Oklahoma Football Brings New Look in Matchup with UTEP
To say that the Oklahoma Sooners will have a new look when they take the field on Saturday against the UTEP Miners is the understatement of the year. In fact, according to a story in The Athletic, OU lost 68-percent of their starts on offense and 60-percent on defense. Their top four quarterbacks, top four receivers, and many of their defensive playmakers from 2021 are all gone.
The Sooners have a new head coach in Brent Venables, a new starting quarterback in Dillon Gabriel, and new starters at most positions on both sides of the ball. Gabriel transferred to Norman from Central Florida, where he starred for three seasons. Jeff Lebby, who coached Gabriel at UCF is now the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at OU. They believe that the redshirt junior's veteran leadership will make a smooth transition for them at the quarterback position.
Eric Gray transferred to Oklahoma from Tennessee, where he spent the last few seasons as the Vols top backup. Marcus Major is a bigger, more powerful back who will have a chance to test himself against the Miners defense. Since North Texas ran the ball with little difficulty against UTEP last week, it will be interesting to see if Bradley Dale Peveto can make adjustments and slow down OU's talented backfield.
At receiver, Theo Wease is returning from an injury that cost him most of last season and Marvin Mims returns in the slot position. The junior hauled in 32 receptions for 705 yards and five scores and Mims will be a focus for the Miners defensive backs. Talented freshmen like Jayden Gibson and Nic Anderson will most likely see action on Saturday night. Missouri transfer J.J. Hester and ASU transfer LV Bunkley Shelton will add to the depth of the unit, which also includes returnees like Jalil Farooq and Drake Stoops (the son of legendary coach Bob Stoops).
If there is one thing that Brent Venables is guaranteed to bring to the table as head coach of the Sooners it is a defensive unit that will be fun to watch. He is innovative and also one of the more consistent defensive coaches in college football, from his days working with Bob Stoops as his defensive coordinator. Interestingly enough, Venables played and coached at Kansas State in the 1990s while UTEP head coach Dana Dimel was also on the staff as an assistant coach.
Senior linebacker DeShaun White is the veteran of the group, but the rest of the OU defense features a good mix of both young talented players and older vets who are now getting their first shot at the spotlight. Defensive end Jonah Laulu comes to Norman from Hawaii, starting nose tackle Jeffrey Johnson from Tulane, and cornerback C.J. Coldon fro Wyoming. UTEP struggled to run the ball against the Mean Green last week so Oklahoma will try and force Gavin Hardison to throw the ball downfield.
Here is the official Oklahoma Depth Chart for their game against UTEP.