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College Sports: Oklahoma season preview: Will former Allen QB Kyler Murray break out for the Sooners?

The Oklahoma Sooners won the Big 12 championship last year and came within a game of making the National Championship game. Can the Sooners remain contenders even after losing Heisman winner Baker Mayfield? SportsDay’s Chuck Carlton breaks down Oklahoma’s upcoming season.

Last season: 12-2 (8-1 for first in the Big 12)

Coach: Lincoln Riley (12-2 in one season at Oklahoma)

Star watch

Rodney Anderson, RB: With Baker Mayfield getting most of the national attention, Anderson’s superlative 2017 season nearly got overlooked. That’s unlikely to happen this season, when he’s expected to shoulder an even bigger role with Mayfield’s departure. Last season, Anderson rushed for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns, which is only part of the story. Once he cemented the No. 1 running back spot, his production increased. In the final eight games, he averaged 134.9 yards rushing per game with 11 touchdowns. He was also dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield, with five receiving touchdowns.

Marquise Brown, WR: People had heard how fast Brown was even before his first game at Oklahoma. Then the junior college transfer was even quicker than advertised, bringing SEC speed to the Big 12. He’s not big (168 pounds), but he doesn’t have to be. He torched Oklahoma State for nine catches and 256 yards. Brown finished with 57 catches and seven touchdowns. His 19.2 yards per catch ranked 18th in the FBS. With a year in the system, he should be even more dangerous.

Bobby Evans, LT: A redshirt junior, the former Allen standout has started 26 consecutive games in his college career and will anchor the offensive line as he moves from right tackle to the left side. At 6-5 and 301 pounds, Evans isn’t as big as last year’s All-American, Orlando Brown, but may move better.

Breakout candidates

Kyler Murray, QB: There may be more scrutinized players this season in college football — but not many. No one may be as integral to Oklahoma’s success as the one-time Allen standout and Oakland A’s first-round draft pick. Murray brings big-time athletic ability to the position as well as some unanswered questions from his freshman season at Texas A&M. Is he big enough and accurate enough to maximize the weapons in the OU passing game? Can he hold up for a full season? What about the baseball distractions?

Grant Calcaterra, TE: Despite having just 10 receptions for 162 yards last season as a freshman, Calcaterra was the preseason All-Big 12 pick at tight end — which tells you something about his potential as the replacement for Mackey Award winner Mark Andrews. He’s one of a set of triplets, with a sister playing soccer at Kansas State.

Brendan Radley-Hiles, DB: A top freshman recruit, Radley-Hiles is going to make an impact somewhere in the secondary. The best guess is at nickel, but it also might be safety. The Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, he’s earning rave reviews from defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “He’s mature beyond his years,” Stoops said. “It ain’t going to scare him none. He’s foaming at the bit to get out there and compete and play at a high level.”

Projected results

Date

Opponent

W/L

Sept. 1

Florida Atlantic

W

Sept. 8

UCLA

W

Sept. 15

at Iowa State

W

Sept. 22

Army

W

Sept. 29

Baylor

W

Oct. 6

vs. Texas

W

Oct. 20

at TCU

L

Oct. 27

Kansas State

W

Nov. 3

at Texas Tech

W

Nov. 10

Oklahoma State

W

Nov. 17

Kansas

W

Nov. 23

at West Virginia

L

Summing it up

Oklahoma’s offense will no doubt evolve if Kyler Murray wins the quarterback job as expected. The defense, maligned after the Rose Bowl loss to Georgia, must get back to Oklahoma standards. A one-loss regular season means playoff contention. Two losses? Probably not.

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