It has been four years since the Oklahoma Sooners visited Morgantown and the 2018 game is what led directly to the new coaching staff that we have in place in Morgantown now. Neal Brown has taken his team to Norman twice, but due to a COVID outbreak, the Mountaineers have never hosted the Sooners in Morgantown during Brown’s tenure. This will be his first, and it may be his last, with the Sooners opting to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC. The timeline hasn’t been finalized, but it could be as soon as next year.
The Sooners are on their third head coach since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12, with Brent Venables taking over for Lincoln Riley, who left for USC following the 2021 season. Venables has been a hot coaching commodity for years, leading the turnaround at Clemson as the Tigers defensive coordinator for the past decade.
Venables has a tall task ahead of him, taking over the program that has defined the Big 12 for the past ten years, and really since the inception of the conference, and must maintain the absolute juggernaut that is the Crimson and Cream Machine. Since joining the Big 12 in 1996 (before it was previously the Big 8), the Sooners have won 258 games in the past 26 years, good for just under 10 wins a year for two-and-a-half-decades. The last time the Sooners had a losing season was 1998 when they went 5-6. They have won 7 games or more since 1999 and 8 or more games since 2000. Since 2000, they have never had more than one year where they won fewer than 10 games.
For a program like Oklahoma, losing two five-star quarterbacks (Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler) isn’t nearly as big a question mark as it would be for other teams. Oklahoma will replace those two with UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel, who wasn’t a five-star player out of high school, but has been a prolific quarterback for the Black Knights. Gabriel has thrown for 8,000 yards and 70 touchdowns in a bit more than two years at UCF. The Sooners will have four-star Nick Evers waiting in the wings.
Kennedy Brooks is gone after putting up a 1,200 yard rushing season and 13 touchdowns, so the Sooners will be turning to senior Eric Gray. Gray offers a back who has been more involved in the passing game than Brooks was and should shine in new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s system. Lebby spent the past two seasons at Ole Miss working with Lane Kiffin.
Despite losing an NFL draft pick (Mike Woods, 6th round to Cleveland) and a Southern Cal transfer (Mario Williams), the Sooners receiver group should be fine in 2022 - the Sooners return their leading receiver Marvin Mims, who caught 32 passes for 700 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Theo Wease returns after missing last season due to a foot injury; in 2020, Wease caught 37 passes for 530 yards and four touchdowns.
The offensive line wasn’t the road grading, dominant unit that Oklahoma wants but they do return three starters. albeit from a unit that surrendered 33 sacks a year ago. The group should be bolstered by Cal transfer McKade Mettauer, a second-team All-Pac-12 pick a year ago by PFF, although depth is slim. Good news for the Sooners is that offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh stayed in Norman. Bedenbaugh helped coach the 2018 team to the Joe Moore Award - given to the best line in the nation.
Venables brought successful veteran coach and new defensive coordinator Ted Roof with him from Clemson and the two look to have they are calling a “complex defense”. Up front, though, the Sooners have to replace three players who were selected in the NFL Draft. Only junior DT Jalen Redmond returns. Venables added Hawai’i DE Jonah La’ulu and Tulane NG Jeffery Johnson, both of whom are experienced.
The Sooners might have lost leading tackler Brian Asamoah and star pass rusher Nik Bonitto, but DaShaun White is back on the weakside, Danny Statesman will collect the tackles in the middle, and hybrid Marcus Stripling will work in a variety of ways on the outside. New defensive coordinator Ted Roof brought his son with him from Appalachian State.
Trey Morrison a steady four-year producer at North Carolina will be stepping in as a third safety and CJ Coldon, a cornerback from Wyoming, finished last year with a 67-tackle season and ten broken up passes.
2021 Full Game and Highlights
Prediction that will be right: The Morgantown crowd will be rowdy and ready to rumble against what may be their last chance against the Sooners.
Prediction that will be wrong: JT Daniels cements his legacy as a Mountaineer in this game.