Saturday will mark the start of year two for Jeff Lebby as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator. While the Sooners posted some solid numbers last year, it always felt like they could’ve done more. That sentiment is something players and coaches alike have echoed throughout the offseason. Situational football was emphasized, along with consistency.
However, some significant pieces from last year’s team are no longer in Norman.
OU’s rushing attack ranked No. 10 in the country, averaging 219.4 yards per game. The offensive line responsible for that lost three starters in Anton Harrison, Wanya Morris, and Chris Murray. Harrison was a first-rounder to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Morris was a third-rounder to the Kansas City Chiefs. Starting running back Eric Gray went off and posted the ninth-best season on the ground in program history last year. He’s with the New York Giants.
Brayden Willis and explosive star receiver Marvin Mims will be missed in the passing game. Willis is with the San Francisco 49ers, and Mims was a third-round pick by the Denver Broncos. The two combined for 1,597 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s an insane amount of production lost and presents a massive hole in the passing game.
The challenge in the offseason for Lebby was finding replacements for the names lost. Additionally, he and the offensive staff had to help develop the guys coming back this offseason. The time to prove it starts on Saturday.
With that in mind, here’s our look at three offensive players to watch for the season opener against Arkansas State.
Up Next: An Ascending Offensive Linemen
Savion Byrd, Left Guard
Savion Byrd is new to the offensive line mix.
If Oklahoma is to maintain its dominant rushing attack, it starts with the offensive line, and Byrd will need to prove that the beat still goes on despite the turnover upfront.
He may not be perfect in his first start of the season. However, it will be interesting to see how he performs.
Up Next: A Breakout Transfer
Andrel Anthony, Wide Receiver
Marvin Mims’ impact over his three years in Norman will probably go under the radar historically. Still, he was the number one receiver for this team as a true freshman. He is gone after leading the team in receiving three years in a row.
Oklahoma needs to replace that production to realize its goals this season.
It would be entirely irresponsible to suggest Anthony will put up the numbers Mims did last year, but he earned an opportunity to start alongside Drake Stoops and Jalil Farooq on Saturday. We are anxious to see what he brings to the field.
He has been strong throughout camp and has shown himself to be a dynamic playmaker. Brent Venables believes Anthony will make a lot of plays for the Sooners this fall, so Oklahoma is ready to give him a chance.
Up Next: Could this Five-Star see the field?
Jackson Arnold, Quarterback
We want to see freshman Jackson Arnold on Saturday.
If he’s in there, that means Dillon Gabriel and the rest of the starters held down the fort and came out guns blazing enough to give the second-team guys some run.
For Oklahoma’s sake, they need Arnold to get reps because the former five-star, Gatorade National Player of the Year, is Oklahoma’s QB2. Ultimately, he’s their future as they head to the SEC next year.
It’s hard to think that far ahead, but what if something unfortunate happens to Gabriel? We saw Oklahoma’s QB situation when Gabriel suffered a concussion last year. That can never happen again, and Arnold should get the opportunity to get his feet wet in real game action.
They aren’t going to red shirt him, so give him as many snaps as possible if the opportunity presents itself.