Oklahoma had a solid 2018 campaign, going 12-2 and reaching the College Football Playoff for the third time in four years.
But the Sooners have some work to do — on and off the practice field — this offseason is they want to win a fifth straight Big 12 Championship.
One big uncertainty has already been decided: OU coach Lincoln Riley has agreed to a contract extension and raise, the university announced Tuesday afternoon. Terms will be announced later this month at Oklahoma’s board of regents meeting.
With that out of the way, here are five burning questions heading into OU’s offseason:
Who will be Oklahoma’s next defensive coordinator?
Oklahoma went through the early signing period without a long-term answer at defensive coordinator. Alabama Co-DC Pete Golding is thought to be the leading candidate, but the Crimson Tide’s season won’t be over until Jan. 7. There’s no real urgency to make a hire before then, as the recruiting dead period extends through Jan. 10. Whether it’s Golding, Ohio State’s Alex Grinch or a mystery candidate, the coach Riley hires will play a huge factor in shaping Oklahoma’s offseason.
Are Oklahoma’s issues scheme, talent, or both?
This is the bigger question for the Sooners. Oklahoma has struggled on defense, but is it due to talent or scheme? Or both? If it’s scheme, a new defensive coordinator could have success as early as next season, or 2020 at the latest. If it’s talent, this could be a much longer rebuild.
Early indications are that scheme is the problem. For one, OU is close to signing its third straight top 10 recruiting class. For another, alignments like this have little to do with the players on the field:
Will OU add a transfer quarterback?
With Kyler Murray leaving school, the Sooners will likely be playing an inexperienced quarterback next season. The options are likely to be junior Austin Kendall and redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai. Oklahoma will also get 5-star true freshman Spencer Rattler on campus in the summer, and he could compete for playing time.
But there are also rumors swirling around Oklahoma adding a transfer quarterback like former 5-star Justin Fields from Georgia or longtime Alabama favorite Jalen Hurts. If Fields comes to Norman, expect him to to win the starting job without much of a competition.
Who will head to the NFL?
Aside from Kyler Murray, Oklahoma has a number of potential underclassmen who could head to the NFL this offseason. The most likely candidates: Receiver Marquise Brown and offensive linemen Cody Ford and Bobby Evans. Outside of that trio, it’s tough to see anyone declaring early.
Running back Rodney Anderson declared for the draft earlier this season after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Update: Ford has declared for the 2019 NFL Draft.
What will Oklahoma’s offensive line look like?
If Ford and Evans do go to the NFL, the Sooners will have to replace four starters from what was arguably the best offensive line in the country. Seniors Dru Samia and Ben Powers are also likely to be draft picks, and would make freshman center Creed Humphrey the only returning starter.
At tackle, there are several players who could compete for both starting roles. Adrian Ealy, Brey Walker, Darrell Simpson and David Swaby are the most likely options.
At guard, it’s a little thinner. Marquis Hayes and Tyrese Robinson seem to be the early favorites to land starting jobs.
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