For the 2nd time in the last few months we're talking to Jack Shields: the editor-in-chief and site manager for Oklahoma site Crimson & Cream Machine.
Q: Now that we have the formality of Jalen Hurts being named the starter at QB out of the way, what are the most interesting position group battles going on with this Sooner team?
Jack Shields: There are plenty of ongoing battles on the defensive side of the ball, one of which is the WILL linebacker position. Former blue-chip LB DaShaun White had been the presumed starter at the position throughout the off season, but Ryan Jones has been making a bit of noise as of late and is listed as an OR on the depth chart. The same goes for Brendan Radley-Hiles' nickel spot, as he's getting a real push from Chanse Sylvie. There's an OR at the defensive tackle position involving Jalen Redmond and LaRon Stokes, but it's pretty standard to see plenty of rotation in that position group.
Offensively, it will be interesting to see how they divide up the snaps between the wide receivers not named CeeDee Lamb. Charleston Rambo came along late last season and is probably the player most likely to take the top off of a defense. However, the three five-star freshmen -- Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges -- are all going to be tough to keep off the field. At the slot position, Nick Basquine, Mykel Jones and Drake Stoops could all get playing time, but you could also see one of the aforementioned outside receivers lined up inside.
Q: On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), how worried are Sooner fans about this defense going into the season?
JS: That's a tough question to answer. Even if the defense is bad, it's still likely better than what we saw in 2017 and 2018, which could help put a team like OU over the top. Most think we'll see an improved unit, but I'll go with 10 anyway because OU fans are emotionally scarred by past defensive performances.
Q: The Sooner offensive line returns exactly 1 guy with significant starting experience: Creed Humphrey. How much of a learning curve do you expect from this group and who are the newcomers most likely to make an impact?
JS: There will definitely be a substantial learning curve in the beginning, and I could definitely see them struggling a bit against UCLA's front seven in two weeks. However, this in an incredibly talented group that is also being coached by the best in the business -- Bill Bedenbaugh. There's more upside in this group than was the case with last year's Joe Moore Award-winning line, which is scary. It's all a matter of whether or not they can gel by the time OU-Texas rolls around.
Q: What are your initials thoughts or impressions of this Houston Cougar team and how they match up with the Sooners?
JS: My first thought is that D'Eriq King belongs in the conversation with Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa. I'm 100% certain that he's going to be a massive problem for OU's defense (or any defense he faces, for that matter). OU fans are also well aware of how effective a Dana Holgorsen offense can be, and this might end up being the best one he's ever had at his disposal.
Defensively, it's not exactly the unit we saw in 2016, and I think OU's young offensive line should be okay against Houston's front on Sunday. I'd expect OU to be able to control the ball and wear UH down if Lincoln Riley chooses to do so down the stretch.
Q: I’m going to take one of our all-time favorite guest questions (cribbed from JP of Fear the Wave Blog) and put a twist on it. Let’s say hypothetically Houston has gone into Norman and defeated the Sooners to open the season. What has to happen for this to be the case and what are the ‘narratives’ coming out of this game?
JS: If the Sooners turn it over a few times and get behind early, they will likely have a tough time catching up with UH's offense. In that scenario, the narrative would likely be that the Oklahoma offense once again has no margin for error and that the Sooners will not be a legitimate national championship contender until that changes (which would be accurate).
Fortunately, Jalen Hurts isn't exactly a turnover machine, so I'm confident in OU's chances of pulling out a W.
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