Takeaways from Athlon Sports’ season preview for Oklahoma Sooners

The Oklahoma Sooners are still almost three months from beginning their first season in the SEC. Year 3 under head coach Brent Venables will be a crucial one, as OU tries to build upon a 10-3 record in 2023.

With the dog days of summer and the college football calendar upon us, Athlon Sports is doing season previews for multiple teams, including the Sooners.

In its Oklahoma Sooners preview, Athlon notes the Sooners haven’t won a conference title since 2020 after previously owning the Big 12. They also note OU hasn’t produced a first-team All-American since 2019.

But it wasn’t all criticism. The reemergence of defense in Norman and the talented wide receiver unit were cited as reasons for optimism. Jackson Arnold’s obvious talent is a big plus as well.

In fact, according to the article, “Oklahoma’s big-picture transition — leaving the relative comfort of the Big 12 for the snake pit of the SEC — revolves around a more micro transition: Jackson Arnold’s growth at quarterback.”

Arnold holds the present and future of the program squarely on his shoulders. If he grows and becomes the star OU fans believe he could be, the Sooners could be poised for a great deal of success. If he isn’t developed properly, it could set Oklahoma back for years.

Athlon Sports also highlighted the retooled offensive line, falling in line with just about everyone else predicting 2024 for Oklahoma. With the pieces at the skill positions on offense, led by the talented wide receiver corps and running back Gavin Sawchuk, the offensive line will be a hinge point for the offense and the team overall.

While Athlon Sports had concerns about the offense, it was very complimentary of the defense. According to the article: “Eleven of the top 13 tacklers return, led by two first-team All-Big 12 performers in linebacker Danny Stutsman and safety Billy Bowman. Stutsman led the unit with 104 tackles, while Bowman’s six interceptions tied him for third nationally.”

Sooner fans have been fooled by heightened expectations for defenses quite a few times over the years, but OU might actually have the talent and coaching to make a return to high-level defense this year. Besides Stutsman and Bowman, Damonic Williams, Woodi Washington, Peyton Bowen and Ethan Downs will be players to watch out for on that side of the ball.

Overall, a bit of a mixed bag from Athlon Sports in its season preview, but Oklahoma was ranked No. 16 nationally in the article. Only time will tell if the national media is undervaluing Venables and the DNA of the program, or if OU fans are a bit too glass-half-full entering football’s most unforgiving conference.

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire