One of the things I decided to do, when possible, with this summer preview series was ask 5 questions (no more, no less) of writers/bloggers/talkers who cover the teams on the Cougars' 2019 schedule.
If you haven't done so already, please read our Oklahoma preview where we take an in-depth look at the Sooners and how they match up with the Coogs.
So, who better to start with than someone who covers the Coogs' week 1 opponent: the Oklahoma Sooners. We talked with Jack Shields the EIC/site manager of Crimson and Cream Machine with 5 good questions about the Sooners:
Q: What will the Sooner offense look like with Jalen Hurts at the controls? Lincoln Riley is an Air Raid guy through and through, dare I say it will we see a ‘run-first’ offense?
JS: It's worth nothing that Oklahoma's run-pass ratio hasn't been particularly "Air Raid"-y over the past few years. Part of that has been an evolution that was brought about by the personnel available to him. Having a bad-ass offensive line and a great stable of running backs will do that to you.
There will undoubtedly be some new wrinkles. For instance, Jalen Hurts is much better suited for designed runs between the tackles than was the case for Mayfield and Murray, so you might see a bit of that. Having said that, his command of the offense was readily apparent during Oklahoma's Spring Game, which was impressive when considering the fact that he had only been on campus for a few months. Does he have the arm talent of his predecessors? Not quite, but word is that his teammates have been impressed (and perhaps surprised) by his arm strength. He has a history of struggling with deep-ball accuracy, so perhaps things will be tweaked a bit if that continues to be a concern. All in all, this will still be a Lincoln Riley offense.
Q: Which position group do you have the most confidence in going into fall practice and why? Least confidence?
JS: Oklahoma's receivers are going to be quite fun to watch in 2019. You already have CeeDee Lamb as well has Y-receivers (sort of like tight ends) in Grant Calcaterra and Lee Morris, but you also have THREE five-star freshmen in Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges. You also have emerging options such as Charleston Rambo, who had a great performance against Alabama in the Orange Bowl. To quote Cosmo Kramer - "Giddy up!".
The biggest concern is the safety position, which was probably the weakest area of the defense in 2018 (which is saying an awful lot). I legitimately have no idea who will start at those positions in 2019, as it's essentially an open audition at this point.
Q: What does CeeDee Lamb still have to work on in what’ll presumably be his final season playing college football next year?
JS: Frankly, I don't know how to answer that. His hands are phenomenal. He's an exceptional route runner. He's a superb downfield blocker. He's great at high-pointing the ball. He's quite possibly the most complete receiver this program has ever seen. He did have one costly mistake against Texas Tech when he lost his cool and drew two personal foul penalties after a reception, effectively killing the drive. However, that was an out-of-character moment for him, so I wouldn't categorize it as a weakness.
Q: Turning around a struggling defense can be a lengthy process so what’s a fair expectation for new DC Alex Grinch in year one?
JS: Any improvement will be a welcome sight. He seems to be big on changing the culture of the defense, as he's apparently been stressing the hell out of tackling. If fans see fewer missed tackles and fewer mental gaffes in coverage, that'll be a nice start. I don't think anyone is expecting him to fix this overnight.
Q: Who will be the surprise player on this team and why?
JS: I'll pick two players -- both along the defensive line. I'll start with redshirt senior Neville Gallimore, who was a highly-touted recruit out of Canada. He's a physical freak who has been a mainstay along the defense line during his time in Norman, but he's never quite been the much-needed breakout performer for a number of reasons. Alex Grinch wants his defensive line to get around blockers and attack the backfield (as opposed to eating up blocks), so he prefers for his linemen to be a bit slimmer and demonstrate a bit more quickness. As a result of this, Gallimore has supposedly dropped a lot of weight this offseason and is in the 290 range. I think this change could be beneficial for him.
The other name is JUCO transfer DE LaRon Stokes. He was a virtual unknown out of high school as a product of home schooling, but he was incredibly impressive during his time at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO). He's physically ready for big-time college football and has supposedly turned some heads this offseason.
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