Reviewing 2017 OU spring football: Replacing Mixon-Perine-Westbrook; early enrollees including Trey Sermon and … – Tulsa World

At this point last year, the Tulsa World looked at key storylines and players to watch entering the 2017 spring football season.

Oklahoma will begin spring drills on Saturday and, before looking ahead, let’s look back at the talking points last spring and how things developed in the following fall.

Storylines for spring 2017

The Sooners will have to replace a Heisman Trophy finalist (Dede Westbrook), the school’s all-time leading rusher (Samaje Perine), a running back with NFL first-round talent (Joe Mixon) and leading tackler (Jordan Evans). Oklahoma’s coaches aren’t concerned with the lack of experience with the current roster, especially at running back and wide receiver.

Everything turned out well for the Sooners, who were able to weather all of the departures from the 2016 roster. Dede Westbrook’s statistics (80 catches, 1,524 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns) weren’t matched, but Marquise Brown’s big-play ability helped (57 catches, 1,095 yards, 7 touchdowns) and he averaged more yards per catch than Westbrook (19.2 to 19.0). The team’s rushing total in 2017 was 3,049 yards. In 2016, with Mixon and Perine leading the way, OU finished with 3,078 (just 29 yards more, albeit with one less game). Jordan Evans’ 98 tackles were offset by Emmanuel Beal (95 stops) and Kenneth Murray (78).

Introduction of four-man front

Oklahoma wants to give multiple looks on defense, but is shifting to a core look with a four-man look on the defensive line. It’s a move to generate pressure on quarterbacks next season. But it won’t be an exclusive design. Said OU coach Bob Stoops: “I think your base defense has to be multiple, you’ve got to be able to play different ways.”

Oklahoma showed a four-man front during the 2017 season, but true to then-coach Bob Stoops’ words, the defense remained multiple. Oklahoma was able to sign several playmakers on the defensive line with their 2018 recruiting class which could make the defense lean that way. Signees in 2018 included defensive ends Ronnie Perkins, Ron Tatum and Jalen Redmond as well as defensive tackles Michael Thompson and Jordan Kelley.

Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley says he’s been more excited for this spring than any other year because of the inclusion of 11 newcomers to the roster, including seven on his side of the football. The early matriculation will help the young players’ transition during summer workouts and especially in fall camp.

Trey Sermon, Marquise Brown and Grant Calcaterra enrolled early and made big impacts for the Oklahoma offense last season. Marcelias Sutton had a limited role with the offense. Jeremiah Hall and Creed Humphrey were redshirts, and Chris Robison didn’t return after the spring semester.

Players to watch

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The senior was tabbed by outgoing Dede Westbrook as the Sooners’ new go-to player at wide receiver. Mead only had 10 catches last season – totaling 150 yards and three touchdowns – and he’s never had more than two receptions in a game. He’ll try to establish himself this spring to set a solid foundation for his last year in Norman.

Mead’s senior season fizzled out. The wide receiver finished with only six catches for 98 yards and no touchdowns in 2017. He only appeared in two of the Sooners’ final six games.

S Kahlil Haughton and Will Sunderland

This will be an important spring for the junior defensive backs. Following the graduation of free safety Ahmad Thomas and strong safety Steven Parker out due to shoulder surgery, the pair will need to make a jump, Bob Stoops said. Haughton will get the first look at strong safety and Sunderland at free safety.

Khalil Haughton appeared in 10 games with four starts. The senior-to-be missed three games late in the regular season with a leg injury. He ended with 29 tackles. Sunderland never played for the Sooners after an off-season arrest. Sunderland has announced that he will transfer to Troy.

The redshirt sophomore has only logged statistics in two games in two seasons after suffering season-ending injuries in his first two years. Anderson has recovered from a neck injury in last fall’s first intrasquad scrimmage. The trainers said if Anderson was needed to play next week he would be available, but he’s going to be limited on contact this spring. He’ll need to help the team replace its top two rushers.

Rodney Anderson went from an unknown to the team’s leading rusher with 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns. He started slow (22 carries for 82 yards in the first six games) before exploding in the second half of the season with a career-best 201-yard game against Georgia in the Rose Bowl.

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