Oklahoma coach Brent Venables shouts during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Oklahoma won 69-45.

4 storylines to track for Oklahoma this spring

It’s been a tumultuous and insightful few months for college football since the College Football Playoff wrapped up in January. The good news for Oklahoma fans? We can put aside the transfer portal talk for now, spring football is finally here! The Sooners will begin practices on March 11 and will play their 2024 Spring Game on April 20.

There are so many storylines to keep track of for OU right now. This will be the school’s first season in the SEC. They’re likely to start a sophomore quarterback. (A player most of the fan base is convinced can be another Heisman trophy winner.) There is also plenty of turnover on the offensive line and coaching staff. Here are some of Oklahoma’s most important plots and questions to follow this spring.

4 storylines to track for Oklahoma this spring

The Jackson Arnold Experience

Jackson Arnold’s time is finally here and Oklahoma fans probably haven’t been this excited to watch a quarterback get his first real taste of game action for a long time. Arnold started the Alamo Bowl and threw for 361 yards but also forced the ball to receivers, resulting in three interceptions. It’s clear that he has the talent to be a bona fide star in college football, he just needs experience and to be put in a position to succeed by his coaches. He’ll have a new play caller in Seth Littrell this season, but it seems like the two of them already have a good relationship, which should only help Arnold’s development.

One thing I’m very interested to see is which pass catcher will emerge as Arnold’s favorite in spring ball. The Sooners are very deep at receiver: Freshman All-American Nic Anderson, Andrel Anthony, Jalil Farooq and transfer Deion Burks among others. But Arnold obviously didn’t get to play with them much last season, and with Drake Stoops gone, Oklahoma and Arnold will need a skill position player to step up and be a go-to guy.

It’s no secret that Oklahoma fans have sky-high expectations of Arnold. While they might not expect him to be a Heisman candidate right away, they will be looking for signs of major improvement in his first year as a starter. In a lot of ways, Arnold’s success will dictate just how competitive the Sooners can be in their first year in the SEC.

Someone’s gotta block for Jackson Arnold!

Jackson Arnold’s life will be a lot easier if OU can put a strong offensive line in front of him this upcoming season. The Sooners have to replace essentially every starter from last year’s line. Two players who started a game last year, Troy Everett and Jacob Sexton, are the presumed starters at center and left tackle respectively, leaving the other three spots to hopefully be sorted out by the end of the spring.

Transfers Febechi Nwaiwu (left guard), Spencer Brown (right tackle), Michael Tarquin (tackle or guard), and Geirean Hatchett (right guard)are all very much in the race to be starters. There could also be room for underclassmen or incoming freshmen to earn some time on the line, but the experienced transfers are certainly the favorites right now.

It’s also worth noting that Oklahoma could still take new transfers when the portal opens again in mid-April. For now, it’s going to be very interesting how offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh puts the line back together and hopefully these early practices will solidify how the Sooners feel about the offensive line.

Just how dominant can the defense be?

Oklahoma has been an offensive powerhouse for a long time, but the College Football Playoff era also exposed their defenses in some embarrassing ways. But the next version of Oklahoma’s team might just be led by its defense. Last season was a drastic improvement from 2022-2023’s defense in every way, and OU’s defense returns a lot of starters for next season.

The returns of Danny Stutsman and All-American Billy Bowman alone are enough to make this unit fearsome. There’s no reason why they can’t both be in the conversation for All-American nomination and individual awards next season. But this Sooners’ defense won’t just be a two pony show.

Ethan Downs can be a force on the defensive line, Kip Lewis and Jaren Kanak will be strong forces in the middle of the field alongside Stutsman. Peyton Bowen, Gentry Williams, Woodi Washington and Robert Spears-Jennings make up what should be a strong secondary. Oklahoma’s defense will also be adding one the nation’s highest ranked defensive linemen in David Stone, who will likely be part of a rotation as a freshman.

This unit will also be coached by Zac Alley, who was previously a defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State and worked with Brent Venables at Clemson. Alley’s Jacksonville State defense was 33rd in the country in scoring defense last year, giving up 21.1 points per game, and was ninth in turnovers forced with 25. Alley and the defense have a real shot to be the heart and soul of the Sooners next season.

Sooners face a new challenge in the SEC

Oklahoma’s long-awaited move to the SEC has finally arrived, and with it comes a very difficult schedule. The Sooners will have conference home games against Tennessee Volunteers, South Carolina Gamecocks and Alabama Crimson Tide. Oklahoma’s conference road contests will be versus Auburn Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels, Missouri Tigers and LSU Tigers. Of course, they’ll also play the Red River Rivalry (which is an SEC game now) on October 12. Their out-of-conference matchups are against the Temple Owls, Houston Cougars, Tulane Green Wave and Maine Black Bears. That schedule is going to be anything but a cakewalk for the Sooners.

Tennessee, Auburn, and South Carolina should all be winnable games, but the other SEC games might occur with OU as an underdog in all of them. With Oklahoma’s strong defense and Jackson Arnold’s talent and ceiling, the Sooners might catch some teams by surprise next season, and the road to the College Football Playoff starts this spring.


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