No. 1 OU searches for offense

Sunday, August 24, 2003

NORMAN, Okla. -- When Oklahoma quarterback Jason White comes to the line of scrimmage in practice, he sees one of the nation's stingiest defenses looking back at him.

What the defense sees is anyone's guess.

"Going against a defense that's pretty darn good every single day," OU coach Bob Stoops said, "it's pretty hard to assess the offense's progress."

There hasn't been a preseason No. 1 team with as undistinguished a group of playmakers since 1985, when Barry Switzer started off the year hoping a defense led by Brian Bosworth would give his freshman quarterback a chance to learn on the job.

By the end of that season, Jamelle Holieway had emerged as an all-Big Eight quarterback and the Sooners were national champions.

The Sooners defense is brimming with talent and experience at all 11 positions, a group featuring four of the 36 players on the preseason watch list for top defensive player in the nation.

The offense, however, has others wondering whether Oklahoma is worthy of being the top-ranked team in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll.

"If this had been broadcast anywhere maybe we would drop in the polls," Stoops said following a recent scrimmage in which the offense stalled. "We need to get a lot better."

The Sooners enter this season relatively inexperienced at the skill positions, needing to replace starting quarterback Nate Hybl, 1,800-yard rusher Quentin Griffin and the top four receivers from last season.

But Stoops and Co. have developed a knack for putting points on the board regardless of the talent on board. With a let-it-fly offensive scheme, Stoops made a Heisman Trophy finalist out of weak-armed quarterback Josh Heupel in the Sooners' national championship season of 2000.

As time has passed, Stoops has sought to balance the offense a bit.

Now, Stoops must coax offense out of the methodical White and a stable of unproven running backs and receivers that are touted as being more talented than those that preceded them.

"Our defense is going to do their part," sophomore running back Kejuan Jones said. "On offense, as a unit, we need to click on and have everyone step up."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: