We continue our annual Triplets of the Big 12 series, looking at every conference school’s expected standouts at quarterback, running back and receiver.
Here, we’re talking Oklahoma.
Quarterback: Jalen Hurts
FYI: 6-2, 219-pound senior and Alabama transfer, from Channelview; went 26-2 as a starter at Alabama, leading the Crimson Tide to the 2016 national championship as a freshman. Has already started in four College Football Playoff games. He’s Alabama’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and is second in school history for career rushing yards by a quarterback.
Last year: Played in 13 games, as a backup to Tua Tagovailoa — 51 of 70 for 765 yards, 8 TDs and 2 INTs. Rallied ‘Bama past Georgia in the SEC championship game when Tagovailoa was injured in the fourth quarter. (Career: 445-707-5,626, 48/12)
Lincoln Riley insists there still is an August quarterback competition.
No one believes him.
For the third straight season, count on the Sooners using a transfer as their starting quarterback. It’s a tried and true plan. Baker Mayfield transferred, then won the Heisman in 2017 and became the No. 1 pick of the draft. Kyler Murray transferred, ditto on the Heisman, ditto on the NFL first pick.
An obvious question is whether Jalen Hurts, the transfer from Alabama, will enjoy the same individual success as his immediate predecessors.
The biggest question should be whether Hurts can accomplish what the other two didn’t – bring a national title to Norman. Coincidentally, the last time OU won the national championship was in 2000, when Josh Heupel, a transfer, helped the Sooners knock off Florida State.
Hurts has played in the last three national title games. He lost his starting job in the CFP finals his sophomore season, when Nick Saban benched him in favor of Tua Tagovailoa. The Crimson Tide won, but Hurts was on the bench. Hurts stayed with Bama as a junior and led the Crimson Tide to a come back over Georgia in the SEC title game. But Clemson beat Bama for the national title.
Riley develops quarterbacks. Hurts already is an adept runner, so he can handle the rushing part of an RPO. It’ll be whether he can grow significantly as a passer and adapt to a more finesse Big 12 offense.
Running back: Trey Sermon
FYI: 6-0, 221-pound junior from Marietta, Ga.;
Last year: Played in all 14 games, including a 206-yard, three-touchdown day against Texas in October — 164 carries for 947 yards and 13 TDs. (Career: 28 games, 15 starts; 285-1,691-18).
The Sooners are dripping in quality backs. Ordinarily, we’d pick the best tailback to feature. Kennedy Brooks, statistically, is OU’s top back. He gained 1,056 yards as a freshman in 2018 and had massive performances in three straight games against Oklahoma State (165), Kansas (171) and West Virginia (182).
But Brooks was suspended for part of the summer after his former girlfriend accused him of domestic abuse. The school cleared him in a Title IX investigation, but Brooks’ girlfriend posted her accusations on social media right when OU was starting preseason training camp.
GIven Brooks’ off-field problems, it’s likely Riley may choose to go with Sermon, the junior who started 12 games last season. Sermon gained 947 yards and scored 13 touchdowns last fall.
OU, in order to continue to feature one of the top running attacks in the country, will need to retool its offensive line. The Sooners had four starting linemen drafted in April.
Wide receiver: CeeDee Lamb
FYI: 6-2, 191-pound junior from Richmond, Texas; broke OU’s freshman receiving record in 2017 and in 2018 paired with Marquise Brown to become the first pair of Sooners receivers with 1,000-yard seasons.
Last year: Started 13 games — 65 catches for 1,158 yards and 11 TDs and enjoyed two nice games against Texas, with six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl in October and then setting a career high with 167 yards on six catches and another TD in the Big 12 championship game. (Career: 111-1965-18 in 28 games)
Oklahoma lost speedy Marquise Brown to the draft. The guy known as “Hollywood” was a first-round pick.
But the Sooners can absorb the loss of Brown. That’s because they have Lamb and a pair of five-star signees in Jaden Haselwood and Theo Wease.
Lamb, a junior who has started since his freshman season, caught 65 passes for 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018. Statistically, his numbers are the second best among returning Big 12 receivers.
Our Big 12 triplets
Coming at noon: Oklahoma State