CFN previews the Oklahoma Sooners 2021 football season

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The Oklahoma Sooners are just 73 days away from the start of the 2021 college football season. Last year the Oklahoma football team led by first-year starter Spencer Rattler missed out on the College Football Playoffs for the first time in four seasons. The team was knocked off the fast track to the CFP by early-season losses to Iowa State and Kansas State. The ISU loss was avenged in the Big 12 Championship game but it was a little too late as they would have to settle for a Cotton Bowl clash with the Florida Gators.

In the previous three trips into the CFP, Lincoln Riley and company drop those semifinal games to three separate Southeastern Conference opponents. This year might be the best shot for the Sooners as they have a loaded team on both sides of the ball. Not to mention they have the 2021 Heisman Trophy front-runner leading them into battle.

Our colleagues at College Football News have released their full season preview for the Sooners in 2021. Sooners Wire breaks it all down.

Offense Preview

BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN

What CFN Says...

Here we go. It’s not like the Oklahoma offense wasn’t fun last season – it was No. 1 in the Big 12 averaging close to 500 yards and 43 points per game – but now the parts that were getting up and running should be ready to hum. There were some talent losses, and the depth in some spots takes a hit – helloooooo receiving corps – but seven starters are expected to return to go along with a few big-time parts from the transfer portal – helloooooo Tennessee.

Scoring points has never been a problem for the Oklahoma Sooners football team under the guidance of Lincoln Riley. [listicle id=30338] Led by second-year starter Spencer Rattler, the Sooners offense should be humming this upcoming season. Kennedy Brooks returns his opt out in 2020 due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Add in Tennesee transfer Eric Gray, the team has plenty of talent in the backfield. The skill positions on the outside are just loaded with Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, and tight end Austin Stogner among others. The real question becomes who will be starting on the offensive line come Sept. 4 in New Orleans, Lousiana.

Defense Preview

(Credit: OU Athletics)

CFN Says...

Yeah, this isn’t your older brother’s Oklahoma defense. You remember 2018, right? The Sooners allowed over six yards per play and got ripped up by anyone who could put 11 guys on the field. In came Alex Grinch, and all of a sudden the OU defense was good – and last year it was fabulous. The Sooners made the transformation from a Defense Optional team to No. 3 in the Big 12 overall – everyone had to push to keep up – and among the best in the country at taking the ball away. It was a rock against the run, the best in the Big 12 in sacks, and almost all of the main men are coming back.

Looking at this defense as a whole, the front six is one of the strongest units in the Big 12 Conference. With Isaiah Thomas (pending any suspension over arrest), Perrion Winfrey, and Jalen Redmond, the defensive line should be getting plenty of disruption for the linebacker group. The defense has rush linebacker Nik Bonitto, David Ugwoegbu, and Brian Asamoah. Not to mention former five-star prospect Caleb Kelly and DaShaun White. Marcus Stripling moves to rush linebacker to back up Bonitto, who could be a candidate for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. The backend is where all the questions lie with the turnover at the position. The safety tandem of Dellarin Turner-Yell and Pat Fields return to hold down the middle of the secondary. No more Tre Brown, Tre Norwood, or Brenden Hadley-Riles in 2021. Jaden Davis, D.J. Graham, Woodi Washington, and freshman Billy Bowman looking to get into the mix for coach Roy Manning at cornerback.

Best Offensive Player

(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

CFN Says...

QB Spencer Rattler, Soph. Rattler was special by almost any reasonable and normal standards. He hit 68% of his passes for over 3,000 yards, averaged close to ten yards per throw, cranked out 28 touchdown passes with seven picks – he settled down with those after the three interception day against Kansas State – and ran for six scores.

The easy answer is going to be the quarterback every single time. Spencer Rattler is definitely worth the price of admission when it comes to the top offensive players in the country. Other names to consider will be Marvin Mims, Eric Gray, and Jadon Haselwood. Don't forget about Kennedy Brooks and Theo Wease. Freshman wide receiver Mario Williams will be the dark horse to watch.

Best Defensive Player

(John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

CFN Says...

LB Nik Bonitto, Jr. A good recruit with the upside to be a terrific pass rusher, he started to show what he could do as a redshirt freshman as an all-around playmaking outside linebacker. Last year, he showed what he could do as a devastating game-wrecker in the backfield with eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, ten quarterback hurries and 32 tackles.

Nik Bonitto is viewed as one of the most feared defenders in all of college football. He was disruptive as a pass rusher and one should expect more of the same in 2021. Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey are the other two defensive linemen to pay attention to. The latter being a fringe top-15 draft pick in 2022. The duo of Brian Asamoah and David Ugwoegbu will also get some looks as top defensive players for Grinch.

Top Incoming Transfer

(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

CFN Says...

OT Wanya Morris, Jr. It’s either this former Tennessee Volunteer, or it’s the guy he blocked for in Knoxville, RB Eric Gray, Morris, though, is the bigger need get – he’s a 6-5, 313-pound NFL-caliber tackle who should let the coaching staff play around with the line. Senior Erik Swenson grew into a technician of a left tackle over the last two years, but he also worked just fine on the right side. He’s a great pass protector, and now the arrival of Morris allows him to work wherever needed.

Wanya Morris is a perfect pick for the top incoming transfer, however, Eric Gray's playmaking ability makes him the pick for me here. He joins a backfield that also has Kennedy Brooks but Riley has shown that he will use multiple backs to make his offense more dynamic.

Oklahoma Sooners Win Total

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

SET THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS REGULAR SEASON WIN TOTAL AT … 11

CFN Says...

This was when the Sooners would have it all together, or maybe the offense would be too much to overcome, and maybe it was Riley’s time, and … Eventually all of that will be true. Riley keeps getting his team close, and eventually that one break will happen. That might be now with what should be the best team yet in his fabulous run. The schedule can’t be a problem for a team this good.

Last season the Sooners won nine games, which could have easily been 11 had they played the full complement of games. Looking at the 2021 schedule, there is no reason to believe that OU can't start out 3-0 before opening Big 12 play against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

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