan in Norman, Okla., asks: In Bob's early years OU's Special Teams play was better than average. In recent years they've seemed below-average at best. Thoughts on the possible cause, and will we see an improvement this year?

Brandon Chatmon: The Sooners special teams struggles have been well-documented but I expect OU to have one of the strongest special teams units in the Bob Stoops-era this season.

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Practice Report: Stoops praises Brown 

August, 7, 2012
Wide receiver Justin Brown spoke with the media for the first time since transferring from Penn State. Brown flew in to Norman on Monday night, and was on the practice field Tuesday. Even though he wasn’t in pads with the rest of the team, Bob Stoops praised Brown effusively.

“He looked very impressive,” Stoops said. “I said to (wide receivers coach Jay) Norvell, ‘Wow, he going to be special here.’ ”

Stoops also said that Brown “absolutely” would return punts this season, and called him one of the top 10 punt returners in the country in 2011.

[+] EnlargeTom Wort
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerJunior linebacker Tom Wort has been fighting through various ailments during preseason practice.
Brown said it was “difficult” to leave his teammates at Penn State, but he’s excited to be at a tradition-rich school like OU with a quarterback who can sling the ball like Landry Jones. You could tell that Brown is fired up to play with a QB with Jones’ arm.

Per NCAA rules, Brown will be in shorts and shirts again tomorrow, then will be able to put on the pads.

More on Brown later.

• LB coach Tim Kish said that Tom Wort is less than 100 percent – not a good sign considering the Sooners have been in pads only a couple of days. Wort is battling an array of injuries, including to his back, shoulder and ankle – all injuries that Wort has dealt with in the past. Kish said he’s giving Jaydan Bird equal reps to try and keep Wort as fresh as possible.

Wort has been terrific when he has been healthy. He dominated the game against Florida State last season. But too often, Wort hasn’t been 100 percent. It’s looking like he might have to play hurt this season.

Right now, Kish is working Wort, Bird, Frank Shannon and Caleb Gastulem at middle linebacker, and Corey Nelson, Joe Iblioye, Aaron Franklin and true freshman Erik Striker at outside linebacker. Kish said that Striker would not be redshirting this season, and could play a lot of special teams. “He’s tough, physical,” Kish said.

• Bobby Jack Wright noted that seniors David King and R.J. Washington are having “a heck of a camp” so far. “I’m really pleased with them,” Wright said. But most of today’s discussion dealt with the younger players.

Wright said that Chuka Ndulue "has separated himself" as the clear No. 3 defensive end behind starters Washington and King. Ndulue came on late in the season last year and clearly applied himself in the offseason. He's relatively new to football but the Sooners feel really good about his upside and he seems to be starting to realize some of that potential.

Wright also said he wants to play true freshmen Charles Tapper and Mike Onuoha. In talking with Wright, Washington and others, those two are among the most talented players at the position. Even more impressive for Tapper, he didn’t even work out with the Sooners over the summer. Clearly, both guys have talent, so it will be the little things that decide if they play themselves out of a redshirt season. Either way, the future is bright at defensive end.

Wright also had glowing things to say about P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors, who have moved to end from linebacker. He said the move had to do with their speed -- it's average for linebackers but excellent for defensive ends. He likes what they bring to the table.

It's pretty clear that Lindley, Favors and junior-college transfer Chaz Nelson are battling to be the Sooners No. 4 defensive end, but Tapper and Onuoha have the ability to make a run. The overall depth at the position is looking pretty good right now. Especially for a team replacing two NFL draft picks.

Aaron Colvin is pumped about his return to cornerback. It's the position he prefers to play and he said it feels more natural at that spot. He did note that he will do whatever is asked. In other words, he's not digging his heels in about remaining at the position. But he wants to be a corner. Said he wishes his teammates still referred to “Colvin Island,” which they termed when Colvin played the position as a freshman. He wants the one-on-one challenge.

Colvin is a difference maker at any position he plays. Don't be surprised if he joins Demontre Hurst to battle Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown and Texas' Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs for the right to be called the Big 12's top cornerback duo. This is a great year in the Big 12 for corners.

• Colvin, like pretty much every other Sooner who has been asked, had glowing things to say about Sterling Shepard. "He's the real deal," Colvin said.

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Phil Steele’s College Football Preview magazine arrived at the doorstep Wednesday. Some notables about Oklahoma:
  • Steele projects that OU will go to the national championship and face Florida State at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. (By the way, if that happened it would be the fourth time of five tries OU would play for the BCS title in its opponent’s home state).
  • While Athlon selected Landry Jones as its third-team All-Big 12 QB, Steele ranks Jones as a second-team All-America and the No. 3 QB in the country behind USC’s Matt Barkley and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson. Interestingly, Steele has OU backup Drew Allen as the No. 36 overall QB, but left Blake Bell out of the top 60.
  • [+] EnlargeLandry Jones
    AP Photo/Steve CannonPhil Steele ranks Landry Jones as the No. 3 quarterback in college football.
    Jones is Steele’s No. 2 Heisman contender behind Barkley, ahead of the likes of Marcus Lattimore, Montee Ball and Denard Robinson. Steele actually has Kenny Stills as one of the top 20 contenders (I actually think Dominique Whaley would have a better shot of winning the Heisman than Stills).
  • Whaley is the No. 44 overall RB, 14 spots ahead of teammate Roy Finch. It’s reasonable to think Whaley would be ranked higher had it not been for last year’s season-ending ankle injury.
  • Joining Jones on Steele’s All-America teams are Stills (third team), OG Gabe Ikard (fourth team) and S Tony Jefferson (fourth team). Stills is rated the No. 7 WR overall. The only other OU WR ranked is Jaz Reynolds at No. 60.
  • Trey Millard is deservedly ranked the No. 2 FB in the country, behind SMU’s Zach Line. Curiously, Marshall Musil, who hasn’t seen a significant snap since the 2009 Red-White Spring Game, is rated the No. 16 FB.
  • Ben Habern is the No. 7 center; Ikard the No. 12 guard; Tyler Evans the No. 19 guard; Lane Johnson the No. 58 tackle.
  • How about this? Steele rates Michael Hunnicutt as the eighth-best kicker in the country.
  • No OU ends make Steele’s top 60, but Steele is relatively high on the OU tackles. Jamarkus McFarland (17th), Casey Walker (41st) and Stacy McGee (50th) all made the list.
  • Tom Wort is the No. 10 inside linebacker; Corey Nelson the No. 15 outside linebacker.
  • Tress Way is the ninth-best punter, according to Steele.
  • Rightfully so, Steele is pretty high on the OU secondary. Demontre Hurst is his No. 14 CB; Aaron Colvin No. 41. Tony Jefferson is the No. 5 FS. And, as a bit of a surprise, Javon Harris is ranked the No. 13 SS nationally.
  • In his unit rankings, Steele has OU’s QBs No. 2; its RBs No. 15 (which is actually only fourth in the Big 12); its WRs No. 10; its OL No. 5; its DL No. 17; its LBs No. 14; its DBs No. 4 (behind both Texas and Oklahoma State); and its special teams No. 15 (we’ll see.)
  • On Steele’s All-Big 12 team: Jones, Stills, Ikard, Wort and Jefferson; second-teamers include Whaley, Evans, Way, Hunnicutt, Walker, Nelson and Hurst (can’t really argue any of these, though I think Colvin has a better shot at All-Big 12 than Walker and Nelson.).

Crimson Countdown: P Tress Way 

June, 15, 2012
During the summer months, SoonerNation will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. We'll analyze each player’s impact on the program since they arrived on campus, their potential impact this fall and their long-term impact in the daily series. Starting with No. 1 Tony Jefferson, the series will go in numerical order until our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 36 Tress Way
Punter, 6-foot-1, 218 pounds

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It’s safe to say Oklahoma is in good hands with senior punter Tress Way, who has averaged 43 yards per punt during his time with the Sooners. But what will OU do after Way leaves following this 2012 season?

The OU coaches hope they have found their answer in Jack Steed (Katy, Texas/Cinco Ranch). Steed, 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, is going to grayshirt for the Sooners in the fall -- he'll enroll at OU and pay his own way for the first semester and then join the team in 2013 where he'll be given a scholarship. This puts him in line to be Way's successor in 2013, where he'll be the only scholarship punter on the roster.

Steed was receiving looks from Rice, Wyoming and Clemson, but those programs were asking him to be a walk-on for 2012. And when OU gave him the option to be the guy starting in 2013, Steed jumped at the chance. He talked with SoonerNation recently about his decision to grayshirt at Oklahoma:

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones could be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
In the 2010 draft, Oklahoma made history with Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams and Jermaine Gresham all going in the first round. But since, the Sooners have yet to have a first rounder. That figures to change in 2013 with quarterback Landry Jones. But what about the rest of the class? Below, SoonerNation breaks down what the Sooners’ 2013 NFL draft class could look like:

QB Landry Jones: Jones says he has already received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee, and with a solid senior season there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a first rounder. In each of the last two years, four quarterbacks have gone in the first round. Barring a total meltdown, Jones, who has prototypical size and the arm scouts covet, figures to be one of the top four QBs on the board next spring.

FS Tony Jefferson: Jefferson has indicated that he’ll jump to the NFL if he projects as a relatively high pick. Given how the NFL views safeties, Jefferson might not be a first rounder. But with a huge junior season in his new position at free safety, he could easily become a second- or third-round selection, thanks to his high football IQ and nose for the ball.

[+] EnlargeTBD
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesIf Oklahoma receiver Kenny Stills has a big junior season, he could turn pro and enter the 2013 NFL draft.
WR Kenny Stills: Despite a so-so sophomore season, Stills too could wind up testing the waters. Stills has tested out as one of the fastest players of the Stoops era, and would compare favorably at the combine with his measurables. A monster junior campaign would make people forget about his sophomore season -- and with the emergence of Trey Metoyer and return of Landry Jones, that’s attainable.

RB Dominique Whaley: Despite a breakout junior season, Whaley remains off the radar. But he’s a workout warrior, who can pound the ball up the middle or break off the big gain. Durability and the recovering ankle will be concerns, but Whaley could really fly up the big boards with a big season.

CB Demontre Hurst: Hurst, who has quietly had a tremendous college career, will have plenty of tape to show off to scouts as a three-year starter. Hurst doesn’t possess eye-popping speed or Jamell Fleming size, but he could become a very solid player in the right situation.

OT Lane Johnson: Donald Stephenson was hardly a star in college, but was a third-round pick over the weekend thanks to his athleticism, feet and size. Johnson is even more athletic than Stephenson. Then again, he might not even start this season if Tyrus Thompson continues to outplay him.

C/OG Ben Habern: Centers typically don’t go high to begin with, and now Habern’s health has to be a major red flag for the pros, considering he has suffered a broken forearm and undergone neck surgery just in the last year. Habern’s back has also been an issue for him, too.

SS Javon Harris: Mike Stoops is giving Harris another shot to start, despite Harris’ inconsistent performance last season. The talent, however, is there. If Harris can eliminate the mental breakdowns he could be a very solid player for the Sooners, and in turn, a decent pro prospect.

DE R.J. Washington: If Washington were to have an all-conference caliber senior season, he could warrant draft consideration in the later rounds. The NFL loves speed.

OG Tyler Evans: Evans is a solid college player, and maybe worth a draft pick. Just not a high one.

CB Lamar Harris: If Harris ends up winning a starting job, he'll have ample opportunity to show what he can do.

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